I finished my undergraduate degree at the end of the spring semester of 2005 at the University of Connecticut. From there I went to work at Sears in Waterford, Connecticut as the Home Improvement lead (kind of like a manager but not really). After toiling away for about 6 months in this high stress job I got a tip about a job opening as a contractor at Pfizer. I went and interviewed in January of 2006 and did well receiving an offer within a few hours of the end of the interview.
For the next three years here is what I learned. To make the jump from computer tech to manager in a larger pharmaceutical company takes an act of god. Now don’t get me wrong I loved each and every one of my jobs at Pfizer since January 2006 (I rotated on and off a few projects). But having owned my own business for 3 years in the early part of the twenty-first century I knew I wanted more. I wanted to be back in a management role.
Fast forward to December 2008. I had been flirting with the notion of going back to graduate school to bolster my resume for much of 2008. Well, in December I had an epiphany and decided I wanted to attend the Spring 2009 semester. The only problem was I had nothing ready, absolutely nothing. Here is what I did to get accepted to the part-time MBA program at the University of Connecticut’s School of Business in Hartford (whew, that’s a mouthful).
The very first thing I did was call up and see if I could get a waiver for the dreaded GMAT. That was a big no, so I went to www.mba.com and started up an account at the website. From there I pleaded with my parents to give me the $250 test fee. After a little wrangling I managed to make my test date on January 9th. I then booked over to Borders (hope you got that pun) and purchased the best prep book I could find which happened to be the Princeton Review book. I then immediately placed that book somewhere where I knew it would collect dust just for procrastination sakes.
I then applied online to the school and bookmarked the requirements page. I pretty much reviewed this page every couple of days to make sure I knew what the school wanted. I then contacted several people, around five and kindly asked them to write a letter of recommendation and mail it to the campus. The school only required two letters but I figured the last thing you want is to find out just before the deadline that one of the people you asked had forgotten the letter. I then opened my resume on my computer and updated it as necessary and sent that in with my resident affidavit.
All that was left was my letter of intent and the feared and loathed GMAT, which I remember I needed to study for. So around the end of December I broke out my GMAT book and blew off the dust and made an effort to study. I studied and I studied. I watched videos and I took practice test, in my opinion I would immediately take the practice test and use that to hone your skills. The GMAT is a very funky test and quite hard. So by the time the week of my test rolled around I was scoring above 500 and feeling good about the test.
Friday morning, January 9th, 2009. I woke up extra early and drove to the testing center more that 3 hours early to give myself time to do a little cramming before hand. I found a nice Starbucks in a Target at Westerly, Rhode Island and grabbed my book and had some coffee. I then reported to the testing center 15 minutes early and signed some forms and locked some snacks up in a locker. Then they seated me for the test.
The first part of the test is the Analytical Writing portion, essentially two essays you need to complete during a one-hour time frame. One essay is Analysis of an Argument and the other is Analysis of an Issue. Now during my studying the practice test always had the Issue essay first so I just assumed this was how it was. I got my question and the timer started. I breezed through the essay and felt fully confident that I was going to kick some butt on this test. I hit the next button to go to the next essay and the screen said congratulations you have completed the Analysis of an Argument essay. I reread the statement and immediately began to feel hot and flushed. I just wrote the perfect Issue essay for the Argument part. Son of a Bee. I trudged into the next essay and wrote a similarly structured essay. I then took the optional ten-minute break to recollect myself.
Then I went and sat down for the math portion of the test. I had been brushing up and felt fairly confident. Then the first question popped up. I had absolutely no idea how to solve it. I stared and stared remembering that the Princeton Review book said the first 4-5 questions are the most important in both the verbal and math portions. The book said to take more time to ensure that these questions are correct. Here I was staring at the first question with no idea what-so-ever how to solve it. The rest of the math section is a blur, I felt good and bad but I have a burning memory of that first question and the feeling of impending doom when I had to guess the answer.
Next was the verbal section. There isn’t much to report on that other than you need to brush up on your basic grammar before you attempt the GMAT. So I reached the final question and hit the next button and the test brings you to a page where you decide whether or not you want to view your scores. If you hit NO then the scores get dumped and you never know what happened and you are out $250. If you hit yes you get your unofficial score report and a printout to fax to the school. Well, school starts in eleven days so I felt I had no choice even though I was pretty sure I bombed the test.
Now the University of Connecticut doesn’t have a minimum required GMAT score to get into the program (thank god) but they do have an average of participating students. UConn’s average was something like 550-580 or somewhere around there. I then hit the accept button to print out my unofficial score sheet. That one action brought down the average score of participating student. I did in fact make get accepted and I wrote a wonderful letter of intent. My whole package was completed and submitted by the 12th of January. I got my acceptance letter the following day via mail.
In my own opinion I think schools will favor work experience, a well-written letter of intent, and so flattering letters of recommendation over a GMAT score. In case you were wondering I scored a 470 and I really am proud of it. This test is amazingly complex and I had about 2 weeks of study time. My advice is to sign up for the test and make a commitment then work towards your goal, which is the date of the test. Basically in the words of a super catchy Nike phrase: Just Do It.