Saturday, August 30, 2014

Factors of my admissions experience

I originally posted the below post on GMAT Club, under the title "Trying to Defy Gravity." As Round 1 deadlines for the Class of 2017 loom closer, I've been receiving emails and comments from several applicants asking for my thoughts on what led to my admissions success.I think this post summarizes the main points:

Trying to Defy Gravity

In 2012, I made the decision to apply to business school in 2013 to hopefully matriculate in 2014. I am the type of person that likes to plan things in advance. I've spoken with several other applicants who decided to apply just 6-8 weeks before deadlines. That would be my worst nightmare.

My journey, of course, began with the GMAT. I've always been naturally strong in verbal and I am a native English speaker, so I focused 100% of my prep on quant. The GMAT was not easy for me. I performed well on practice tests, but bombed my first official test. Ultimately I took the test three times to land a 730. I would have loved to join the 99th percentile club, but I was content with my score and decided to move on to other aspects of my application.

Additional Coursework
I come from a less-traditional background and didn't have any business-related courses in undergrad, although I took a couple of calc and stats classes for my major. Still, I wanted to make sure that b-schools knew that I could handle traditional business classes, so I took a financial accounting and a microecon class to boost my background.

School Choice
I spent a significant amount of time defining my career goals and determining the types of things that I do and don't like. From there, I looked at the top 20 schools and quickly noted which ones I was not interested in. That was easier for me than deciding which programs I was interested in. For example, NYC is too hectic for me and also freakishly expensive, so Columbia and Stern were crossed out. I also prefer the east coast, and decided that there were only 2 schools that would be personally worth it for me to leave the east coast -- Stanford and Kellogg. I also focused a lot on the community of the schools and the program offerings.

My Recommendations for Current Applicants:
I spent an insane amount of time researching everything I could about applying to schools, but of course, there is always an element of luck involved in admissions. I have met some incredible people during this process, and there are way more qualified people than spots available.

A couple of things that I found most helpful:
- Starting early
- Chatting with anyone and everyone -- current students, alumni, admissions officers, fellow applicants, etc... I tried to find any hidden insight I could for each program to which I applied.
- Knowing my story: Coming from a less traditional background, I really had to prove that my story made sense and that an MBA was critical to my next steps. I practiced my pitch repeatedly and even did mock interviews with some friends.
- Writing articulate essays that answered the question, while simultaneously highlighting my differentiating factors, my personality, and my passion.

A few things that I may have changed:
- Applying to school is ridiculously expensive. I only thought about the cost of applications and failed to factor in flights and hotel rooms for visits and interviews, $750 for the 3 times I took the GMAT, plus GMAT study resources and the 2 additional classes. I wish I would have saved more. Especially now that I am seeing the cost of attendance for top MBA programs.
- There are probably some other things that would have made the journey easier, but since it's all worked out, I guess I wouldn't change them. I don't know if the additional coursework helped and it was really time consuming, but whatever, I'm sure it didn't hurt my app.


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