For Victoria and Oren Yunger, going to business school together was an opportunity, as Victoria puts it, to “grow individually without growing apart.” That’s the couple’s mission statement as they start their second year at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. But it was a plan that took some time to come together.
Oren had mentioned his MBA aspirations at the beginning of their relationship in 2012. At first, it was a “pipe dream,” he says, and the couple, both of Tel Aviv, Israel, went on with their lives, Oren working in cybersecurity in startups, military, consulting firms, and financial institutions, and Victoria in project management and digital marketing. She also was the author of a successful fashion blog. The couple were married in 2014.
But as time went on, “I became increasingly serious about the MBA,” Oren tells Poets&Quants. “While visiting MBA events in Israel as a prospective student, I was hoping to find the best fit for me, but I also had Victoria, my partner of two years, in the back of my mind. I was certain that this would be the right move for me, but what would it entail for my non-MBA partner?”
The answer was staring them in the face. Victoria and Oren would take the MBA journey together.
‘A JOURNEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY’
At first, Victoria was not convinced.
“When I suggested the idea of getting an MBA to Victoria, she laughed it off,” Oren recalls. “She went to a few MBA panels and conferences as my partner, (but) because of her unusual background in fashion blogging and digital marketing, she felt that she did not fit the classic profile of MBAs. Victoria rejected my MBA idea, but I asked her to at least think about it.”
Even as Oren prepared to take the GMAT, the couple was unsure what Victoria would do in the U.S.: work, maybe, or continue her education in communications. But Oren persisted: “Why not take the GMAT exam with me?” he asked. It made sense: His studies would “ruin any quality time we have as a couple” anyway, so she might as well join him while assessing her options. Victoria agreed, “and looking back, this was the game changer that enabled both of us to stand here today as Chicago Booth classmates.”
Adds Victoria: “When people ask me about my MBA decision-making, I admit that it was initially my husband’s idea. I don’t see shame in revealing that for me it was a journey of self-discovery. I started it from attending MBA panels as a partner, hoping to learn which program is partner-friendly and which U.S. city would feel like home away from home while Oren pursues his MBA. Later, after Oren lit the MBA spark within me, I was attending the same MBA conferences again — but this time around I attended as a prospective student, interested in learning how an MBA can advance MY career and empower ME to be the best me I could be.”
ADVANTAGES OF APPLYING TOGETHER
To better their chances of both being accepted to the same school, the Yungers applied to all of the M7 schools — Chicago Booth, Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Northwestern Kellogg, and Columbia. They went through the entire process together, including the TOEFL exam, essays, and prepping for interviews. “Sharing the process was demanding, but it offered a unique growth opportunity for a young married couple like us,” Oren says. “While working on our apps, we provided feedback one to the other, offered strategic advice, and most of all — camaraderie. We tackled bottlenecks together, celebrated individual triumphs as a team, and learned to re-appreciate each others’ strengths. One of us emerged as a quant (Oren), the other as a poet (Victoria), and those complementing traits allowed us to fulfill our individual potentials in our applications. As cliché as it sounds, we learned that together we are bigger than the sum of our respective contributions.”
The approach paid off. The Yungers were together accepted to four M7 schools: Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia, and Booth. They narrowed their decision to Wharton and Booth, then quickly decided on Booth based on a number of factors. For one, it “seemed to fit our personalities and aspirations like a glove,” Victoria says. “On top of the program’s strengths in our focus industries (marketing and VC/entrepreneurship), we felt that Booth best fit our household mission statement for the MBA, which has always been Grow individually without growing apart.”
Booth’s flexible curriculum and “carve your own path” approach was the perfect setting to self-explore and self-develop, she says, as “individuals who are also married to each other.” The school allowed them to “call our own shots and decide on where we want our MBA journeys to intertwine,” such as leadership roles and coursework, and the school further stood out “in its unique value proposition of a tight-knit community situated within a lively metropolitan that has a relatively affordable cost of living.”
DOUBLE THE CONFUSION, BUT BETTER ODDS
Oren’s concentrations at Booth are finance and entrepreneurship, with an intended full-time focus area in VC. He is the co-chair of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group, Israel Country Captain, and Epicurean co-chair. Victoria is an Admissions Fellow focusing on The Booth Experience, a student-led blog (“once a blogger, always a blogger!”), and she is co-chair of the Dean’s Marketing Advisory Committee (DMAC) co-chair, Israel Country Captain and Epicurean co-chair. Her concentrations are marketing management and entrepreneurship.
The Yungers, now both 30, say that for international applicants, applying to business school as a couple “is double the confusion and misconceptions” — but also probably helped their odds of acceptance. “While many people told us that applying together might hurt our chances of admission,” Oren says, “we learned that being a couple was actually our key to success. Eventually, we were both accepted to the same four B-schools. Interestingly, the three programs that did not admit us rejected us in the EXACT same stage — after application, after interview, etc.”
While they haven’t shared the exact experiences during their MBA, their shared state of mind has eased the journey considerably, the Yungers agree. “The support system we actively built together turned out to be very strong since both of us swam in the same MBA waters, understood the inner workings, and spoke the same language,” Oren says. “Also, it was especially rewarding to see each other grow and evolve through the challenges and opportunities of B-school.” Similar to their experience when applying, they complement each other again — Oren pushing Victoria to put herself out there, while Victoria “rounds off Oren’s rough edges.” The symbiotic exchange “works so well because we share the same ecosystem and have full visibility within it,” Victoria adds.
“The MBA experience as a couple has taught us a lot about ourselves,” she says, “and a lot about each other. We cannot recommend it enough and would suggest that if you get the chance, you go for it!”