SgHama's MBA Dream

After 2 years of what if's and worrying about the finances... class of 2008 here I come!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Deported to limbo

I just found out from my project manager that I might be shipped off to the Philippines mid-May for a few months till end August at the earliest!! Why me??? This is really going to suck big time because of all the things I will probably need to settle in Singapore. I just made an offer for an apartment and if the deal goes through I'll need to be around to settle the paperwork, renovations, etc. Plus the wedding prep has to go on.

So far it looks like flybacks every 2 weeks, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed they'll let me come back more frequently. The only positive I can think of at the moment is time to concentrate on my apps since I won't be able to do much else besides work.

Am working on trying to get myself staffed on another project in Malaysia that will give me weekly flybacks. Plus the work will be 10 times more interesting. Hope my connection pulls through...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Post-MBA starting salaries in Singapore

Another thread in the BW forums about starting pay in Singapore for MBA's. Should be of interest to those of you interesting in working in Singapore after graduation.

A McKinsey associate starts at S$12,000 per month! Factor in the low tax rate of around 10% and you end up with a pretty decent check every month. Sounds good to me... it makes the US$120k loan slightly more palatable.

I've also heard AT Kearney associates make US$8-9k in Asia (e.g. China) and slightly less in Singapore.

Monday, April 25, 2005


There is an interesting thread in the BW forums that discusses the ROI of a b-school education given the rising costs of tuition (7-9% a year on average!) and the relatively flat salaries of MBA grads over the past few years at ~85k base. Makes you second guess again the wisdom of shelling out 120k and living in debt for the next 10 years with only modest improvments to your pre-MBA lifestyle. Ahh... but the MBA siren's call beckons... and it's hard to ignore...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What a great year it's going to be

Haven't done much for MBA apps the past few days.

Signed up for the Tuck Connections program where Tuck matches applicants with students based on their profile, and I've already gotten a response from my student counterpart! The matching process is pretty efficient and it's a great initiative to offer potential applicants the chance to find out more about Tuck - they paired me up with a 2nd year student, also from Singapore and also previously working in consulting. He's been very helpful and enthusiastic about the Tuck MBA program and I think it really shows the close-knit community that Tuck has. Now I remember why it was my first choice a year ago... Go Tuck!

I also plan to call Sandy from Cambridge Essay Service to have a chat about my apps. Will give the details on that later...

Other than that I've been busy trying to find a flat to purchase! Wait, why am I trying to buy an apartment when i'm planning to take out a USD 120K student loan in a years time?? Well... I'm getting married in Oct and my fiancee and I don't want to live with our parents. The truth is there is a very high probability that I will not get into any of the programs i'm applying for, and renting an apartment doesn't seem very attractive. So we want to find a flat that 1) we like and will be comfortable living in and 2) will be easy to rent out should we end up in the US next year.

Add wedding preparations to the mix and you'll get an idea of how stressful the year is going to be! Oh, and did I mention that I'm targeting for a promotion this September??

So this is potentially going to be the one of the busiest and most memorable years in my life! Maybe this is something I can write about in my essays?? I can envision it already - Describe one of your greatest challenges...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Pondering admissions consultants and essay editors

With all these thoughts about how to put together a competitive application, I went browsing through the services offered by MBA admissions consultants/essay editors. And surpise surprise... these guys cost more than an arm and a leg!!

Although with all the success stories I've read, I wonder if it's actually worth it. Case in point - AV, a very satisfied Clear Admit client: "I applied to 4 top 10 business schools. For three schools (Stanford, Wharton & Columbia) I completed the applications on my own and for one (HBS), I took the assistance of Clear Admit. I was admitted to only HBS! ..."

Of course I take all of this with a pinch of salt (after all, anybody can write a "testimonial" about themselves!), but it still makes me go hmmmm... But at the end of the day, I guess it all boils down to whether I'm willing to fork over $2000 to make my application more competitive with the right angles, but still not guaranteed to earn me a place in my target school. At this point, I'm not ready to part with money just yet but I think these guys can really make a difference so I'll keep this option open...

Clear Admit does offer free feedback on resumes though, so I sent in my resume to see what they had to say. They came back with some interesting observations which more or less confirmed what I had anticipated about my application's weaknesses and strengths. But the key is having someone experienced with the admissions process pointing out those weaknesses to you. It then makes people like me, who might otherwise brush off those weaknesses, take a second look and seriously think of how to improve on them because if they see weaknesses in my profile, those admissions guys are surely are going to see the same problems! I would definitely recommend that applicants make use of this service and get some free feedback!!

Other websites I went to:
Cambridge Essay Service

If anyone out there has any first hand experience working with these guys, please leave me a note!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Time out - headphones?

I made an impulse buy today and picked up a pair of Sennheiser PX100 headphones. I still have my trusty Koss PortaPros and both of them sound AMAZING. If you're still using the cheapo earbuds that came with your iPod or cd player, get one of these two babies and you'll never want to listen to your favorite tunes with anything else! Alright that's the end of my marketing spiel. Guess the Portas are a little more bassy and warmer, but they are both good in their own ways. The Senns might be a little bit clearer, but that's probably me trying to pick out every nuance just to find some difference. No regrets so far!

Marketing yourself

I borrowed Richard Montauk's How To Get Into the Top Ten MBA Programs and Brandon Royal's 88 Great MBA Application Tips and Strategies to Get You Into a Top Business School from the library about a week ago. Browsing through both books, I realize what an uphill task this whole application process is going to be - how can I differentiate myself from the thousands of consultants applying this year??

International experience? Breadth of experience having done both tech and strategy? Haha that's what most people will say anyway. Will need to really think through this...

Another thing that worries me is my lack of extracurricular activities... sure I have some of the "recreation club", "golf club" type of activities, but nothing significant and substantial. I did read that there's less of an emphasis on EC's for international applicants, but guess I'll have to work on this area as well.

One thing that really struck me was how eloquent all the sample essays are. There're actually MBA applicants out there using themes, motifs and other "advanced writing techniques" in their essays!! Where do these guys come from?? Man, it's gonna be tough...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More reminiscing about the GMAT...

Oddly enough, I didn't take the GMAT for the purpose of applying to b-school. This probably needs more explaining - I have a tech background (engineering major) and when I finished my national service, I jumped straight into IT consulting because I thought my background fit the bill. Only after I'd worked for about a year and half or so, did I then discover that there were all these other non-tech related career paths available to fresh grads, no matter what you majored in!

I then decided that management consulting was what I wanted to do. The problem was, my GPA didn't quite make the cut for the top firms. So I decided to take the GMAT in the hope that a good score would compensate for it. Well, that strategy didn't work out and I was dinged from pretty much all the firms I applied to without even an interview. So much for that.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I ended up in what's probably considered a Tier 2 strategy firm (i.e. not McKinsey, BCG, Bain) and I'm enjoying the change in job scope. But at the same time, that's also reaffirmed my interest in taking it to the next level. Hence B-School... it's a good thing the GMAT is done and I can hopefully focus on getting my essays up. Funny how it works out sometimes...

GMAT thoughts...

I took my GMAT way way back in Dec 03. I actually ran out of time in the quant section and didn't complete it, but I somehow managed a decent score. Glad that's over!

Anyway, for those of you that haven't taken it yet - I strongly recommend buying the green book from GMAC that has real GMAT questions from previous tests and start working on the practice questions! The test is definitely something you can study for and it's a lot easier once you're familiar with the style of questions. Oh, and don't forget to download the powerprep software and take the practice GMAT tests - do one before your actually begin studying (to get a sense of where you are and what you need to work on), and one after you're done studying.

In a nutshell:

1. Register for the GMAT!! Don't fall into the trap of thinking I'll take the GMAT when I'm done with my preparations... that will never happen unless you happen to be extremely disciplined and motivated Booking a date gives you a deadline and a tangible target to work towards.

2. Download the powerprep software and do one practice test. Don't worry about the essay sections for now, just go straight to the multiple choice sections. This will give you your baseline score and identifies your problem areas. Don't do the other test yet, you'll need it later!!

3. Get the GMAT books from the Princeton Review and GMAC. Read the tips and tricks from the Princeton Review, but skip the practice questions since they're not real GMAT questions anyway - that's what the other book's for!

4. Start working on practice questions from the green GMAC book. Focus on your problem areas and work backwards because the harder questions are in the back. Point to note: Don't even try to do all the questions as you'll never finish them - there're thousands. You'll know when you've reached the point where doing more questions won't add any value to your prep.

5. There's also a trick to the essays - there is a structure that the scorers will look out for, and if you cover the points you shouldn't have any problems with that. I can't remember the name, but there's this book that has covers the key points and has ~120 essay samples! Read through the pointers and practise writing a couple of essays so you get familiar with the time limit and can pace yourself.

6. You're ready to see how much all that studying paid off! Take the second GMAT score and hopefully it's significantly higher than your first score! (I think most people should be able to add 80-100 points unless you had an unbelievably high score to begin with)

7. Don't stress about the GMAT the day before the test, just relax and do something fun. On the day itself, maybe go through the tips, but don't bother studying - it's not going to help, and you'll only stress yourself out. Good luck!!

Getting started

Well here i am finally starting up my own blog after lurking around reading other people's for the past few weeks (PowerYogi - dude, you moved me man... glad you found your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow). It's been tremendously insightful and I hope to be able to share the ups and downs of my journey towards getting a place in a top 10 MBA program for fall 2006.

A little bit of background info about myself - I'm 27, from Singapore, and I'm currently working in consulting. Grew up in Japan and the US, and came back home after graduating college.