Meet UCLA’s Incoming MBA Class of 2017

Samantha Skarin -UCLA-PoetsAndQuants-Classof2017

Samantha Skarin


UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Undergraduate School and Major: Cornell University, Design and Environmental Analysis: Human Factors and Ergonomics

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

DeSantis Breindel, Inc.

  • Account Coordinator
  • Associate Account Director

HelloWorld, Inc. (FKA ePrize, Inc.)

  • Manager, Business Development
  • Senior Account Manager
  • Senior Manager, Business Development

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? The first and most important step for me was determining the level of structure I would need for my preparation. Since I was working a full-time job, and living in New York where it’s very easy to find excuses not to study, I decided that in order to best prepare I would need a comprehensive schedule of what to study and when. Even more, I would need to stick to it. I opted to take a prep course that met weekly for nine weeks and also had daily assignments which I’d often do during lunch.

If I could do it again, the only thing I would have done differently is to have given myself another week between the end of the prep course and my test date to prepare. Towards the end, I was a little rushed to review the areas where I could improve.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? When I began the process of narrowing down schools, I identified the three key factors that were most important to me and went from there. For me those were collaborative culture, resources relevant to my interests (product management, technology and marketing), and program/class structure. To figure out which programs fit the criteria, I attended MBA fairs in the NY area, read MBA prep books (and other publications containing school profiles), and then did a deeper dive on the websites of the programs that seemed to fit the bill of what I was looking for. At that point, I attended school-specific information sessions and spoke to student ambassadors from the programs I was considering. Lastly, once I had a shortlist of the schools I wanted to target, I visited as many as possible to get a final read on the culture.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? Give yourself enough time! On first glance, a lot of essay topics seem straightforward, but to make the most of the words you’re given, it takes a lot of work to craft a response that best showcases your accomplishments and truly shows the school why you’d be a good fit for their program and vice versa. When you’re initially researching schools, it will be helpful later on during the application process if you make a list of the differentiators about each program that apply to your unique interests and make you want to go there.

Admissions interviews can be much like job interviews, but the style of interview varies based on the program. Do research so you know what to expect. Regardless of the format, refresh yourself on your essay responses for that program, and be sure to know your résumé. You can find sample interview questions online and it’s helpful to prepare answers to common questions and rehearse with a friend.

Lastly, for letters of recommendation, give your recommenders plenty of time and some general guidance. In many cases, at least one of your recommenders will be someone you haven’t worked with in over a year. Though they will have excellent things to say about you, specific examples may escape them. I found it helpful to have conversations with these recommenders and talk through our time working together to ensure they had the highlights top of mind when they were writing the recommendations.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I chose UCLA Anderson because the program has proven to possess all of the key factors I was looking for and many more. This has been reaffirmed each time I’ve had a conversation with a current student, professor or alum, and through my campus visits. In recent years, Anderson has put a considerable amount of resources into expanding focus on the technology industry, offering great electives as well as a certificate in the field. The collaborative and convivial nature of the community at Anderson is perfectly in sync with this fast-evolving and innovative sector.

Being from New York, I embraced the opportunity to attend school in California to expand my network out west and surround myself with the many young and innovative companies in and around Los Angeles as well as the established players who are taking their products to the next level.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? Over the next two years I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone to push myself to new levels and working to develop my skills and confidence. My goals before I graduate are to make positive and memorable contributions to the teams I am a part of, learn as much as possible not just from classes and my internships but from my diverse and talented classmates, expand my travel horizons to Asia and Australia, and discover my niche in the tech industry. And of course make lasting friendships and have a great time doing it. 

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