Getting Accepted: The Best of Jon Fuller


Navigating Career Change

I want to change careers (to finance). How can I show an adcom that I can do this?  

“Thanks for your post …while having pre-MBA experience in the same area as your intended post-MBA field can help your narrative, it’s certainly not essential. Lots of students use the MBA to make a career transition, including into the finance sector. However, there are a few challenges to articulating this plan though an application, especially in your particular situation.

One, you have to show how this particular career path is well-thought out on your end and how it could actually be intuitive given your background and experiences. Do you have a plan and do your employment decisions reflect that plan? Non-profit work of some kind to tech recruiting to finance doesn’t feel very fluid.

Another challenge is showing how your pre-MBA experiences are relevant and transferable to a role in the finance industry. Remember, the MBA adcom and future employers understand that the MBA will be filling in a lot of gaps for you, but an attractive candidate is going to be able to demonstrate some quality and relevant pre-MBA skills. Again, I’m not sure how non-profit/tech recruiting experiences would be particularly attractive to a finance firm. The details of what you’ve done might help fill in the blanks, but I still think there are going to be a lot of blanks… you’ll need to establish a bit of a track record in whatever job you end up having.”


Should I pick the GMAT over the GRE?

“…I am very partial to the GMAT over the GRE in most circumstances, including yours, even though your GRE is quite strong. Given your practice GMAT score, I think it’s worth your while to put yourself through the test prep paces for a few weeks and take the GMAT…your GRE “equates” to roughly a 730 GMAT, but if you can actually get a GMAT score in that 710 – 730 neighborhood, you’ll likely be in much better shape with all of these schools than you would be with the GRE. If you want to hedge your bets, then just don’t automatically send your GMAT score to any program until you know how you actually did. If you really don’t do well for some reason, then you submit your GRE and they’ll be none the wiser about the GMAT.

In your particular case, I’m especially an advocate for the GMAT due to your undergraduate studies [journalism major]. While your GPA is good, I doubt that you have much evidence of quant ability on your undergrad transcript. Again, your GRE quant is pretty healthy, but the GRE quant section is considered to be less rigorous than the GMAT quant, so a good GMAT quant score will help to dispel quant concerns that could very well pop up.”

Round Three Pitfalls

Do you recommend applying in round three?

“I wouldn’t exactly say that you’re “harming” your chances in the next cycle, but a few quick comments about applying in round 3 first. The competition level in round 3 goes up *significantly*…many programs get the bulk of their enrollees through rounds 1 and 2, so there are likely to be very few (if any) seats left in the entering class. You’re competing for those few seats with all of the other round 3 applicants AND everyone who is already on the waitlist, so all of those factors make it really difficult to be admitted. All that said, schools have a round 3 for a reason and if they wouldn’t go through the effort if they weren’t interested in considering candidates who are just a bit late in coming to the party.

If you apply and aren’t admitted, sure, you can definitely reapply in the coming cycle and might end up with a different result. The complication is that not a lot of time passes between when you find out about your ding and when you would reapply in round 1, and it’s easy to appear to be the same applicant that you were before. Now, if you can present a new/improved test score, some kind of win/promotion at work, etc., you’ll have something tangible to write about in the short essay that reapplicants are asked to write about what’s changed since the prior application. That’s easier said than done for many the the limited period of time available, though.”

“I generally steer people away from round 3 . . . the schools you’ve mentioned are pretty much the most competitive ones out there, and round three takes the competitive level through the roof. There are only a few (if any) spots left in the class for the fall, and you’re effectively competing for those last few seats with not only with the other round 3 candidates but also everyone on the waitlist from the prior rounds. Typically, I think it’s better to hold off until the following cycle. In addition, as an international student, you have the educational visa process to contend with, so most schools advise that international candidates only apply in round 1 or 2 to provide sufficient time for that.”

Recommendation Letters

Do I need different recommendation letters for different programs?

“With your recommendations, most of these programs [Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia, Sloan, Haas, Fuqua] are essentially using the same template, so your recommenders aren’t actually writing six or seven distinct letters. Do your best to track down the exact recommendation questions that each program asks and brief your recommenders accordingly about the questions, give them deadlines, provide them with some guidance about your past performance, etc. The more you prepare them with the overall timeline and needs, the less likely they are to be overwhelmed by [being] asked. It might depend a bit on your relationship with your recommenders, but I’d probably spread them out between rounds. That way, if you do something fantastic between R1 and R2 applications, your recommenders will hopefully be willing to incorporate that into the later letters.”

How can I get a recommendation letter when I’m a contractor / entrepreneur?

“…Since you’re self-employed, you very well might not have anyone who really resembles a supervisor. You’ll probably need to lean on former clients or other people who can speak in detail to your strengths, areas for development, leadership skills, etc. For many candidates, it’s fairly straightforward to figure out who to ask, but your situation will require a bit more consideration and effort.”


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