Awwww, thanks guys! (But really – thanks. Those are some nice things to say & I do appreciate them.)
I’m excited for my next adventures, but have been looking for an opportunity to reflect. If you’re thinking of applying to business school, here are some reflective & generalized thoughts I have to offer:
Benefits of the process: This is just one girl’s opinion, but the process of applying to business school was an incredibly valuable exercise. Arduous and a bitch, yes, but in the end, very useful. Essentially, it requires that you fully understand and articulate your authentic motivations, while succinctly sharing your narrative that have shaped and produced these motivations. I have run this by people who have fully agreed, and people who have faux-strangled me at the thought of reliving those desperate and stressful times. But as someone who highly values self-discovery, it was worth it. [Full disclosure: I was only semi-employed at the time of application.]
Research: The research phase is a little underestimated. I found that it really takes the bulk of the time, because there is a lot to learn about what resources are available, respected, and promoted at each school. And this is the only way to get to a ‘final list’ of schools. Make a final list.
- Website (duh) – but don’t stop there, become a mad googler. Check out student blogs, from those who chose to attend and not attend that school. Find faculty that you think are cool. And keep going.
- Talk to current students. Find them by reaching out to clubs you’re interested in joining, or simply searching via LinkedIn.
- Get coffee with previous students who live in your area. Seriously, it will help you tailor your essays to that particular school (!). But really, it’s useful.
- Gatherings like the Forte Foundation for women, and Reaching Out MBA for the lgbt community. Both host business school fairs and some will lead to waived application fees. (At $200 a pop, that’s a total score!)
- Oh yeah, you can visit too. But sometimes that’s not completely feasible.
- Look at the interview policy – some have open interviews before a certain date (like Duke, before mid-October), and some are always open, and you can interview without an invitation (I think Tuck at Dartmouth is like this.)
Looking for people who talk about business schools and their characteristics outside the average starting salary? Say, for instance, in terms of holistic preparation & social responsibility? Check out these:
- Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes
- Net Impact’s Business as Unusual Guide
- The Economist’s MBA Forum
- Note that rankings can be deceptive for lots of reasons. For example: One major factor in rankings is commonly the average starting salary after school, but if the school is known for producing entrepreneurs, this is commendable, but punishable in this sort of ranking strategy.
(One version of) the ultimate question: Do I need an MBA (including the networks, skills, internships, etc that come with it) to be as impactful as I plan to be? (& why?)
Overall: Be genuine & comprehensive. I read some advice on Stanford’s B-school site that was pretty useful to me – to paraphrase: “if a cover letter is a marketing exercise, b-school applications are an accounting exercise.” Meaning, don’t sell them on you. Tell them about the things you contain: your motivations, your passions, your experiences, your decisions, your inspirations, your natural talents, your developed skills, etc. And tell them what you don’t contain; acknowledging what you don’t have/know both demonstrates maturity and honesty, and inherently supports the need for your MBA.
These are some of the takeaways from my experience. I’ve heard a couple of friends express interest in applying for an MBA, so I thought I’d get this on paper in case it could be useful.
Don’t think I’m being dismissive – I know this is a great opportunity for me, and I have lots of thoughts regarding my own decision-making process, but I wanted to offer some thoughts on my application process, and I thought an acceptance might legitimize those tidbits (No, I didn’t photoshop the acceptance just to legitimize those tidbits). I’m also naturally a pretty private person, so I’m trying to open myself up a bit. And be more forthcoming. (Not my strong suit. For example, having my acceptance letter in this blog post makes me feel weird, for no real reason.)
Otherwise, the alternative is something I also welcome (‘zone of exploratory discomfort’ alert):
So I have until May 1 to decide. I welcome words of advice and sharing of experiences. But I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty tempting offer.
In case you’re curious – Why Duke? (Well, turns out I wrote a whole essay on that for the application process, so if you want the long version, holler at me.) The short version: caseatduke.org (& this doesn’t hurt. I’m a Georgia girl after all. Sorta.)