GMAT/MBA Interview 2: The No Debt MBA Applicant

Today we talk to a future MBA student. No Debt MBA (he blogs anonymously) is currently a technical consultant, but will be attending a top tier business school this fall. We asked him about his GMAT taking experience and how he plans to graduate and remain debt-free.


Tell us about your GMAT taking experience. How – and how long – did you study for?

I studied for the GMAT for two or three months prior to taking the test.  Usually spending an hour or two several times a week studying.  I wanted to spread out my prep time so my study schedule could be really flexible and so I could feel really comfortable with the test when I took it.

My studying focused on taking as many practice tests and questions as I could find.  For this reason I bought three or four GMAT prep books of different brands.  Be warned that the difficulty of the practice tests differ depending on the book’s brand so a large variety ensures you’re not prepping using tests that are easier than the real thing. I also made sure to write at least three essays under GMAT conditions just to be sure I could do it under pressure.

 

Why do you want to go to business school?

I applied to business school because I wanted to broaden my career options and earn entry to a wider array of fields.  I also wanted to gain formal training in business practices and learn more about business in general.

 

You write an informative blog about not getting into debt while undertaking your MBA. What steps are you going to take to make this happen during business school?

I applied for financial aid and received a very generous aid package.  I’ve also been saving, both in a 529 and a regular savings account, for a while now.  After financial aid that should carry me through the first year.

I’ll be living on the cheap which should be no surprise given my grocery budget. I looked at my school’s allowance for room/board/personal/travel and will try to live on about half of that.  The last year I was solidly under 65% of the allowance.

I’ll also be working through this summer and for as much of next summer as possible both for the income and the experience.  I’m considering working during the school year though I have no plans as of yet.

To follow my progress you can subscribe to my RSS feed or visit my blog directly at www.nodebtmba.com.

 

On your blog – NoDebtMBA.com – you talk about surviving on $25 of groceries a week for two people. Top 5 tips for students who wish to follow your lead?

1. Actually cook – Cooking at home when you cook mostly from scratch instead of a microwave is going to be significantly cheaper than purchasing a similar meal out.

2. Cook around what’s on sale and cheap core ingredients

3. Eat (mostly) vegetarian – Meat is expensive compared to beans, eggs, tofu and other vegetarian protein options.

4. Prep ahead – I usually make brown rice, pasta or other bulk base on the weekend and tupperware it for the week.  That way making dinner is just a one dish, 15 minute affair.

5. Give yourself a break – Getting down to our $25 budget has been a multi-year process.  You can’t do it overnight and it’s good to give yourself credit for trying and improvement rather than focusing on absolute numbers. You’re more likely to stick with it and it’s easier and more valuable to go from spending $150 a week to $75 than it is to go from $35 to $25.

For more on how the $25 grocery budget works for us you can read my blog post on the subject.

 

What do you hope to do after business school?

I’m not sure yet. This is one of the big reasons I’m trying to stay debt free through my MBA program.  Because I don’t know if I want to follow a traditional business school career path, I don’t want the need to pay student loans to close any potential career options to me.


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