So, I may be a little a-typical for a business school student in that my job and career doesn’t really require a lot of quantitative rigor. In fact, as someone who works in environmental policy and public affairs, I’m probably a better candidate on paper for law school. Yet, when I decided to go back to school for a master’s degree, I intentionally picked something that was outside of my comfort zone. I also knew that if I wanted to work outside public affairs, I would have to learn about business operations, finance, econ, etc., and this meant building my math muscles.
Even though I looked forward to the challenge, I had a lot of anxiety going into my first quarter math class at Anderson. There was good reason for this anxiety; while past performance certainly isn’t an indication of future results, smart money wouldn’t have put my grades in the top 10-25% of my Q1 stats class. The fact that statistics was up first also didn’t help. Statistics, and especially probability, were not strong areas for me on the GMAT and I got a ‘B-‘ in the one stats class I had in undergrad (something that was noted during the admissions process). Still, I felt that I wanted to be successful in business school badly enough that I decided to make this a personal challenge and a priority. So, I set a goal for myself: Straight A’s in my first quarter. I wrote down the goal, put it on my to-do list and created a couple of sub tasks that I thought would help me get there.
I started by getting myself as ready as I could for that first quarter by doing the following:
1. I took a “Math for Managers” class at UCLA Extension taught by Dr. Bijan Raphael, and I wasn’t the only 2015 FEMBA in that class (I figured this out after-the-fact during a conversation with a classmate at Leadership Foundations).
2. I watched several Kahn Academy videos on statistics to re-familiarize myself with the subject.
3. I completed the beginning Udacity.com course on statistics before starting the program (free 5 min lessons that I did on my lunch breaks).
4. I took the Statistics Workshop offered by Anderson.
5. I took the Manhattan GMAT Excel workshop (free for anyone who took their GMAT prep class).
Once I got to class, I did everything I could to learn the material, even though it was painful at times. I did all the practice problems and problem sets. I went back to the book and my notes to make sure that I knew what the right answers were and how there were derived when I got them wrong (which was often). Probably most importantly, I reached out to fellow students and joined or formed study groups. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who was struggling and that there were people who were good at math who were willing to help. Moreover, I managed to convince myself that I was a math person and that I really liked doing it. It helped that Prof. McCardle was a good lecturer and had amusing examples to make a dry subject more interesting and relevant.
It was a lot of work, but totally do-able. I put in about three hours a day, which I broke up between before work, lunch break and after dinner, Sunday through Thursday, so that I could spend Fridays enjoying dinner and a glass (or bottle) of wine with my girlfriend.
My final grade in stats: A- (I also got an ‘A’ in Organizational Behavior.)
I accomplished what I set out to do for my first quarter. My friends in the program, the staff and the faculty all helped me to get there. If math is something that makes you hesitant about applying to Anderson, just know that it’s up to you if you want to excel. And to quote Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy, “You can do it!”
- Alex Pugh (FEMBA 2015)