A few months ago, before the admissions season got into full swing, we posted the first in a series of MBA applicant profiles. Our hope is that by reading about what choices other applicants made and how they made them, you'll be better equipped to make your own business school decisions when the time comes. In these interviews, we ask prospective students at different places in the admissions process about their experiences. The first post of the series profiled J, an applicant working at a nonprofit who was gearing up to start his applications. Now that round one deadlines are behind us, it's time for our second installment.
S is a "traditional" MBA applicant from the finance industry. With more than five years of work experience and a CFA under his belt, he knows exactly why he's pursuing an MBA and how the degree fits into his career path. In this economy, many students are looking to graduate programs like business school as a safe harbor to wait out the storm. S isn't one of them: The recession didn't play into his decision one bit. S took his time on each part of the admissions process, from deciding to go to business school to writing his application essays. And to make sure he chose not just the perfect degree but also the perfect school, he visited every school he applied to. "Fit" isn't just a buzz word here!
Vault: What do you do?
S: Brokerage new product development.
Vault: How long have you been in the workforce?
S: Five and a half years.
Vault: Why did you decide to apply to business school? When did you decide it was the right plan?
S: As a CFA charter-holder, I have a strong quantitative background, but felt I would greatly benefit from the strategic decision making and management education at business school. I had been considering business school as long as two years ago but decided this summer to apply for fall 2010.
Vault: How has the economy affected your decision to apply to business school?
S: Not at all.
Vault: How do you plan to use the MBA in your future career?
S: I will have worked in the financial world for six years by the time I go back to school. While I have great experience within the industry, I wanted to broaden my knowledge base and be surrounded by people from all different backgrounds. My current plan is to work for a few years after graduation in management consulting.
Vault: You just finished applying to MBA programs. Which programs did you apply to?
S: HBS, MIT Sloan, Kellogg, Chicago Booth, Stanford GSB and Berkeley Haas.
Vault: Why did you choose those school?
S: I applied to schools in the top 10 that have strong general management programs and are located in major metropolitan areas outside N.Y.
Vault: What influenced your decision to apply in the first round?
S: I had made the decision to apply far enough in advance that there was no reason to delay. I also heard that it is advisable to do so if possible.
Vault: What was the hardest part of your applications?
S: The essays required me to deeply evaluate everything about myself--work experience, personal goals, future career plans--in order to properly convey it in my applications.
Each school’s essays are different enough that you need to completely re-write or re-work essays you may already have written for one school when applying to another.
Vault: How did you prepare for the GMAT?
S: I bought a book from Kaplan and self-studied for a few months. Although I found the material prepared me well for the GMAT, I found that the Kaplan sample exam scoring was inconsistent at best. As a result, it affected my confidence going into the exam.
Vault: With your applications behind you, do you have any advice to offer future applicants?
S: You hear a lot of talk about “fit,” and I didn’t appreciate how true it was until I had visited each school. I would strongly recommend that applicants visit each school (in session!) if at all possible. They all tend to look the same online, but each has its unique aspects and culture.
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