The transition to business school is rarely seamless. For many, it involves traveling across the country — if not the globe. After a five year absence, these professionals are returning to a bona fide classroom, often taking subjects they’ve assiduously avoided in their careers. All the while, they’re being buried with invitations to clubs and events. It all happens so fast and there’s such a steep learning curve. On top of that, recruiters quickly flood campus — often as first years are wrestling with what they really want to do.
Juggling new people, terrain, and expectations can be overwhelming. A week-long orientation, replete with ropes courses and dances contests, rarely prepare first years for what’s ahead. That’s why some MBA programs are starting classes early. Take UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, who welcomed the Class of 2018 to campus on August 1st, six weeks earlier than previous classes. Instead of surfing the beach (or the net), Anderson MBAs are easing into their core courses and partnering with career services. Forget “summer school” as a punishment. Instead, it is a means to successfully shift gears, build community, and get a jump on the competition for internships.
FIRST YEAR TEACHES PUBLIC POLICY…THROUGH COMEDY
Thus far, the 2018 Class has accomplished all three. However, that’s just the start. Anderson’s tagline is “Think in the next.” In many ways, it is more of a challenge to Anderson MBAs than a promise. Here, learning is measured in the expansion of knowledge as much as its acquisition. The goal is creation, with the curriculum geared to nurture graduates who “think fearlessly” and “drive change.” In fact, you’ll find plenty of forward thinkers and risk takers already accounted for in the incoming class.
Looking for someone who looks outside the box? Take Colin Meade, who is described by Alex Lawrence, assistant dean of MBA admissions, as “a great combination of intellectual strength and wanting to make a difference.” Meade once modeled a public policy course he taught at U.C.-Berkeley on the FX comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. How about daring? Take your pick between Tazia Middleton and Katie Donovan. Middleton, an aspiring vegetable gardener, once kayacked alongside killer whales off the coast of San Juan Island. Donovan, who describes herself as “unambiguously enigmatic,” will fit right in at Tinseltown after playing a stunt double in a zombie film. So will Alexis Ryan, who, as an MC, introduced Hollywood royalty like Ryan Seacrest at the Cannes Lions Festival in France.
Who’s the adventurer of the class? You’d be hard-pressed to top Bulgaria’s Gergana Droumeva, who has visited 50 cities in three continents and swam in 11 oceans and seas. For versatility, your go-to guy has to be Abdulkamal Bolutife Abdullahi. Trained as a chemical engineer, he also spent five years as a stage actor in Nigeria. He was also paid one of the best compliments from Lawrence: “One of the most poised MBA students I have run across in quite some time. Someone who will make a difference when he graduates.”
TWO STUDENTS SAVE EMPLOYERS $3.2 BILLION DOLLARS BETWEEN THEM
It’s no surprise that students like Abdullahi set themselves apart by their poise. The Class of 2018 is accustomed to shouldering big time responsibilities and pressure. Joyce Truong, who admits to disliking MBA staples like beer and coffee, oversaw the design and implementation of Google’s annual bonus program. “I vastly improved the time-consuming and inaccurate bonus projection process with our finance counterparts, saving our teams dozens of hours of work per week and reducing the margin of error of our projections to <1%.” Equally impressive, Deloitte’s Anna Goldberg revamped a Fortune 500 company’s technology infrastructure, which involved managed communication with over 5,000 external partners.
They were also adept when it came to rescuing companies in times of crisis…billion dollar ones. Ryan, for example, was part of a team that helped her firm retain a billion dollar pharma account. “With just one day’s notice, I headed to London for two grueling weeks to prep for the pitch meetings with the clients,” she explains. “The schedule was unprecedented: we presented 9 meetings over 5 days. It was definitely a stretch, but in the end we retained the account and even added new business to the portfolio.” Abdullahi experienced high stakes crisis management at Exxon Mobil when a long-standing issue threatened to shut down a $2.2 billion dollar project at a deep water offshore facility. Working under an unforgiving deadline and sorting through an “expansive scope,” he did what all great leaders do: He formed a great team, developed a plan, and followed through on the details. “Additionally, I set monitoring and training programs in place to ensure that there would be no repeat incidents,” he says.
APPLICATIONS FALL 7% — AS EVERYTHING ELSE RISES
Looking at the numbers, the school continued to receive fewer applications in 2015-2016, dropping from 3,533 to 3,290 from the previous year (after an all-time high of 4,129 in 2013-2014). Beyond this, the 2018 class profile remained strikingly similar to previous classes. For example, the program accepted just 21% of applications, a slight uptick from 19.8% for the 2017 Class. That said, the program remains rather exclusive, boasting a lower acceptance rate than big names like Booth, Tuck, Fuqua, and Ross.
Numbering 361 members, the 2018 class comes to Westwood with a 715 GMAT average, up two points from the previous year. Scores ran from 680-750 in the mid-80% range, the same as the past two classes, with average GPA creeping up from 3.47 to 3.52. However, Lawrence takes equal pride in the program’s “fantastic diversity – cultural, academic backgrounds, professional.” For one, the class features a higher percentage of women, a two point stretch to 32%. However, international students experienced the biggest jump in the class, going from 33% in 2017 to a landmark 38% this year.
The class is equally rich in its academic and professional diversity. 28% of incoming students hold an undergraduate degree in business, with engineering (22%), humanities (16%), economics (16%), and math and science (7%) comprising other large blocs of the class. The school also continues to attract professionals from high tech, with the percentage rising from 22% to 28% in the 2018 Class. They are followed by finance (25%), consulting (15% – down five points from the previous year), public sector and non-profits (9%), consumer goods (9%), healthcare and biotech (7%), entertainment and media (6%), and real estate (3%).