Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Student Perspective: Motherhood & the MBA

Here are the perspectives of a couple of MBA super-moms at Chicago GSB...
Preeti, Class of 2007, says:
"Admit it, many of you have written about having a balance in life in your application essay and there are a few of us here living that dream. I am talking about those of us who trot about with books in one hand and candy eating toddlers in the other! I know many of you will be making professional and personal decisions soon and family (especially kids) may be one critical part of the decision making process. As a mom who came to the GSB with a 2+ year old, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how the night long group meetings work with nap times.

"To give you a background on myself, I am a second year student and my daughter is 4 years old now. When I came to school, my daughter was 2 ½ years old, my husband was going to continue working back in California and I was looking at 2 years of single parenthood at Business School with no idea of how to make it work in Chicago. I have had a ton of information, support and advice from friends, administration and even random strangers that have helped me make it work. I had an excellent summer internship and have a fabulous full time job offer. Today, my daughter considers the GSB more her school rather than mine (she claims it is prettier than her own school too!); she definitely has more friends here than I do and she also has a tentative scholarship offer from the friendly Financial-Aid lady, should she choose to pursue an MBA in the future!

"In my mind the challenges that you are likely to face at the GSB will depend primarily on the level of back up support you may have for your parental responsibilities. So if you have a spouse or partner who can share your load, loving grandparents only too willing to take care of the little angel or even a very good nanny (assuming you can afford one on the tight student budget☺) then let me assure you, you are in good shape. Most of us of course, will not have these blessed advantages and things like how do I manage childcare to how will I manage classes, recruiting or student groups will be high on your list of issues. Let me try and answer these questions to the best of my ability:

What are the options available in terms of childcare?

"Well, depending on where you choose to live these options will vary. Since most first year students prefer to stay in Hyde Park to be near school let me highlight the options here.
Schools and Day cares: Most day cares are willing to accept a child above the age of 2 years although there are a couple that accept younger children too. Some of the day cares and pre school in the area include Ray school, Little People Learning Center, Akiba Jewish Day school, Parents Co-op Day care, Lab school and of course all the public schools in the neighborhood. The University of Chicago website has a link to many of these and Google is always a useful ally when searching for the school that best fits your needs. Be warned that getting your child in any good school can require a lot of advanced planning and you may have to lay the groundwork now.
Baby sitters and nanny services: Hyde Park is good place to be if you are looking for baby sitters; students at the university generally can be reliable sitters and once you have built some trust in the relationship they can be good resources for those last minute recruiting dinners. Do not ever underestimate the student body within the GSB as well! My daughter has been baby sat by future bankers, consultants, corporate stars and VCs many times (in the spirit of the GSB’s affinity for numbers, let me also clarify that the ratio of men to women baby sitters has always been in proportion to their total presence in the class). Nannies are also available and I was put in touch with a couple of agencies through the administration here at the GSB.
Final word: Start researching early, develop childcare backups and form friendships with others in similar situations.

How will I manage parenthood with a full course load and with recruiting thrown in?

"Let’s be honest and accept that it will not be easy. Again, a lot will depend on the support system that you will have, but I truly believe that being at the GSB will give you a clear edge as compared to other schools. I am sooo thankful for the flexible curriculum and the ability to pick and choose classes that let me plan my time with my daughter. Besides being able to choose the level of the class that allows you to better manage your time, you also have class timing flexibility. I once scheduled an entire quarter of classes such that I could take my daughter to ballet and swimming classes. Since many classes are offered simultaneously in the full time, evening and weekend program, you can afford to stay at home to comfort your fevered child and yet not miss the valuable class discussion. The same holds for recruiting interviews and networking sessions. Most professors are very understanding and allow you to attend other sections to resolve personal conflicts. That being said, it can be tough that many recruiting events are held in the evening (or on the weekend) and you may be forced to miss out if you do not have a backup care provider available. With a little bit of help and a lot of organization, you will be fine even if you are like me and really do not have a steady support network.
Final Word: Schedule your classes such that there are makeup sessions to fall back upon, consider retaining a nanny for the recruiting season, ask friends to help you out with evening networking events.

How about managing study groups, extra curricular involvements and other student activities?

"If you have managed to read up to this point you may have seen a theme emerging! Yes, as always, it is up to you to make it work. It will help to have study groups that are understanding of your scheduling needs or are game for the occasional group meet with a curious child around. My approach has been to schedule my classes and group meets while my daughter is at school and then schedule net meetings and chats when required.
As far as student group involvement is concerned there are some activities that require more time commitment than others and you will have to pick and choose what you want to be involved with. My advice would be to go for quality and choose an activity or role that is manageable (both in terms of your and your family’s requirements) and something you really believe in. This will ensure that you do not feel stressed about the demands on your time and can continue to contribute effectively throughout your GSB stay. There are plenty of opportunities at the GSB that will give you a very good networking platform with your peers and with alumni while not requiring an extended time commitment. Besides, having a child puts you in a different league and I will bet that you will end up meeting and becoming friends with a set of people that you may never have known if it was not for your child. Of course there will be times when others may feel that you are overloaded and preempt your choice with their decision of not letting you take on a role but that just gives you more time than what you budgeted for with your family!
Finally, on the social scene, yes, you will miss out on the TNDC, the international exchange program, and a couple of formal events that are “Adults only,” but when you have a unique, direct-to-home entertainment package waiting for you at home who is really glad to see you every time, you can live without being the life of the party at other events!
Final word: Choose your battles; be prepared to miss out on some opportunities and try to pair up with adjusting or like minded people for course work.

Finally, the biggest of all worries….Am I doing the right thing for my child and for me by choosing to return to school?

"I will admit that I had many concerns that were very personal like what if my daughter was uncomfortable and unhappy and grew up ill adjusted? Was I being selfish putting her and my professional life on equal footing, asking her to adjust maybe too early in life? I was concerned that it would be a stress on our family with my husband half way across the country and my child would feel the change. We have had to take a hard look at what we want as a family and all three of us have made adjustments but overall the process has worked out well for me. My daughter is a very outgoing and friendly who has been thoroughly spoiled by my colleagues at the GSB and I believe the kind of exposure she has received as a 4 year old is not very common. Obviously, a major portion of the credit for my success goes to my husband and daughter both of who have adjusted exceptionally well. But I feel that another major component of my success has been the GSB itself with its flexible curriculum, very understanding administration (I have had staff help me out when I have been in a real bind) and the faculty who extend the flexibility even further. I don’t think I could have done this at any other school. Finally, I am fortunate to have some very, very good friends and colleagues who have been crucial in helping me make this work. They are closer to us than even family and I feel that the network that I have formed with this group will stand the test of time. All in all, it has been a fun ride and with some great moments thrown in.
Final Word: Was it worth it then? Definitely! Would I recommend it? Surely! "
Maria, Class of 2007, has similar sentiments:
"I am a second year at the GSB. When I started the MBA program, my baby was 4 months old. My husband works in consulting and travels frequently, so, we built the structure (daycares, nannies…) as if I were working.

"I was also a consultant in the past and I do not think that managing an MBA with motherhood is much different than being a consultant and having a baby. The only difference is that when you work, you earn money to maintain the infrastructure. You need to keep in mind that when you study and have a baby you will require the infrastructure, but you will not be earning money. It is something to consider in your budget.

"I have been able to manage doing two internships, getting offers from the companies that I am interested in, getting good grades and being involved in the community (e.g. helping first years with recruiting). Most importantly, I have enjoyed a lot of time with my baby. The benefit of the GSB is that you decide your schedule; the courses, professors…you have flexibility so you can adapt your schedule to the baby’s. You just need to be very organized and plan ahead as if you were working. Obviously it is challenging, but it is a lot of fun! And just one last advice: do outsourcing of all the work of the house!!!! The time that you spend with your baby has to be “quality” time. Have somebody to do the laundry and clean the oven…and you play with your baby when you are at home!"

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Friday FAQ: What if I get a ding?

While the Round 2 interview invite deadline is rapidly approaching (February 21), the Adcom team is still working on their application reading and sending out invitations. So for those of you who are still waiting for that invite--don't give up hope!!

However, for a percentage of Round 2 applicants, next Wednesday will bring sad news, and more sad news will be delivered on March 28 to another group of applicants. We are of course speaking of the dreaded "Ding" (and no, we are not referring to deals given by Southwest Airlines). After spending countless hours researching and visiting schools, writing and editing essays, studying for the GMAT, and organizing everything from transcripts to recommendation letters, the receipt of a denial of admission can be very painful.

The goal of this post isn't to necessarily cheer you up (but you should take heart in the fact that the writer speaks from experience with the ding). The goal is to help you put things in perspective and hopefully to give some guidance regarding next steps.
"What do I do if I get a ding?"
The first thing to consider is deny feedback. Chicago GSB admissions has changed their approach to deny feedback this year. It will be offered during the summer months, but the sessions will be by invitation only.

If you get invited for feedback- SCHEDULE A SESSION!!! There's no reason not to take advantage of the offered slot to get advice on how to improve your application. If an Adcom tells you that you need to address a certain area, then be sure to point this out if/when you reapply, and of course don't forget to actually address the issue in your reapp! If you do reapply, make sure you continue to network with any current GSB students you've met during the process. Keeping a pulse on the GSB will help you craft compelling reapplicant essays.

If you're not invited for feedback- DON'T DESPAIR!!! Feedback is invite only due to time constraints. Lack of an invitation does NOT mean that your application was hopeless. There is simply no way that the Adcoms could give a sufficient amount of time to each and every denied applicant to address issues with their application. If you fall in this category, your best bet is to reach out to people in your network with business school experience who would be willing to critique your application and provide their own feedback. It's quite possible that he or she might see something in the application that you hadn't noticed before and will be able to provide direction in how to improve it if you decide to reapply.

You may also have to consider some tougher questions. If you have been admitted elsewhere, do you want to accept the offer, or do you want to decline the admit offer to take another shot at the GSB? Do you want to postpone your MBA plans and focus on your career?

The MBA application process involves a lot of self-assessment and reflection, and a ding usually prompts re-assessment. It is most important to keep things in perspective and stay positive.

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums

Student Perspective: Being an early bird at Chicago GSB

by Eva Karagianni, Class of 2007

For those of you thinking of applying to Chicago GSB without having completed the typical 4-5 years average of work experience, I would like to share my story of coming to the GSB straight after I completed my undergraduate degree in my home country, Greece.

To put things into perspective, “straight from undergrad” in my case didn’t mean “zero work experience”. I was actually working while studying for my degree for a maritime company in their operations department and I had therefore gained exposure to the “real business world” before I arrived in Chicago. Of course, this is not to say that people with even less work experience should be discouraged from applying if they believe that this is the right time for them. In fact, if I wanted to summarize my experience, it’s simply been amazing, highly rewarding, and despite some initial worries about the timing, I never looked back.

I am currently in the second year of the program and after spending my summer in consulting with McKinsey, I accepted an offer in marketing from D&B, which I am joining after my graduation in June 2007. But enough about me. I would now like to attempt to answer some questions that may be in your mind if you are in the same shoes I was in a couple of years ago.
How will less work experience affect me during my GSB MBA program?
In academics: Depending on your academic background, namely whether you have studied in a business related or quantitative academic field before, you may find it easier to adjust and perform in business school classes. Of course, this applies to other students as well, but traditionally early applicants have done exceptionally well in academics.
+ You still remember what it is like to be a student so getting used to it won’t be as much of an issue to you.
- Your contribution in the class may be initially limited since discussions often revolve around “real world” issues and people draw examples from their experience. However, keeping up with your newspaper readings and a good business sense can compensate for that in most cases.

In recruiting: This, at least for me, was a major concern. Will companies treat you like any other MBA student? Will you be able to go after MBA level jobs? The answer highly depends on how you present yourself, how convincing you are in conveying a mature image and eventually how successfully you manage your expectations and target list. Apparently, someone with less work experience will target positions that highly accentuate learning. On the other hand, someone who is well above the average will target positions where extended work experience can be leveraged.
+ You will belong in a minority which is generally perceived to be comprised of exceptional people. Others, including recruiters, will always admire and respect the fact that you had the determination and ability to come to Business School earlier.
- Some recruiters may simply reject you on the premises of less work experience. Yes, it did happen to me. No, it doesn’t feel nice. However, it is absolutely expected. In fact, it’s fine. It simply means that this is not the right working environment for you. So move on.

In social life: Come on now… of course you can hang out with everybody. Don’t be a baby ☺
+ You will probably get a lot of “wow” reactions for your age
- Your classmates will insist asking you if you are allowed to drink every time there is an event involving alcohol. Get ready to be teased a lot.
How do I know if I am ready?
That’s a hard one. It’s different for everyone but here are my basic statements:
  • I am excited about going back to school. Self explanatory. If you feel you’ve had enough with school for the time being, then no career justification can do it for you.
  • I feel comfortable in my current position; I feel I’ve completed my cycle here (for those working). I have a strong business sense that is gratified by my academic achievements; I’ve done a lot of volunteer or extracurricular work that can compensate (at least partly) for lack of work experience (for those studying).
  • I have a plan. I know, I know. We are all told we need a plan for applying to business school. But I cannot stress enough how significant this is for the early birds. If you find yourselves struggling with putting it into words then maybe you should consider delaying this application for a couple of years or more.
How will my application to Chicago GSB be perceived?
It will be evaluated like any other application: spherically. My case, as well as others, proves that there is no prejudice against “early bird” applications on behalf of the school.
+ This is a school where academic achievement is highly appreciated. Therefore don’t underestimate its power on your resume.
- You will certainly have to work hard to show maturity and to compensate for the “gaps” in your resume. Go back to the points made above to see how this can be achieved.

That’s it from me. And please feel free to contact me with any questions at ekaragia at chicagogsb dot edu

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Admit Weekend I (Feb 23-24)

Admit Weekend is less than two weeks away, and we can't wait to welcome over 100 Round 1 admits to the GSB for the weekend. We've been planning for Admit Weekend since last fall, and we're excited that it's almost here. We have great schedule of events for the weekend that include a headline model class, social events in the city, a student-led city tour, and endless opportunities to meet current students and fellow admits...your future classmates!

Some of the events that we're most excited for include:

Model Economics Class with Kevin Murphy
Kevin Murphy teaches some of the more exciting and dynamic economics courses at the GSB, and we're lucky to have him join us to teach a model class during Admit Weekend. Kevin was named a MacArthur Fellow for 2005 and was selected for the "genius grant" for his work in revealing economic forces shaping vital social phenomena. This is a great opportunity to see what it's like to participate in a class at the GSB and maybe learn a few things while you're at it.

Bowling, Food, & Drinks at Lucky Strike on Friday Night
After a full day of programming on Friday, we've rented out Lucky Strike Bowling downtown. Kick back, relax, and enjoy food and drinks with fellow admits and current students. And don't be afraid to show off those bowling skills.

Chicago City Tour
For those people who are visiting Chicago for the first time or want to get a tour of the city from current students' perspectives, join us on the city tour. This is a great way to see the highlights of the city, get a feel for the different neighborhoods and potential places to live, and hear from current students how they city will be a big part of your GSB experience.

Closing Dinner & Celebration at Gleacher Center on Saturday Night
To end the weekend, let's celebrate! Join us at the Midway Club at the Gleacher Center, our downtown campus building, for a dinner celebration.

Lastly, be on the lookout for an e-mail or call from a first-year the week prior to Admit Weekend. Each Admit will be paired up with a current first-year student "Host." Your Host will arrange to meet you when you arrive on campus on Friday and will be your personal resource starting at Admit Weekend.

We look forward to seeing everyone on the 23rd!

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums

Monday, February 5, 2007

Decisions, decisions

We all get questions on why we chose Chicago GSB over other programs, and we all have our own answers to that question. When the time comes for you to decide which MBA program to join, the best thing you can do is talk to as many current students as possible and really take a close look at what the different programs offer. Attend Admit Weekend if possible. Choose a program that is the best fit for you, based on the aspects that matter the most to you.

One applicant for the Class of 2009 recently made an entry to his blog describing his decision between LBS and Chicago GSB. His decision process may help you through your your decision process.

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums

Friday, February 2, 2007

Friday FAQ: Interviews

Now that invitations to interview have started to be released for Round 2 applicants, it's appropriate to address the following frequently asked question:
"What can I expect in my interview?"
Interviews for admission to Chicago GSB are conducted by invitation-only and are 'blind'. This means that the interviewer has not read your application; he or she simply has your resume. A GSB interview isn't dramatically different than a first round job interview. You'll probably be asked:
  • where you've been (i.e. "walk me through your resume" or some variation)
  • where you'd like to go and how you plan to get there (i.e. goals and the usual why MBA and why Chicago)
  • some behavioral-style interview questions (each interviewer has their own favorites to get to know you better)
It is not a stress or confrontational-style interview and you will not be asked technical questions. We'd just like to know a little more about you and get a sense of how you might fit in at the GSB.

A follow-up frequently asked question is:
"Should I do my interview on-campus or off-campus? Are the interviews different? Will they be evaluated differently?"
Interviews will vary a bit because each interviewer has their own style, but all Chicago GSB interviewers (Adcom professionals, 2nd year Graduate Assistants, and Alumni) have the same training and guidelines, so there will be an element of consistency. Interviews are evaluated the same and with equal weight within the context of your total application, no matter where the interview took place. So where you interview is all a matter of your preferences and what is within your time and resource constraints. If you haven't had a chance to visit campus previously, the interview is a great opportunity to come and see the GSB in person.

There is one potential area of difference. On-campus interviews are conducted by either an Adcom professional or a 2nd year Graduate Assistant. Your interviewer will likely be scheduled to conduct multiple interviews that day and will have to stick to the 30 minute time limit. 30 minutes is fairly short to cover all of the things I mentioned above, but your interviewer will do his or her best to keep things on schedule and allow time for your questions at the end. In comparison, an alumnus will probably have only one interview scheduled that day and may or may not be on a tight schedule. When time is not an issue, there may be more small talk, more time to dig deeper into the questions I mentioned above, more time for questions and conversation at the end. That being said, the differences will be pretty minor and shouldn't really influence your decision.

Want to discuss this topic some more? Head on over to the Chicago GSB Discussion Forums