Long-time reader/poster here. Am a bit unsure what to do at this stage in my career and b-school thoughts have started entering my mind. I'll lay out my background below but these are the main questions swirling around in my head: 1) will b-school help me get to be where I want to be in the long run, given the cost 2) I know nothing about the application process and amount of preparation required - do I have enough time to study for / take the GMAT and apply in this cycle? and 3) do I even have a shot at any of the schools that I'd be considering?
Undergrad: 3.0 GPA in finance from a decent private school (long story but academics were clearly not my priority as a clueless 20 year old).
Work experience: ~1.75yrs institutional private markets asset management and now ~3yrs at a small boutique investment bank (was promoted from analyst to associate)
GMAT: have not yet taken but if I decide to go down this path I'd definitely do some kind of prep course. I'm a decent standardized test taker, 2050 on the SAT with no prep (again, as a clueless kid). I'm sure I could get somewhere in the low to mid 700s and check that box.
Goal: I wanted to break into PE for a while but didn't have much luck and understand I'm probably beyond that point now. I'd really like to get into Corp Dev/Strategy or, at least for the time being, wouldn't terribly mind returning to banking or going into consulting post-MBA. Real estate has always interested me too but having very limited experience in the space I figure this could also be a good transition if I wanted to go that route.
I'm under no delusion that I'd be able to get into a top program but hoping I could at least be competitive for some schools in the top25 if I can perform on the GMAT. For personal reasons, I'm also trying to stay in a fairly tight geographic range (northeast/mid atlantic / east coast in general). I've been thinking of schools like Darden, Johnson, Tepper. I'm guessing Ross/Tuck/CBS/Fuqua/Yale/Stern are probably unattainable given my profile.
Financially, the good news is I'm debt free, but I still don't grasp the mechanics of paying for an MBA. Will I be able to finance the total cost of attendance? Does that cover living expenses as well or am I supposed to live off of savings for that time? I get that this probably sounds like a very dumb question but I legitimately have no idea.
Anyway, that's my wall of text on the situation. Any comments/feedback would be greatly appreciated.