Getting Ready for Columbia Business School, Running, et cetera

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Loan Preliminaries

Both last night and tonight I have puttered about the citibank and access group sites, trying to figure out what rate I could get on my private loans.

Yesterday was citibank, and it was a total fiasco. I had a spreadsheet open, calculating how much money to borrow. I asked for the whole amount, forgetting that I can get $18,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. So I asked for 18 grand more than I need. Idiot! After submitting a feverish reduction request, I waited until forever for a response. I got it today: Prime minus 0.5%, which means that I have excellent, but not superior credit. So citibank would make me pay 7%, given today's prime rate.

Today I checked, and there are actually links on the columbia to-do list about private loans. So I think that I jumped the gun on citibank. Tonight I used the link to try the Access group site. It was much easier to do the second application, because I was ready for the questions. Anyway, Access group offered me LIBOR plus 1.7%, which seems to be as good as I could get from them. That works out to a bit more than 6.5% at today's rates.

There's been some discussion on the yahoo board about the historical differences between LIBOR and Prime. What I take away is that Prime is generally 2.7% higher than LIBOR. So LIBOR+1.7%=Prime-1%, usually.

Now I have to think about whether I'm interested in the fixed rate Federal Plus loans, which are fixed at 8.5% during school, but can be reduced by 1.75% to 6.75% after school by paying on-time and paying with direct debit. This would be 2% extra for two years, which is a bit less than 3 grand for my estimated borrowing. Then there's the time after school. Ughh, I'll think about that when I have time to play with excel.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Columbia Open House - Day 2, 3, 4

On Friday there was a breakfast at nine and then a panel on the academics at Columbia that lasted until 11. I woke up and looked at the clock around 9 and decided that I could wait until August to learn about picking classes.

After breakfast at Absolute Bagel, I wandered up the street and sat in on the last few minutes of the career planning session that my cluster was about to enter. And here I managed to hear the one of the two phrases that defined the non-social part of Open House. “Guided Missile”. Basically, one of the Executives in Residence told everyone to get their shit in gear before school starts. I need to be a guided missile by the time I get to school (he later tempered this to December at the latest). His argument was that if we don’t know what we want, we’re going to get our clocks cleaned by the folks who do know what they want, who have been pursuing _______(insert career here) since day one of school.

Sometime later (a lot of the days blend together, probably because of the intensity of the experience and my alcohol consumption) Linda Meenhan said something similar. This was the second phrase that defined my “serious” time at Open House. “Columbia is not a hand-holding school. We put opportunities in front of you, and it’s up to you to take advantage of them.” Aha! This is why I didn’t get any love from Columbia, this is why I didn’t get a t-shirt months ago, and why there was no coffee mug either. Columbia is in New York, and through the school and the city, I’ll have access to just about anything that I want. But I am the one who has to go out and hustle… It’s hard out here for an admit.

Anyway, after guided missile, there was a reception with a talk given by Pete (formerly of Pete’s Wicked Ale), a CBS alum. We had a sheet listing which professors and other notables from Columbia were going to be sitting at various tables. I sat down at the table hosted by the head of the Value investing program. I later realized that Professor Greenwald was holding forth at another table-doh! The food was good, and the speech was great. I especially enjoyed his stories from Xerox (I grew up near Rochester, so this was special). After his MBA, he had to produce lots of color presentations, because Xerox had new color copiers. The bad thing was that there was no quick way to produce color originals. So you had mba grads working until the wee hours of the morning, cutting out pieces of colored plastic and gluing them onto paper to make pie charts. And then they’d just have to change them in the morning, when the boss wanted something a bit different!

We then had a student panel. The main benefit from this was when a fellow admit asked how much money we would need before we get our student loan disbursement in September. Basically, we need enough to get an apartment (three months rent) plus enough to live in New York for 2-4 weeks. Ouch! I had not thought about this.

The club fair lasted approximately 10 minutes, or else I spent too much time talking to people. Whatever, I never found half of the tables I was looking for before a group of us went down to Bloomingdales. There was a speech, good white wine, and pleasant hors d’oeuvres, and sofas that had been set below heat lamps. Ok, they were halogen track lights, but I sat directly in the path of one of those death rays, and may have gotten a tan. I noticed that the only food that was making it to me was cucumber slices with some shredded carrot, so I swung into action. I found several fellow DC admits standing in the path of the food, which came from several directions, but had to run through a gauntlet just outside the natuzzi area. My diet improved immediately.

The next stop was Bliss, a bar where the NYC admits who had organized Social on Wednesday had gotten us open bar for the not so cheap price of $50. I got to the bar and was told that there were no martinis, no caipirnhas, and no mohitos. So I began to order long island ice teas. Later I went to a club called Show. I danced, and had a good time, but perhaps because of my previous libations, I don’t have anything else to report.

I spent Saturday convalescing. I didn’t make it out to the happy hour, and from what I heard, people went to either Friday night, or Saturday. If anyone went to both, I imagine that it’s the guy who was still talking to the Irish women when I left Social on Wednesday.

Sunday morning there was a brunch in the lower east side, again organized by one of our amazing NYC admits. I had a great time, talking to some people who I felt that I knew well, and others whom I had somehow managed to miss over the preceding days. One guy has already quit work, was leaving for Russia, and wants to start a Rock, Paper, Scissors club at Columbia. Apparently there’s a national organization for this-RPS!?! After brunch I had a lovely walk down to a Chinatown bus, where my Columbia Open House adventure ended.

Columbia Open House - Day 1

Marina has already written about her experiences at Open House, but I wanted to throw in my two cents.

I got in to town on Wednesday night with three other guys from the DC admits crew. After I dropped off my stuff, I went down to Social, where some NYC admits had set up a happy hour. I was there for about six hours, leaving at 2am, when there was one admit still there, talking with some Irish women. Before then, I had managed to talk myself hoarse, because the other admitted students were so great to hang out with.

The next morning brought breakfast with a welcome coffee, some breadstuffs, and a plastic bag that contained a nametag, a folder with our itinerary and some maps, as well as a t-shirt. I was pleased to finally get some free stuff. The dean then gave a speech about why I should go to Columbia. If I hadn’t sent in my ED deposit four months ago, this might have been valuable. Luckily I was able to sit on a window ledge through this; I felt bad for all the folks who had to stand.

Next up we divided into the clusters listed on our nametags-which won’t be our clusters in August-and did some icebreaker activities. I really enjoyed this, probably because a) I’m a dork, and b) I may still have been drunk from the previous night.

After that was lunch, with a different group of people, then back with my cluster for a class on negotiation. This class was great! I had to negotiate with another DC admit, and I was scared, because his job is basically to negotiate all day long. We acted out our roles for 20 minutes, and then the whole class did a post-mortem that helped me think about what to do next time I have to try to get what I want. Great class, even though I’m not good at negotiating.

The next class was Bruce Greenwald attacking Thomas Friedman’s thesis from “The World is Flat”. I’m not sure that I agreed with Professor Greenwald, but I appreciated being in an academic environment where people argue for things that I haven’t considered. Seriously, in business school, who says that globalization is neither beneficial for companies nor inevitable?

Then there was a reception (more free stuff!), a happy hour, and the LABA party. I had to take a nap through the first half of the reception, but this allowed me to make it out until 2 again.

The happy hour really seemed like a pick-up bar, so I asked a current student whether people actually hook-up, given that you then have to see one another for the next two years, all the time. Surprisingly, the answer was definitely yes. Lots of people hook up, and relationships (even marriages) that come into business school often don't make it much longer. I thought that this would be more… mature? Perhaps conservative is the word that I'm looking for? Of course, I hung out with party people, so I may have gotten a skewed view of things.

The LABA party is supposed to be one of the best events of the year, and I certainly enjoyed it. I danced and drank and talked and drank... Again, the Columbia admitted students are wonderful! They're smart, fun, have interesting stories and responses to things that I say, etc. I am overjoyed with my class.