The Application Process
Deciding Where to Apply
While still researching different programs and deciding where I might like to attend, I was able to quickly eliminate some schools based on geography alone, knowing that there were certain parts of the country I didn’t want to live. I had made the decision only to consider programs in locations or at least states where I could potentially see myself sticking around. After all, why learn about local market conditions and state laws for a place you intend to immediately leave upon graduating?
Once I had my list down to four schools, I reached back out to the recruiters and let them know that I was more seriously considering their program. I then had the opportunity to speak with program directors and current students, as well as in some cases sit in on a live class. Sitting in on a class is a great way to get a feel for a program. Two of the key things I looked at were how engaged the students were and how well the instructor explained the material. In one class, the instructor made the lecture so easy to understand that I followed everything even though I hadn’t been there for the first two months of the course. At another program, what stood out the most was how bored the students looked. Both observations stuck with me.
Studying for the GMAT
It had been decades since I took a standardized test and as someone with a psychology degree, I’m well aware of some of the inherent biases present in these tests. I knew however that I may need to take the GMAT anyway, despite my personal reservations; and so, I bought a book and started studying.
To be honest, studying for the GMAT was more helpful in getting back into the swing of studying than it was in preparing for the exam. As expected, I did not do particularly well. Fortunately, I was able to hit the minimum cutoff score and could then trust that my academic record would more than make up for my poor performance on a single test.
I initially applied to two programs. They were my top two choices and the ones with the earliest application deadlines. That meant that I would only need to apply to my backup schools if I didn’t get accepted to either one.
At this point, it was still a close call between the two and so I continued to research both programs, curriculums, professors, and cities. Applying in the middle of a pandemic made it harder because I was reluctant to travel and visit each campus in person. But there’s a lot of information on the internet including video tours and testimonials from past students that I found helpful.
Shortly around the time that I decided between the two programs, I received a phone call that I had been accepted by my top choice, the University of San Diego. It was nice that I was able to make my decision in advance and not have to convince myself that they were my top choice.
Once I was accepted into the program, I had to quickly switch my focus from presenting myself as a strong candidate to making sure I was a prepared student. Not having a finance or business background made me nervous. Fortunately, I had applied and been accepted with plenty of time to spare before the start of classes.
I signed up and took two free, self-paced courses online through Coursera, including a basic finance course. I also took a course on business math at a community college. Additionally, I was able to get a hold of one of the textbooks that I would using once the semester began. Taking the courses and starting to read that textbook really helped. I was able to prove to myself that although the material was new and challenging, that with time I had the ability to grasp these concepts.
Compared to when I was last in school, I find myself reading at a slower pace, needing more breaks, and being somewhat less focused. Time will tell if this is more about age or simply getting back into the swing of things. Either way, even if it does take me longer to comprehend the material this time around, I’m proving to myself that I can. For that I can give myself some credit and realize that I’m accomplishing something significant.