Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class of 2017

Solan Stricklin

Solan Strickling

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

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Undergraduate School and Major: Morehouse College, BA in Business Finance

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Praxair Inc – Business Development Analyst, UBS Global Asset Management – Competitive Intelligence Senior Analyst

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? No matter what, remain positive! My first two scores were not in my target range, but I did not give up. I kept studying, and it’s all paid off because I was able to accomplish my goal. Keep in mind, the business schools you are applying to are among the most selective in the world. Think of it as if you were transitioning from playing college football to playing in the NFL. At this level, pure talent will not be enough. Because everyone is smart and talented, you must study and work harder than you ever have before.

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? I would start by thinking about where you want to be after you graduate. This is all inclusive: Geography, industry, and function. Once you have a really good understanding, then work backwards to see which schools will best prepare you to accomplish those goals. At this phase, I would recommend identifying roughly 10 schools. Then reach out to as many students and alumni at your target schools as you possibly can. Culture fit is arguably the most important aspect of your MBA experience. It should be the final component in narrowing your list to roughly 6 schools, with 1-3 schools really separating themselves as your top selections.

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? Be your 100% authentic self, but be strategic about what parts of your experience you want to highlight on the application. Schools are evaluating candidates holistically, so it is important that you tell a consistent, comprehensible story in your application. In your essays, express what your goals are, why the goals are important, how the school will help you achieve them, and how you will contribute to the culture of the school. For recommendations, I suggest sharing your long-term goals with your recommender, so he or she can also highlight qualities and experiences that speak to your story. Lastly, once you have made it to the interview round, the school believes you can handle the rigors of the program. The question is, will you make positive contributions to its community? Really express your personality and show that you will be a great addition to the community.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I wanted to find the absolute best business school for me, and I found that at USC. My first criteria in choosing a school was academic rigor. While visiting campus, I was able to sit in on a class that discussed LBO models. I studied finance in undergrad, but I was so impressed with the advanced level of the first year course. What I really enjoyed about the experience is while I was at a 90% loss in the class, the 10% I was able to comprehend was presented in such a way I still remember it a year later.

Next, a major reason we choose to attend business school is the job prospects after school. USC has such a diversity of job placement; The opportunities are truly boundless. Marketing at Hulu, Finance at Google, Strategy at Disney, Brand Management at Mattel, General Management at AT&T – These are just a sample of students who I was able to speak with personally. Across the board, classmates and alumni have been so willing to speak to me about their experiences and offer advice and coaching.

This brings me to the final differentiator: The people. All schools are proud of their culture, but when you are admitted to USC you are welcomed into the Trojan Family. While I was applying, things were always different when I spoke to Trojans. I noticed their primary goal was not to sell me on how smart and accomplished they were, but they genuinely wanted to get to know me and my goals. Only then they would provide insights on their experiences to ensure they were relevant to me.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? I have two goals. First, I want to take advantage of this transformative experience at business school to become the best leader I can be. It is important that, in addition to learning the different hard skills that make great business professionals, I develop the soft skills that make great leaders. Next, I want to have a lasting positive impact on the Marshall Community. The goal has never been to just get in to a great program, but to have a true impact on the school.

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