Early Career

Are You Ready to Study for the GMAT?

Lilian HaneyTwo years ago around this time of year, I bought my first GMAT study book. It was soon after I had made the decision to apply to business school. Investing in this surprisingly expensive book, seemed like a worthy initial step to take.

A year later, I finally opened the first page. In the intervening months, while I had known for a while that I was planning to apply in the upcoming fall, even casual studying seemed too daunting. On one hand, it was difficult to even know where to begin. Perhaps more importantly, I was also hesitant because I knew that as soon as I committed myself to GMAT practice, it would represent the commencement of a long, hard slog of a year where much of my waking hours outside of work would be devoted to the application process—whether standardized testing, application writing, recommendation requesting, or interviewing.

In the end, it took Labor Day weekend early last fall to get me into action. While I am several years out of undergraduate school, the start of September still brings a mental change from the end of lazy summer to the start of busy, no-nonsense fall. After spending Labor Day weekend camping at the summit of a Southern California mountaintop, I came back ready to take on the GMAT.

With an end goal of an October test date locked in and the clock ticking down, suddenly the path forward seemed so much clearer. It was the starting line of the race—one that would finish in the spring and ideally would do so amid a shower of admittance letters. Studying every evening outside of my apartment with endless timed practice tests was easier knowing that I had a concrete end date in mind.

Baristas at my local coffee shop began to know me by name and by drink order, sympathetically asking, “Studying again?” I owe them all a big thank you for letting me stay for hours on end for all those evenings.

In the end, I did far better than I expected. I can’t say I recommend waiting until the fall of your applications to take the GMAT—believe me, it’s no treat to be churning out essay drafts while revisiting high school algebra. At the same time, you shouldn’t begin studying until you are ready to commit wholeheartedly, because unopened study books don’t read themselves and because the application process that begins afterward will be a long, arduous road no matter what.

Lilian Haney, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Yale School of Management

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