Meet The Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2017

Alexa Ing Stern

Alexa Ing Stern

Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

Hometown: Winchester, MA

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard College — Sociology

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: The Inn at Hastings Park — Executive Assistant (1 year), Project Manager (2 years)

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? If possible, take the GMAT or GRE soon after graduating from college. I was not sure I would want to apply to business school, but took the GMAT the fall after I graduated just in case. This was helpful because I was still in an academic mindset and not bogged down with professional responsibilities. When I decided to apply to business school, I could really focus on the applications and interviews without stressing about a test. When studying (especially the quant section), use the actual time constraints you’ll face on the test. I had a target time limit for solving each problem while I was studying. Managing the time was the biggest challenge of the test for me.

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? Explore each school’s culture and specialties, in addition to factoring in rankings and reputation. I was surprised at how diverse different top business school programs can be. It is helpful to get a feel for the types of students who enroll to determine if you will have classmates who interest and inspire you (and whom you will want to develop friendships with). You also need to decide what you’re looking for. Is it a massive network? Challenging academics? Entrepreneurship resources? It is important to find a school that will give you the experience you are looking for.

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? I chose to apply to a very limited number of schools during the first round, so that I could really focus on their applications and interviews. Applying during the first round takes some pressure off because you can apply to additional schools in later rounds if necessary.

Give yourself plenty of time with the essays and recommendations — you don’t want to be rushed, nor rush your recommenders (who are probably very busy themselves!). When revising my essays, it was incredibly helpful to get feedback from mentors who know me well and are also familiar with business school and the application processes. However, I limited getting feedback from only two people because I did not want to have so much input from other people that my essays lost my own perspective and voice.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I am interested in sustainable food and agriculture, so this program was a great fit. Johnson has a really strong sustainability program, and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a leader in food and agriculture. Furthermore, Johnson has a small class size and is located in rural (but vibrant!) Ithaca, so students really get to know each other well and have the opportunity to have a lot of contact with professors. I was also very impressed by Johnson’s leadership development programs that seek to develop Johnson’s 4 Cs of Leadership: Competence, Character, Compassion, and Courage.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? Through this MBA program, I want to develop advanced technical skills that can guide my decisions in the workplace. Before business school, I had a lot of hands-on experience opening and running a new business – but had to learn much on the fly. I’m looking forward to being able to take a step back and delve into technical topics like finance, accounting, and strategy more deeply.

I also want to be sure I take full advantage of Johnson’s plethora of leadership instruction, practice, and coaching to further my leadership skills and experience. Johnson’s Park Fellowship leadership development program will be instrumental in this.

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