Monday, September 29, 2014

5 Actions MBA Candidates can take to Avoid Student Loan Mistakes

Getting accepted to an MBA program is challenging.  So much so that by the time students are admitted to a program, many of them want to secure the first funding options available without pausing to thoroughly assess all the options.

Salomon Medina
Associate Director, Financial Aid
But under-thinking your education financing strategy can have negative consequences, according to Rice University Associate Director of Financial Aid Salomon Medina.  “I usually ask students to treat their student loan planning like part of their coursework,” says Medina.  “Take your time, pay attention to the details, weigh your options and make thoughtful decisions from day one – or you could be paying for mistakes later on down the road.

Treating student loans like an afterthought isn’t the only potential pitfall for incoming MBA students.  In his 4 years counseling prospects and students at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, Medina has seen more than a few mishaps that can cost borrowers both time and money.  Here, he shares five important actions you can take to avoid the most common mistakes.


Action #1: Be proactive in your education finance planning
“I take a holistic approach to advising our prospects and students about education debt, and I encourage them to do the same.  It’s about more than just picking a loan off a list and doing the paperwork – your loan strategy needs to fit into your total financial plan. A graduate degree is not an impulse buy. Financial planning a year or two (or even further) in advance, will offer considerable payoff in the future.


For example, before they’ve even applied for the program, I advise prospects to set up a budget spreadsheet and start making cuts to their discretionary spending where possible. Something as simple as cutting back on eating out can free up funding that can then be used toward gaining ones degree.  Because here’s the thing – everything you finance with loans during grad school has an interest charge attached to it.  If you can reduce your budget now, you can borrow less later, which means you’ll end up spending less on interest in the long run.”

Action #2:  Understand your loan options and terms
“In their rush to secure financing, I sometimes see students gloss over important loan information.  For example, they’ll hurriedly read some information about federal loans online, then mistakenly think that certain subsidized loan benefits (for undergraduates) also apply to their graduate level loans – Federal Direct Unsubsidized or Federal Graduate PLUS loans.  This is not the case, as terms vary considerably between undergraduate and graduate level loans.


As part of this, there is sometimes the misconception that federal loans are always the cheapest option.  Since many MBA candidates are relatively mature borrowers with a substantial credit history and financial foundation, they have private loan options available to them as well.  Sometimes those options can be less expensive – particularly if you have a strong credit score, which is one of the factors private lenders take into account when they offer you an interest rate.  Federal Graduate PLUS loans are currently at 7.21%, which is definitely possible to beat for some borrowers.”

Action #3:  Avoid focusing on the interest rate alone
“Interest rate is certainly important, but there are other factors that can contribute to the cost of a student loan.  For example, many borrowers may not realize that Federal Direct PLUS loans carry a hefty origination fee of 4.288% – and on October 1st it’s going up to 4.292%.  That’s a sizeable chunk off the top of your loans that you do not have access to, which, in addition to the interest rate, may make this loan type less desirable.  If you can qualify for a private loan with no or low origination fee at the same rate and term, that’s automatic savings right there.”


Action #4: Begin paying interest as soon as possible
“In most cases, interest begins accruing on the loan amount disbursed from the point of disbursement. In the case of Federal Student Loans, there is a repayment grace period for several months post-graduation.  At the end of that period, accumulated interest is usually capitalized (added to the principal) if you do not pay it off beforehand.  This means that, going forward, you’ll be charged interest on that interest, too.


A couple of thoughts here: First, paying some amount toward loan interest while you are in-school is always a good way to go. Second, if you can focus on paying off your accrued interest before capitalization occurs, you can cut costs considerably.  Many borrowers take advantage of their grace period by not making payments on their accrued interest.  But I see “taking advantage of your repayment grace period” much differently – because what the lender is doing is giving you a chance to get ahead on your interest.  If you have the means, take them up on it.”

Action #5: Talk to an expert sooner rather than later
“When is it time for you to talk to your program’s financial aid office?   I would argue that it’s rarely too early.  I think of it as a pipeline, and I’m there to help from beginning to end.  I frequently attend our events and speak with prospects about whether the program is the right investment of time and energy for them, as well as whether it’s financially viable and what steps they might take to assure they are on the most optimal footing to pursue their educational dreams.  When candidates are accepted, I help them look at their big financial picture and come up with a financing strategy that meets their needs in the most cost-effective way possible.  And at graduation, as needed, I help them craft a repayment strategy based on their changing financial situation.


The bottom line is that education is a partnership, and your financial aid office is an important element in that relationship.  We’ve seen it all before, and we can help you make good decisions as well as avoid the bad ones.  Because getting an MBA is a challenging thing – we try to make the financing part less challenging where possible.”

Source: SoFi Blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What happens when a Rice MBA gives up finance for fashion?

Ask Andrea Phillips, Class of 2013!  We are so proud of her!

Andrea had always dabbled in art, taking a few classes here and there, but her future held a finance career, not a fashion line. But here she is, working on her spring collection, while her AG Phillips fall pieces fly out of Tootsies.

Sometimes, it’s a good thing to follow your heart instead of your head.

It’s not that the Rice MBA grad isn’t using plenty of brain power to create her collection of sophisticated and ultra feminine dresses, of course. Phillips and her husband, Oliver, are running every facet of the company from finance to manufacturing, which means the ultimate in teamwork.
"It’s a lot of work and sweat equity. We are doing it all ourselves, but it has been a lot of fun," Phillips says. "Oliver is encouraging, but he plays the devil’s advocate, which is a good balance."

The Houston native recently unveiled her collection at Tootsies, connecting with store owner Mickey Rosmarin, who said yes to her dresses. No stranger to young designers, he was taken with Phillips’ vision
 
"It was a very focused collection,” Rosmarin says. "She is right on target with what she is doing."
Phillips feels there’s a gap in the market for women looking for ladylike dresses made from luxe materials at an affordable price point. Whether an A-line or straight skirt, the waist is always a focal point and the materials are rich and full of textures, so the prints make a statement in a sophisticated way. The collection ranges from $395 to $695, and the dress selection ranges from luncheon to cocktail.

Phillips and her husband are based in London, so she sources her materials and manufacturing throughout Europe. Her silks come from a mill near Como, Italy, and the collection is made in Romania, which she visits six times a year. She’s been invited to Coterie Paris and is adding final touches to her spring 2015 line.

Growing up in Houston, Phillips was focused on getting the collection in Tootsies, but she is equally thrilled with the expertise Rosmarin shared with her during meetings.

"Mickey is so creative. He let me see his private collection of vintage dresses as a way of teaching me,” Phillips says. "We talked about different sleeve length and fabric selection for spring. It was wonderful."

"We met, we shared experiences. I gave her a few tips and she gave me some too," Rosmarin says of their meeting.

Phillips came across a few other new experiences in Houston including Torchy’s Tacos, where she ate multiple times, because she “can’t stop going there.”

And, as every homesick Texan knows, nothing tastes like home more than Tex-Mex, a staple not-so-available in London.

"Who knows? Maybe I will go back to London and open a Mexican food restaurant. They need queso in London too," Phillips says.

If a finance whiz can become a fashion designer, why not add Tex-Mex restaurateur to your resume?

Source: CultureMap Houston

Friday, August 15, 2014

From the Military to Wall Street

Have you considered life on Wall Street after life in the Military? Do you have questions about the transition to corporate life? Are you concerned about how to transfer your military skills to investment banking?

Three veterans in the Rice MBA Class of 2016 answered "yes" to these questions, deciding to trade in their camouflage for suits and ties.  After an extremely competitive application process, Philip Gunn, Kyle Greer and Matt Guyton were invited to attend the Credit Suisse MBA Military Boot Camp.  Rice represented an astounding 10% of the prestigious group invited to attend!

The Credit Suisse MBA Military Boot Camp is an educational outreach initiative for prior-military MBA candidates who are entering business school this fall and who are interested in a career in financial services. During this full day program, Philip, Kyle and Matt learned about careers in Investment Banking, Sales and Trading and Private Banking. They received advice from previous vets who have made the successful transition to Wall Street, and had the opportunity to network with members of the Credit Suisse Americas Veterans’ Network, the first such network on Wall Street.  Congratulations, Philip, Kyle and Matt, on getting a head start to your MBA journey! 


Philip Gunn
Rice MBA Class of 2016
United States Air Force
Like everything else, life as an Air Force officer revolves around money – obtaining money for training, flight hours, weapons qualifications, joint exercises, and yes even a fighter squadron bar. Sequestration taught us some very difficult realities with respect to appropriating funds for defense and security. Some time ago the Air Force adopted the corporate structure model of leadership and funding. While our allocations of cash are not always the most prudent in practice, they do reveal a great deal of understanding amongst our leaders of just how our American corporate economy functions. There comes a time in every officer’s career when acquiring permissions and funding to get your unit the appropriate training becomes a challenge, whether it be on Capitol Hill or at the base level. My epiphany came in early 2012 when I wanted to learn a better way to do business.


Early this summer I applied to participate in Credit Suisse’s Veterans pre-MBA Military Boot Camp in New York. This event was designed to teach transitioning veterans entering top MBA programs around the country how to lay the foundation for our movement into the corporate marketplace. With the military veteran network being one of the strongest in business anywhere, I was humbled to see some of our leading financiers taking an active role in assisting us with this change. The information passed on various opportunities created an indefinite list of possibilities that most professionals long to have. When this type of program is delivered to driven leaders who understand responsibility and accountability the possibilities are endless. I was grateful Credit Suisse gave me the chance to be a part of this great and wonderful program. 

The energy sector is something I perceive as our nation’s most vulnerable and important asset. Not only did I want to achieve a superior business education, but I also desired to play an active role in the future development of this industry. Rice-Jones is able to deliver both, and after some initial research in my business school pursuit the choice was easy. Shaping the conversation of America’s energy policy could very well be one of the most important variables for our future economy. I am very excited to begin this journey with the JGSB, and having the educational means to purse my goals.



Kyle Greer
Rice MBA Class of 2016
United States Army
As I prepare to start my first semester of business school at Rice I wanted to briefly introduce myself. Prior to attending Rice I served as an Infantry Officer in the US Army for six years. I decided to attend business school to enhance my skill set and transition to a new career that offered a similar level of responsibility to what I had in the military. The Jones School appealed to me because it is highly rated in accounting, finance, and return on investment, it has a strong veteran network, and it is located in what I think is a great city to start a career—Houston, Texas! As Katie discussed above, I attended the Credit Suisse Military Boot Camp in NYC. This is only one of many pre-MBA opportunities available to Rice MBA students. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to participate in three pre-MBA programs this summer: Connect with Bain, The Barclays Accelerated Associate Process, and the Credit Suisse Military Boot Camp. These opportunities were great ways to learn about different career paths and get a head start on networking. As a career changer, this helped me refine my short- term career goals, which will allow me to focus my recruiting efforts once school starts.



Matt Guyton
Rice MBA Class of 2016
United States Navy
My military service as a naval nuclear engineering officer provided me with significant experience in leadership, operations, and technical project/program management.  Much of my desire to earn an MBA stemmed from a drive to address skill gaps which are necessary for a positive career trajectory in a corporate environment, specifically finance, accounting, and competitive strategy.  Furthermore, I wanted to get back in a competitive, collaborative environment that allowed me to learn from peers from a variety of industries, cultures, and backgrounds. Coupling these goals with my interest in the energy industry made it greatly apparent that Rice was the perfect place to learn and grow.   The fantastic experiences I had with the Veterans in Business Association (VIBA) through the admissions process sealed the deal for me.

The Credit Suisse MBA Military Boot Camp was an excellent opportunity because it featured primarily panels of veterans who had successfully transitioned from the service to the various sectors of the finance industry.  They gave a great overview of investment banking, sales and trading, and private banking, and they were effective because they understood how the skills of a veteran translated to potential success in a career in finance.  Formatting the event with a mix of presentations, case studies, Q&A sessions, and a networking happy hour really permitted those in attendance to get a lot of questions answered, ultimately providing a better understanding of which path to take.  I was also proud to see Rice represented so well considering our class size.
 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Reflecting on International Immersion

Priyanka Saha
Rice MBA Class of 2016
In today’s technology-oriented world, we consistently spend unlimited amounts of time on our cell phones, yet only a limited number of calls truly pave the path for life altering transitions. Receiving an acceptance call from my business school of choice surely qualifies as one!




On April 3rd, wrapping up a typical day at work, I saw my cell phone atypically buzz in an unknown international number. Picking up my phone in anticipation, as I heard the Admissions Director say out loud “Congratulations and Welcome to the Jones School”, I knew my life would soon be undergoing a transformation. Receiving the acceptance news from Rice meant that the long and tiring months of taking the GMAT, introspecting, essay writing, introspecting some more and interviewing had finally come to an end! The acceptance news meant that I ultimately did have a way to realize my MBA aspiration!!

However, little did I know how quickly the next four months would pass by and how soon it would turn August 4th, that is, the first day of International Immersion and the official kick-off of my MBA journey.  As an international candidate, I always had this notion that despite my efforts, I can probably never be able to fully prepare myself for the experience, especially since as for many of my international classmates, attending the Jones School was going to be a “first” international experience. Having said that though, the past week has certainly helped us become acquainted if not fully immersed into the MBA way of life.

After our official immigration check-ins by the Office of International Students and Scholars, we were taken towards understanding differences among cultural aspects of communication. The session, conducted by Beth O’Sullivan, enabled us to understand how importantly our MBA journey will lead us to enhance, accept and challenge one another's perspectives and how we must always respect cultural purviews while doing so. We ended the day with a trip to the Bowling Alley, where we threw back our cultural differences and bonded over shooting ten-pins!

On day two, we interacted with the international alumni board, as well the second year students who have recently completed their summer internships. Interacting with the alumni board encouraged us to think big and what we would we look like five years down the line. However, we soon came back to reality at the student panel, where the second year international students shared the challenges of getting through the rigor of the first year and coming out of it with much sought after internships. The buzz of the present and future came to a rest during our first Career Management Center (CMC) session. As internationals, we all know that an MBA would be all about career shifts, by levels, profiles and industries. What we did not know in as much depth was the power of the word “networking”. That’s true - one session with the CMC and we are sure that “networking” would easily be the most heard about and frequently used jargon during the next two years.

Day three was all about feeling the glamor of an MBA. You guessed it, it was the day when our directory photos were scheduled to be taken. What better way than rejoicing in the MBA swag, than stepping into school in suits, ties (for the men) and heels (for the women) at 9 in the morning! Directory photos will probably be used most liberally during our two years. Hence, looking polished, albeit for head shots, did matter. We transitioned from looking polished to also eating polished, by attending a table etiquette session by Marie Lee. We continued to work on our table manners at the formal dinner with Associate Deans and Professors, hosted in an informal, family style setting at Buca di Beppo. Despite the palette delights on the table, the real highlights of the evening were our personal interactions with our professors. We truly look forward to many more such times with our esteemed faculty.

The week ended with a field trip to the Battleship Texas State Historic Park. Experiencing the hundred year old ship, we certainly felt like little kids taken on a picnic trail. However, being taken to the legendary one of the only six remaining ships to have served both the World Wars did send a quiet sense of inspiration to us. The Battleship stands for conquering hurdles and coming out strong. The next two years will set us towards newer trajectories of thought, action and direction. And while we immerse ourselves in the roller coaster of the MBA experience, I wish for our class that we thrive through hardships and hold our forts together.