My Story: From Hollywood to Booth

by John A. Byrne on

Sarah McGinty had an unusual advantage in applying to a top business school. Her mother has been a college admissions consultant for more than 20 years, and her father got his MBA from the University of Chicago in 1970. But Sarah didn’t take advantage of her mom’s experience counseling hundreds of university applicants, and her father felt little connection to Chicago after all those years.

“I think it was less of refusing to show her my applications and more that we had already talked a lot about why I was making the decision to go to business school,” recalls McGinty. “Besides, as a former English teacher, my mom had long before taught me to write a good essay. So we both felt confident it was a process I could undertake on my own.”

As a college senior, she interviewed with New York and Boston investment houses, but she turned down the offers after graduating from Harvard in 2002. Instead, looking for more of a creative opportunity, she sought a role in film production management. During her one year working endless hours with the talent agency Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, however, she discovered that her exposure to the creative side was pretty much learning “how to get absolutely anything done,” she says. For the next year, she was on the staff of the Kennedy/Marshall Co., producer of E.T. and The Bourne Identity. Her conclusion: “Working in the entertainment world isn’t work as we know it. It’s a battle of attrition rather than a meritocracy. I thought I could probably hang in long enough to succeed, but I didn’t want to.”

She returned to Cambridge to work as a fundraiser for Harvard University for two years before moving onto a non-profit health group called Project Health. A year later, McGinty ended up going to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She graduated in the Class of 2010, and currently works for Accretive Health,  a Chicago-based health care company, a job she started last Monday on Aug. 9th.

Her story:

I’m definitely a poet. Originally from Boston, I went to Harvard as a history and literature major. I spent two years in the film industry in L.A. and then moved back to Boston to do fundraising for Harvard for two years. Before going to Chicago, I worked for a year for a non-profit group called Project Health to help disadvantaged children with health problems. I was director of special projects and helped the organization get a $2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I took the GMATs in 2004, but I didn’t want to light $150,000 on fire without knowing exactly what I wanted to do. So that’s why I joined Project Health knowing I also would apply to school. The experience sparked my interest in entrepreneurship and health care.

To prepare for the test, I took Kaplan online. Online instruction is fabulous if you can self-regulate. I could really design my own course. It was perfect. I took the test only once and got a 720. My GPA at Harvard was 3.9. On my application essays, I told the story of what I had done in Hollywood, working as an agent, then raising money for Harvard, and finally getting grants for the non-profit. If I were looking at my resume, I would wonder what this girl was up to, but I was able to make sense of it.

In all three jobs, though, I was putting people together to accomplish something greater.

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  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/taymans/ Greg Spielberg

    I think it’s interesting that you describe the movie business as a battle of attrition, not meritocracy. Can you tell us (or at least me :) ) more about that?
    -G

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