MBA Advice From The Class of 2017

Ward Wolff

By the same token, New York University’s Ward Wolff asserts that future MBA candidates should be very specific in their applications, outlining exactly where they will expend their energies. “Make it easy for them to picture you as part of a dynamic community,” he observes. “What clubs would you join and lead; what recent Stern-related news and initiatives are you excited about; what or who would you speak up for in class or around campus; why is it important for you to be in school in New York City? I would also recommend that, with a good deal of humility and creativity, illustrate how you might be able to represent and advance an aspect of the community or stated goal of the school that you care about.”


Once candidates know who they are, Cambridge’s Anvi Shah cautions students to actually be who they are in the interview process. For her, “fake it ‘til you make it” would be a futile strategy for any MBA candidate. That’s particularly true at Cambridge, a collaborative culture that leans heavily on “diverse teams with tough and time-bound deliverables.” “My advice to you is to be your raw self in the interview because you can be only one of the two – fiercely competitive or collaboratively competitive,” she says. “It is only if you are the latter that will you be happy in this school and an asset to it.”

Perhaps the most fiercely debated aspect of MBA applications involves the round when candidates should apply. The second round, for example, can favor MBA candidates with holes in their resumes — an advantage that can be offset by the sheer number of applications that are submitted then. In contrast, the third round attracts more non-traditional candidates, yet also brings a higher bar and fewer open seats. For Yale’s Katy Mixter, however, the first round is the best bet for serious candidates. It’s just not for the reasons people might normally expect.

“Apply in the first round so that you have time after decisions come out to go on an adventure and explore something that you might want to focus on during school,” Mixter explains. “Before I started graduate school, I spent four months working in the Philippines. This experience helped me confirm that I want to work in the development sector long-term. This allowed me to choose my classes and activities accordingly. Plus, it gave me some great stories to talk about during orientation.”


Colleen Thomas

So what can MBA candidates do when they arrive on campus to maximize the value of the MBA experience? Several 2017 graduates recommended trying new things, particularly those that might frighten them. “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” declares UCLA’s Colleen Thomas, who went from figuring skating to retail to consulting over her career. “I learned to move beyond the things that I already know, academically, professionally, and socially. Challenging myself in new ways has offered me the opportunity really appreciate the education process.”

At HEC Paris, Vineet Kumar learned to appreciate the journey instead of dwelling on the result. “Don’t confine yourself in one box,” he warns. “HEC Paris MBA gives you a safe playground to try and fail. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Organize a trek, participate in case competitions learn a new language, HEC Paris MBA provides an ocean of opportunities in the short 16-month curriculum. Know your strengths and weaknesses and use this opportunity to develop new skills.”

Southern Methodist University’s Michael Jay Orr, a U.S. Army Captain and “space opera junkie,” takes a more philosophical approach. His advice: Come with a plan — just don’t stay married to it. “Life is a journey with twists, turns and unplanned detours,” he muses. “Many students enter business school with a defined road map for their life. They come with a plan for their chosen concentration, their ideal internship and their future career. I showed up with similar thoughts and ideas. While there’s nothing wrong with having a plan, it’s important to remain flexible and keep an open mind. In my experience, the majority of these plans change in the first semester. Those students who are able to adapt and overcome seem to thrive in business school.”

John Kluge


Other lessons from the 2017 Class may seem cliché. That’s also a testament to their timeless wisdom. That might be the case with Babson College’s John Kluge. His gem: “The more you put into your experience, the more you will get out of it.” Sound obvious? Maybe, but how many people do you know who look back on life using coulda, shoulda, and woulda? “There are no limits to what you can achieve, learn, or experience if you remember that it isn’t up to anyone but you to make things happen,” Kluge argues. “Babson will support you, but you have to take the first step! Action is everything!”

Motion may bear breakthroughs, but UCLA’s Thomas also encourages future MBAs to slow down and get to know their classmates. “Be humble, be curious, be brave. Your peers are incredible in so many ways. Share yourself with them and learn as much as you can.”


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