Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Procrastinato ergo blogo

Translation: I procrastinate, therefore, I blog.

In other words, it's time to find something, ANYTHING, to do, other than my summer academic prepwork.

Shortly after being notified that I'd been admitted into the GSB, I logged into the MyGSB website to begin exploring the various and sundry message boards and other toys that were now available to me as an admit. Before long, I stumbled onto the section of the site labeled Academic Prepwork and, like the good student that I am, began compiling a checklist of things that I would need to read and study in order to arrive on campus in September well-prepared to start school, bright-eyes and bushy-tailed, shiny new pencil case in hand.

All of us enter school with certain strengths and weaknesses academically. There are the "poets," some of whom haven't taken a class that requires quantitative reasoning since high school. Then there are the techies, who have plenty of quantitative background but who often know little about accounting and other business-world mathematical disciplines. And of course even the most analytical and quantitatively gifted among us will have the option to try to test out of intro-level courses in several areas of the core MBA curriculum, so some studying might be in order for these folks, too.

What this meant for me was that my new set of textbooks, freshly arrived from eBay sellers around the country, needed to be put to some serious use in the weeks before I touched down in the sun-drenched paradise that is Palo Alto. It would be important for me to read and study chapters 1 through 4 of Kreps' Microeconomics, to brush up on my accounting knowledge by skimming the Accounting textbook by Horngren et al, and of course to memorize all the Excel hotkeys listed in the Excel handbook. Of course I don't plan on using all of this much AFTER I get to Stanford. Who has time for that stuff, what with all the partying, networking, trips to wine country and Lake Tahoe, et cetera, that will require my attention once the Fall term starts?

Unfortunately for me, my natural laziness conspired against me, and without extra incentives to work, I soon lapsed back into full-time enjoyment of what I can only assume will be my last summer before entering Real Life for good (funny, I said that about the summer after I finished college, too. Maybe there's hope after all...)

So, after a month of no posting, here I am. By now, I should be wrapping up the last of the reading, Excel modeling, and other Hard Work that I was supposed to have completed before Pre-Term starts in another week or so. Perhaps some of you out there in the Blogosphere probably assumed that this was the reason why I haven't been writing anything about life at the Stanford GSB in the past few weeks. You thought I was hard at work, nose to the grindstone, readying myself to receive all the MBA goodness that will soon be poured out upon me. After all, only hard workers who would never shirk summer prepwork get admitted to the GSB in the first place, right?

Nope! In fact, I have spent the last month doing more relaxing and less work than I thought I would do again until I retire. And it's been great! I feel ready now to set off on the two-year journey that lies before me. I've taken care of the little details about housing, my student card, financial aid and all the rest, and in so doing have maintained an acceptable level of the psychological do-gooder's feeling that comes from checking items off of my to-do list. But this one section of the list remains almost completely unaddressed. So in honor of my newfound energy, I have decided that in the next few days, I am going to attempt to right myself in regards to the prepwork recommended by the friendly students and staff at the GSB. Having come all this way and worked so hard to apply and get admitted to the school, I don't want to start off on the wrong foot.

Having said that, I've wasted quite enough time today already writing this post. It's time to get started. It could be that I've already waited too long and that, in my first term, I will face pain and suffering because of my inability and unwillingness to overcome my summer indolence. Or maybe not. Either way, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

eBay, continued

All five of the auctions that I entered on Saturday have ended now, and when the dust settled I had won four of them. I had to increase some of my bids, especially the ones that started out at $1.00 for books that retail for more than $130, but in the end, I still saved a lot of money when comparing to Overstock.com prices. I will have to find another way to get the fifth book, because someone outbid my maximum price at the last minute, but since I have plenty of time I can always search eBay again, and if that doesn't work, I've found it at Half.com for about $50.00 including shipping.

The final tally:

Overstock.com prices: $483.33 - $133.45 (book I didn't buy) = $349.82
eBay prices (final): $13.13 + $35.75 + $20.75 + $55.98 = $125.61

eBay savings as compared to Overstock.com: $224.21.

Not bad!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

In Praise of Markets

As summer rolls onward and the date when I will head to Stanford draws ever nearer, I have finally begun to think about starting work on some of the "mandatory" academic preparation that the good folks over at the GSB think I should complete before classes start in September . Although I have no intention of ruining the Zen-like state of mental inactivity that I have attained in recent weeks, I admit that the descriptions of the economics and modeling classes I'll be taking in my first year make me think that my background in econ (non-existent) and in Excel skills (basic, at best) will be insufficient to do well if I don't put in some extra time well in advance of arriving in Palo Alto.

Unfortunately, after reading the suggestions on the student website for how to prepare for the classes ahead, I came to the conclusion that I am fast approaching the first major B-school-related cash outlay since I paid my deposit for matriculation a while back. Since I am still solidly in the red after taking some vacation time without pay in recent months, the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks when the flow of loan money hasn't yet started trickling into my bank account was not at all welcome. Enter the Internet.

I've never been a big eBay user, but as I began to browse Overstock.com for the required and recommended textbooks that I will be reading parts of before school, it occurred to me that perhaps there are other folks out there in Internetland who might be selling these very books, and they might be selling them on eBay. So I popped over to eBay for a quick look, at which point it quickly became apparent that it is possible to save HUGE amounts of money by buying textbooks directly from other students or former-students, than from retailers -- even discount online retailers like Overstock.com. After about 45 minutes worth of searches on both sites, making sure that each book I needed was available in the right edition and placing bids high enough that I was not outbid immediately, I added up the numbers for both buying strategies (all-eBay vs. all-Overstock) and came up with the following totals. These numbers assume that all of my current bids will stand until the end of auction, which is perhaps not a good assumption, but given the fact that two out of five auctions were already several days old and I was still the first to bid, I think that it's possible this may happen.

Amount "spent" on eBay: $55.98 + $20.75 + $5.75 + $7.75 + $11.75 = $101.98
Amount "spent" on Overstock.com: $110.21 + $56.45 + $53.62 + $133.45 + $130.60 = $483.33

(All prices include shipping)

Total difference: = $483.33 - $101.98 = $381.35

Three hundred eighty one dollars!!!

Fortunately I was able to find every book that I needed on eBay, although one of them was only being sold through an online retailer in a "Buy Now" configuration. Still, that price was $56, roughly half of the $110+ that Overstock.com wanted for the same book. Some of the books I got were paperback instead of hardcover, and others were used instead of new, but all in all, I will probably be getting everything that I need before school (and, I think, two out of five of my first-quarter textbooks) for a fraction of what I would have paid for textbooks at the Stanford bookstore or another retailer. Hooray for online markets - bringing buyers and sellers together! Since I've signed up for loans enough to buy all of these books once school starts, perhaps I'll use all of that "extra" money to fund an extra trip to wine country, or Tahoe, or any one of the other awesome destinations that are easily accessible from Stanford.

I'll post again once I close on all these auctions, because the total numbers for the eBay bids may have changed by then. But, no matter what happens, I think it's worth noting that it's possible to save quite a good deal of money if you're willing to buy used and use the power of the Internet to find good prices. Certainly someone out there has to buy the book new, but I don't intend that that person be me, if I can help it! Here's to the power of open markets!

One extra thought occured to me as I made final edits to this post before publishing it, and that is: how will these direct, buyer-to-seller secondary markets affect the textbook industry as more and more people figure out that the internet can be used not only to save money on textbook purchases, but to make back some of your money once you're finished with a book that you will likely never open again? I think I see two possibilities here:

1) Textbook publishers and authors get wise and continue along the "publish a new edition every year" route, forcing students to buy new editions instead of old editions in cases where classes insist on the usage of latest editions. I think students have long suspected that the "new edition" garbage was invented at least partially to put a lid on the sales of used textbooks for classes that rarely move to a new text, but now that eBay and other similar sites have the potential to vastly improve efficiency in connecting buyers and sellers, will publishers attempt to publish new editions for more and more books, more and more frequently, in order to continue propping up profits instead of abdicating them to consumers who are sick of paying $100+ for books that won't see a lot of real use?

2) Textbook publishers are forced to scale back printings of books that are not frequently updated, since a larger percentage of the people using a particular book will be buying secondhand from original buyers instead of purchasing new. I think that this result is fairly unlikely, mostly because I have great faith that publishers will attempt to make sure that result #1 happens instead.

Interesting question, though. What would YOU do if you were in the textbook business?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

An Introduction

It's Tuesday, July the 5th, 2005, and it's about time I started blogging.

First, I'll explain what this is all about.

Recently, I was admitted to the Class of 2007 at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Like many other applicants, I spent some time reading the BusinessWeek B-School Forums, which in turn led me to the League of MBA Bloggers, and eventually to the blogs of several other people who are either current MBA candidates, or are / were applicants and will be starting school this Fall. Somewhere along the line, I decided that I, too, want to write a blog, and in order to be as honest as possible about my experience at Stanford, I intend to remain anonymous, for as long as that is possible. I'm not doing this so that I can take cheap shots at students, faculty, or the administration at Stanford, but simply so that I can freely speak my mind without my words being forever preserved and attached to my name by the computers at Google and Yahoo and anyone else who makes it their business to constantly take snapshots of the entire web. Hopefully, some of what I have to say about the admissions process, the time before matriculation, and the two year MBA program at Stanford will be helpful or entertaining to others who follow in my footsteps.

It may be that anonymity is not for me, in which case I will most likely either stop posting to this blog, or reveal my identity for the world to see. But, for now, I'll keep it to myself.

Ok, that's enough for now. More posts to come soon, as well as (most likely) some graphical improvements to the site.

Edit 1: Added FarmAdmit, my inspiration for anonymous blogging. Good luck, FA. I'll see you on September 6th!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Testing

1. 2. 3. Testing...