Today we’re hearing from George. He wants to go to business school to pursue a career in consulting. Thanks for the great tips, George! 🙂
About me: My name is George Kaiser – I am 32 years old, originally from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and for a prospective MBA candidate, I think I have a rather unusual background. First off, my undergraduate degree is a Bachelors of Instrumental Music Education (K-12) from the top ranked Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and I have spent the vast majority of my career in music – a field that is generally viewed to be about as far removed from business as you can get.
Despite my music degree being focused on music education, I have never actually taught full time in a public school. Upon graduation, I instead chose to follow my love of performing and have spent the last 10 years working as a professional trombonist, traveling and performing all over the world, first with the cruise industry and now as an active duty musician with the United States Army Bands. Somewhere along the way, I also acquired a passion for photography and even managed to build a small but profitable side business specializing in family and event photography. As for hobbies/interests, I love pretty much everything creative and/or artistic, traveling, reading sci-fi/fantasy novels, fly fishing, and of course – making music!
My current plan for business school is to pursue an MBA and then a career that is initially focused on consulting, although I’m going through a bit of soul searching to decide if that kind of work/life balance is what I really want. Despite its crazy hours, I am drawn to consulting for the wealth of experience that it can provide to a career switcher like me, as well as the creative problem solving aspect that is massively appealing to me. Ultimately, I plan to start my own businesses, but I want to learn the rules of the game from the best people I can find before I dive in headfirst.
My biggest challenge: Math. All of it. Especially Data Sufficiency with properties of numbers type problems. Before I began studying for the GMAT, I hadn’t taken a math class in over 14 years. It’s not that I was ever bad at math in high school (I graduated #1 in my class, incidentally), but 14 years is a very long time and 14 years of disuse has quite an effect on your skills. I don’t think I will ever forget trying to work through the diagnostic test in the beginning of the Official Guide and how quickly I realized that I had a gigantic hill to climb if I was going to do this. I couldn’t even remember how to add/subtract/multiply simple fractions. What I did know is that I was going to need help.
Thankfully, the internet is filled with people who offer you endless amounts of free help. I spent an inordinate amount of time on Khan Academy, relearning and practicing all my basic math skills (and quite a few advanced ones). I also spent quite a lot of time on BeatTheGMAT.com, GMATClub.com, and the Magoosh Blog, learning tips, tricks, and practicing the very hard questions. If you have an iPhone/iPad, Veritas Prep offers the videos from their online course for free on the app store – they are absolutely fantastic and if you don’t have them, you really need to get them and watch them.
Although I did not originally set out to use a paid prep service, Magoosh caught my attention with their extensive library of video explanations for EVERY question. This absolutely suits my learning style, which is much more hands on than learning by reading. I also liked that I could filter topics and practice specific questions types if I wanted to focus on a deficiency. Other than that, lots and lots of hard work, study, and practice is what gets you there.
What I would do differently: If I could re-do my studies, I would make my review more focused and methodical. I had a very bad habit of working through tons of problems on Magoosh, watching the explanations, and then not looking at them again. I’m not sure if it’s more that I got very tired of staring at a screen or just a misguided idea that lots of variety would equal a better overall understanding. You need to review and you need to do it consistently until each and every problem is second nature. I did not and the quant section ate me alive on test day (Q34, V41). Now I am stuck with a 620 and am very much contemplating a retake to boost that Quant score before I begin submitting applications. GMAT study is not fun. Do it right the first time!
Helpful tips for other students: Don’t drink water for a couple hours before the test. It’s the dumbest, most obvious thing in the world, but I found myself really needing a trip to the restroom halfway through the Quant section, which was already my weakest link. It was my worst nightmare come to life. I know that I missed several questions at the end because I simply couldn’t concentrate, but I still didn’t get up because the process of getting the attention of the proctor and exiting the test room would have cost so much time. Such a dumb reason to miss questions on a test that I had worked so hard for!