Meet The Cambridge MBA Class of 2016

Christina Mackay

Christina Mackay 

Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge  

Hometown (City and State): New York City, New York (USA) 

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Birmingham, Law, UK 

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Ernst & Young (EY), Consultant, Senior Consultant, Manager, Project Manager 

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? Start studying early. Plan to spend three months studying every weekend and most evenings. Book the test at the beginning of the three months. Start timing yourself after two months. Speed is key. They say it’s not a speed test – it is! If you think about doing your GMAT for 6 months or a year and pick up and put down the text book, you’ll be exhausted by it come the exam. The best approach is to focus and completely dedicate yourself to it within a short space of time. 

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? Know why you want to do an MBA (e.g. finance, entrepreneurship, management, etc.). Choose schools which excel at your target needs (e.g. Cambridge is exceptional at supporting budding entrepreneurs). Research your top choice of schools. Understand the class profile (e.g. age, diversity, etc.). Diversity is important to me and Cambridge has an excellent nationality mix. Once you’ve chosen 3-5 schools, prioritize them and try to apply in the first round but don’t rush your essays.  

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? 

Essays: Put a lot of time and effort into your essays. Research the school. Know why you want to go there (e.g. the history, the culture, extracurricular activities). Make your essay personal and tailored to each school. A generic essay will not get you in to the school of your choice. Make it clear what you have to offer the school (i.e. being part of the community, collaborating with students). Articulate your unique selling point (e.g. are you entrepreneurial? Did you lead a team of 20 or a budget of $5m?). The admissions team needs to know what you have to offer the class. Also, share a clear and concise vision for your short-term and long-term career goals. Business schools want to know you’re employable. They don’t want to take in lost puppies that need to be hand held.  Business schools want to know you have drive, ambition and focus.

Interview: It’s worth flying in for your interview for your first choice business school.  Dress professionally.  Research the Professors and read any articles they’re written.  eference them if appropriate during the interview.  They will ask you standard questions:

  1. Why do you want to do an MBA?
  2. Why this school?
  3. What will you do post-MBA?

Know these answers! Equally important, the interviewer will be evaluating your body language, tone of voice, and friendliness.  An MBA student needs to be able to do group work, collaborate with people from different cultures, and contribute to class – but also to listen and respond to other ideas. Therefore, during the interview, smile and be warm and friendly while clearly articulating your answers. At the end, you’ll be given the opportunity to ask the interviewer questions. Make sure your questions show you’ve done research on the school and continue to reflect your interest in the school (e.g. “I’ve heard your Center for Entrepreneurship is excellent. When do students start to participate in the Center and do you have to apply?”). Do not ask the interview to pitch their school against another (e.g. “Why is Harvard better than Stanford?”). it’s not the schools job to talk about competitors and it’s up to you to do your homework. Finally, if you have a full interview day, you may or may not be interviewed throughout the whole day. However, approach it as though you are.  Remain cool, calm, and collected at all times and make an effort with the other students.

Letters of Recommendation: Ask early! Provide a template for them. Even though you might not know what they will be asked, you can provide a list of items you’d like them to touch on (e.g. a particular work assignment you were proud of, a project you led, your team building skills, etc.). Consider asking different people for different school recommendations to lessen the burden on the same individuals. 

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Cambridge is the leading university for promising entrepreneurs.  t has a dedicated Center of Entrepreneurship for learning, a start up incubator “Accelerate Cambridge” where promising startups can receive funding and an SME  Growth Club. In addition, students complete a Venture Project where they are placed in a start-up.  During my time at Cambridge I will seek to gain a foundation for leading a successful business. In addition to learning, I believe the most valuable benefits from my time at Cambridge are partners, collaborators, sounding boards and inspirers. I wish to tap into the outstanding network which Cambridge is known to challenge thinking, develop ideas and drive innovative concepts.

I’m excited about Cambridge’s elective courses. In particular, these courses really excite me: Entrepreneurship: Emerging Technologies, Entrepreneurship: How to Start a Technology Company, Creativity & Innovation Management, Global Marketing, and Growing Your Start-up.

I feel that the close community of the Cambridge MBA students and the emphasis on teamwork creates a special learning environment. I’m excited to be embarking on a new stage of my life at one of the greatest seats of learning in the world. This will allow me to open up, express opinions and risk making mistakes. This type of environment fosters learning and the exchange of ideas.  

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? Following my MBA I want to start my own company.  I have about 10 business ideas at present.  So before I graduate, I’d like to think through these ideas with my fellow students and hopefully meet some business partners to put at least one idea into practice.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.