Meet The Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2017

Adrian Carabias

Adrian Carabias

Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

Hometown: Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico

Undergraduate School and Major:

Undergraduate: Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education — Industrial Engineering

Graduate (Diploma): IPADE Business School — Senior Management Program in Private Equity

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Action Sport Retailer — COO

Mexico’s Ministry of Economy (National Entrepreneurship Institute) — Mexico-United States Entrepreneurship & Innovation Council Coordinator

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? If you have prepared well for the exam, instead of giving the traditional — and very useful — advice to study hard, be focused, and practice a lot. The biggest lesson I drew from the GMAT is to be confident at the time of the exam. If you have prepared well for the exam, go with an “all-in” attitude. You’ve got literally nothing to lose, so go for the big win.

A lot of forums and blogs brag about how much people do to get a good GMAT score. From studying 50 hours a week to taking vitamins and supplements — all that honest advice can help but certainly is not the key point to acing the GMAT. You know the content, you have practiced a lot, and you have the necessary knowledge and skills. Enjoy the exam and own it. Didn’t get the score you wanted? Don’t worry: You can do it as many times as you need (or want). As a side note, I did the exam three times.

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? This is may be the most important piece of advice that I can give to anyone applying to an MBA: Do not take rankings as the “Ten Commandments.” There is considerable variation among the different rankings, so take them for what they are: A guide to the different options that you have.

The most important thing about doing your research is finding what is valuable to you in an MBA. In my case, I looked for five things: A school that could offer me the resources to become an entrepreneur in the tech or tourism industry; a class size that was small so I could really create meaningful relationships and work in a collaborative environment; a decent student-to-teacher ratio so I could learn in a more personalized way; a campus that was away from the city so I could really focus on my studies and be part of the campus community; and a program that would allow me to learn by doing.

So I drew up a list of 40 schools based upon the usual rankings and started to filter that list until I ended up with around 15 schools that looked interesting. After that, I started contacting and talking to students and alumni of those 15 universities, which turned out to be the best thing I could have done to get my final list of target schools. The business concepts you will learn in your MBA will be fairly similar among most reputable MBA programs; what really makes a difference is the type of people you study with and the environment you live in during the two years of your MBA.

So after talking to many students and alumni, I narrowed my list to five schools that really interested me and to which I applied.

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? The first thing I would tell applicants is to apply to the schools you feel you will get the most out of. The application process is a holistic process (it’s not just about your GPA and GMAT score), so I would strongly advise you to give yourself ample time to write up the best application you can.  The essays and recommendation letters give you a chance to demonstrate to those schools that you’ve got the necessary skills and have the right profile for the class.

You will have one or two full reads of your application before your folder goes into a huge pile with other applicants trying to get into that school. If you don’t present the best version of yourself to the admissions committee, chances are that you are not going to pass to the next stage.

When writing the essays, doing the admissions interviews, and guiding your recommenders, the most important thing is to find those three strengths that define you. Those strengths should be backed up by clear examples and should complement each other to make a well-rounded applicant profile.

The essays are the opportunity to write a compelling story that would make the admissions committee interested enough to want to know more about you, to confirm your real interest in their program, and to show that you have a good fit with the school. Also, you should have a clear sense of what you want to accomplish with your MBA and how that particular school is going to help you fulfill those goals.

Your essay must present facts about who you are and how you stand out from the rest, portraying a vision of the future you want to accomplish, and clearly stating how that university is going to give you the tools to achieve what you want. In doing so, you are going to write an essay that is not only unique but also comprehensive enough to stand out from the rest of the applications.

The letters of recommendation should complement what your essays say about you and state clearly what your areas of opportunity are. Even though you don’t control what gets written in your letters of recommendation, you can help your recommenders a lot by laying out your key strengths and weaknesses, with corresponding stories that back them up. Maybe they won’t even use those strengths or stories, but refreshing their memory and giving them a framework on which they can write those letters does help them — and you — a lot. Make sure to thank your recommenders and appreciate the time they put into these letters.

The interviews are the final step in the long application process — the “grand finale.” By this point, you have proved to the schools that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to study at their program. They are interested in you. You should use this opportunity to show the interviewer your true interest in the school; demonstrate that you are not just a good fit for their MBA, but that you will thrive in their program; and explain how you will accomplish your goals after your MBA.

It is essential to have rapport with your interviewer. If you know who will be interviewing you in advance, do a proper research on who they are, what they’ve done after their MBA, and what their interests are. Proper attention to details can turn a normal interview into a pleasant conversation.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? There wasn’t any other MBA program that offered me everything that I was looking for like Johnson did. Among the many things that made me choose this program, there are three essential things that I found very compelling about studying for an MBA at Johnson.

First, it was the resources at hand to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. BR Ventures is a venture capital fund managed by students at Johnson, so having the chance to study, collaborate, and learn with my first investor represented a unique opportunity toward funding my startup.

Second, Johnson’s immersion programs give students a chance to get specialized knowledge in a specific industry, allowing them to take classes outside the business school. I really valued the chance to study courses in the engineering and hospitality schools (also among the best in the world) and tapping into their world-class student and alumni networks.

Last, but certainly not least, when I visited the school and had my interview at Johnson, I was impressed by how everyone helped each other. I felt a true sense of community and collaboration among everyone. Johnson’s close-knit community was what I valued the most and made me decide I wanted to be part of it.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? I am fascinated with technology and love to travel. As soon as I start my MBA at Johnson, I want to “hit the ground running” and secure an internship at a startup or tech company in the tourism industry. If things go well, hopefully I can find my future co-founders within Johnson or the Cornell community and launch a startup that will solve the problem of allowing tourists to plan their trips with precise and true information, while allowing small tourism operators to compete with big tourism corporations in a democratized marketplace. It all depends on how things turn out within the first year of my MBA, but turning the internship into a full-time offer and working at a startup definitely interests me a lot.

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