Meet Yale SOM’s MBA Class of 2018


Sarah Cedeño

Yale School of Management

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Undercover introvert. Coffee-junkie. Netflix-binger. Grounded by my faith and rejuvenated by family and beachside meditation.

Hometown: Grand Terrace, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I studied abroad in Florence when Jersey Shore filmed a season there! Yes, I admit, I signed my life away in release forms to get lunch at the pizzeria where they worked

Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University, Public Policy

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

EMERGE – Houston Independent School District; Academic Program Manager

Reasoning Mind; Special Assistant to Sr. VP

YES Prep Public Schools; 6th Grade Math Teacher

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishments always relate to tackling the gray areas in any organization. I love identifying unaddressed needs with no clear solution and creating systems where none previously existed. At EMERGE, I was able to initiate a new approach to recruiting and selecting students in order to better meet our mission of serving high-need, high-achieving students and increasing retention. I’m proud of this accomplishment because I was able to obtain buy-in for my idea from all levels of the organization and it then served as the blueprint for future outreach and recruitment initiatives.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? Let’s start with the GMAT. For my learning style, it was important to find a 3-month study plan that I could reasonably commit to. I used Magoosh and found the videos especially helpful to not only refresh myself on specific topics, but also to practice solving problems using a more efficient, GMAT-friendly approach. If you follow the Magoosh study plan exactly, you’ll need the Official Guide to the GMAT. I highly recommend using both resources. Magoosh will give you tools and approaches; the Official Guide will ground you in questions that are more representative of the actual exam. Don’t lose heart! The GMAT portion is grueling, but I guarantee you’ll have some breakthroughs with real score gains if you keep pushing.

If you describe yourself as “non-traditional,” stop right now. “Non-traditional” applicants tend to feel the need to defend themselves. I was very guilty of this and found the more I focused on being “non-traditional,” the more alienated I felt from the process. First, there is no longer a “traditional” B-school applicant. Second, own your experiences. They are likely very powerful and unique. Especially if you came from the social sector, your “comfort with ambiguity” will be an insanely valuable attribute in the B-school admissions process.

Talk to as many people as possible at the schools you are interested in. Ask similar questions so you have a common metric with which to compare schools.

Avoid one of the most common mistakes—namely, not having a crisp, thoughtful answer to the “Why B-school and why now?” question. In other words, your answer should clearly address why you wouldn’t be able to do what you want to do without B-school. Test this answer out with different people, especially those with an MBA, and see what resonates with the most people.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Apologies in advance, but this is going to be an extreme cliché. I chose SOM because of the people. There’s just no other way to answer this! I loved the conversations I had with SOM students—they challenged me to think about my purpose and passion over my credentials. I knew that this place would change me personally and professionally and I needed to know who this next version of myself would be after two intensive years with reflective, thoughtful, fiercely passionate individuals challenging my worldview on a daily basis.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My dream job is one that would almost be an extension of business school because of the steep learning curve, fast-paced environment, and incredible peers. It’s a job that fulfills my desire to know that I’m making a positive impact and paying forward the generosity and sacrifices of those in my community who propelled me from a low-income life in the Inland Empire to top educational and career opportunities. With my need for a varied work environment, my achievement-oriented drive, and passion for social change, my dream career must be both challenging and purposeful. 

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? “If I could choose who to work for, I’d choose her.”

One of the main reasons I want to go to business school is to learn and practice how to lead. Leadership requires humility, mutual respect, commitment to improvement, and an ability to connect with others. My hope is that as I build relationships with my peers, I embody those traits and leave a reputation of humility, compassion, and respect.