Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class of 2017

Manali Khadilkar

Manali Khadilkar

University of Southern California (USC), Marshall School of Business

Hometown: Mumbai, India

Undergraduate School and Major:

University of Mumbai – Bachelors in Life Sciences

University College London – Masters in Neuroscience

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: UC Irvine Department of Neurology – Research Specialist & Lab Manager

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? I would definitely recommend starting early! I started my GMAT preparation around March and took the test in August. However, post-GMAT, I made the most uphill climb with essays and applications. My advice would be to start preparing for the GMAT/GRE around January and taking it around June or July. That leaves plenty of room for school visits, networking, and essay writing, along with a chance for a re-take should your first test not go as you had hoped. Also, be sure to leverage all the online material and blogs (including Poets&Quants!). It is extremely helpful to read other people’s test day experiences, preparation timelines and study material resources.

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? Your target business school should definitely fulfill three major aspects. 1. The school should be a target for some of your top companies that you hope to work for post-MBA. 2. The school’s location (and hence the subsequent recruitment that happens there) should match up to the locations that you are willing to stay in or move to post-MBA. 3. The fit with the professors and current students should be evident to you from the get go. Do you see yourself contributing and enjoying with the people who might be your potential professors and peers? This is why a school visit is very important – not just for the school to take notice of you, but for you to really understand what the school spirit stands 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? As clichéd as it sounds, please be yourself. I am sure admissions personnel can really see through essays that have a cookie-cutter approach or those that are too ‘fake’. Make sure to have made connections with the school beforehand, understand what the essence of the school is, and ensure you incorporate how you would fit in with this school into your essay. Admission interviews are really more of a ‘checkpoint’. If you have been true to yourself throughout the admission touch points and essays, you have nothing to worry about.

Finally, for recommendation letters, only approach those people who can really speak to your strengths and weaknesses and do not only go by the person’s title. You can get a CEO to write a letter and she may know nothing about you, while your immediate manager will have a lot to say about you. Be careful, especially in cases when recommenders ask you to write your own letters. That is definitely unacceptable; you want to find people who will write the letters themselves, which in turn ensures authenticity and honesty.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I was very particular about going to a school where people thrived in an environment of collaboration and cooperation. USC Marshall stood out to me in that respect (I visited about 5 other schools in that admissions season). My peers here are extremely hard-working and ambitious, but each person is here to help the other to achieve his or her own goals. It is really about ‘strength in unity’. Aside from that, the school has a high focus on career and networking (especially in consulting), and also has a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit. Finally, the school does a lot to pay back to the community around LA as well. Being a non-profit volunteer myself, this was a very attractive facet of the school.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? I can honestly say that I did not know I could achieve so much in a day, and learn such varied topics in a matter of months. This experience has already taught me a lot. I prided myself on being an excellent multi-tasker and time-manager but it all goes out of the window in business school. My ultimate goal before I graduate would be to get rid of this ‘feeling of missing out’ that most of us Millennials seem to have and to be able to state that I tried every experience outside of my comfort zone at USC Marshall. When you know you have pushed yourself to the limit is when you know you are really starting to grow and learn!

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