I have been a long time lurker of online advice throughout my MBA application journey—through GMAT Club, Clearadmit and blogs—so I thought it is time I pony up and give back by telling you my story and what I have learned along the way.
This post is backdated to 3/10/18 (It took me a while to figure out how to build a blog).
I am finally at the point in my application process where I have nothing left to do. I have submitted all of my applications and completed my interviews, so I am now in a holding pattern until the final admissions decisions are released. It is a pretty unnerving feeling. I don’t know what to do with my hands. To give you some perspective on why my first weekend with nothing MBA-related is a weird feeling I am going to have to take you back to the start (queue the Coldplay).
Why did I want to quit my job, move cities, return to school full time and spend $100k + on a Master’s in Business Administration? It seems that this is the inescapable question that has berated my existence for nearly the past 2 years. Outside of the MBA hopefuls I have met through campus visits, interviews and online, most everyone in my life thinks I am crazy, foolish or both. Fair enough. But I have known I wanted to get my Full-Time MBA from a top school since I graduated undergrad. I can date back the starting point in this journey to roughly 3 years ago today—damn that’s a long time now that I am typing it out—when I was working at IBM and just about to pivot to renewable energy. That was the date when I borrowed my GMAT prep books from my friend and marked the official starting point. Since then I have studied for the GMAT, quit studying for the GMAT, starting back up again, took the GMAT twice, obtained letters of recommendation from my bosses (when it became real), polished my resume, visited 7 schools, narrowed in on my target schools, wrote ~20 essays, and interviewed with schools all while working 50 hour weeks. Let it be known that applying to top business schools is a tremendous undertaking and a HUGE pain in the keister.
Let me update you on my current status as of today. Application Stats: I am what you would call below average on paper for the top 20 business schools.
GMAT: 660 (76th percentile). For reference the average GMATs at the top 20 schools are all around 700 which is the 88th percentile.
GPA: 3.1 overall. 3.6 Major GPA. For reference the average GPAs at top 20 schools are about 3.4-3.5.
Where I had to differentiate myself was on my story, my work experience and career goals and my fit. My biggest selling point was that I had some interesting experience working in renewable energy with advanced career progression (“hot” industry) and I am pursuing an MBA to enhance my career in this field. I want to pivot from cleantech manufacturing to project development where I can have the greatest impact toward accelerating the adoption of affordable clean energy technology. This feeds right into the b-school pathos of developing leaders who change the world. Becoming a renewable energy champion is my genuine life goal, but I was fully aware that this was also my only card, and believe me, I played it as widely as I could.
The schools that I applied to, their U.S. News rankings and their admission percentages (in order of my preference):
Once you apply the admissions committee reads your application material and determines whether you are worthy enough to bring in for an interview. Receiving an interview invite is effectively making the first cut. I received interview invites to three of the six schools I applied: Texas (#1 choice and my dream school), Cornell and Carnegie Mellon. I find comfort in probability so I calculated my odds of getting accepted into business school based on the school’s acceptance rates after an interview as published by MBA Data Guru and they show a reassuring 94%.
Now I am no expert, and as of writing this I still haven’t been accepted to a program, but I have grown a lot through this process and I have learned a thing or two about how to best approach it.I hear back from Tepper in 4 days 3/14/18, McCombs on 3/29/18, and Cornell as early as 4/1/18 and as late as 4/23/18. While statistically I have a pretty decent shot of getting accepted into business school, I do not feel the least bit confident that this will happen until I have an offer in hand (ideally with scholarship $ attached).
Below are my top pieces of advice for aspiring b-school applicants who are about to begin this journey:
- GMAT: Use Veritas Prep
- Self-reflection: Determine why you want an MBA. This will be the basis for selecting your target schools
- Visit your target schools BEFORE you apply
- MBA Prep School (https://mbaprepschool.com/) for developing your application material: letters of rec, resume, building your story, determining your career goals, writing your essays, preparing for your interviews. This is easily the best $50 you will spend during your app and provides you will a step by step process for showcasing your best self during your apps. It is a hybrid application consulting service where the Harvard MBA consultants who founded the site lay down the framework through their ‘content building blocks’ and you put in the work to complete the exercises. It requires more work than paying an admissions consultant to do it for you, but you save thousands of dollars in consulting fees.
- Much of outcome comes down to luck.
- I know that this isn’t what anyone wants to hear. Driven and aspiring applicants want to think that gaining admission to the top schools in all within their control, but the bottom line is that the admission formula includes a few variables that are simply out of your control (applicant pool, target demographics, school fit etc.).
- I received dings from the two schools that I thought I had the best chances with (Michigan and UNC) and received an interview invite to my dream school and the program that I realistically did not expect to get into (Texas).
- The possible take aways from this are to 1) apply to multiple programs and never get too attached to a single school until you have the offer in hand, and 2) maintain a positive outlook and let the chips fall where they may.
I am not gonna lie and say that I would be okay with not getting into to business school; it would be a tremendous blow and a tough pill to swallow, but I am a realist and planning for both possible outcomes.
If I get into business school, I will hand in my one month notice the day I receive my offer letter, after which I am going to fulfill my lifelong goal to hike the Appalachian trail (separate blog posts to come on this).
If I do not get into business school, I will apply for a new job in Austin Texas, attempt to gain a gap period for a month or two ahead of time to hike some Appalachian Trail, and apply for the part-time Texas MBA program. All of this could be a blessing in disguise if it works out.