Two years ago, they were just like everyone else. Leave a steady paycheck to start a full-work MBA program? Who wouldn’t be wary of such a life-changing choice? The GMAT appeared pretty daunting –and there seemed to be as many programs as unknowns. Back then, the Class of 2019 fretted over being rejected. The process just seemed so big. And many wondered if they really belonged.
Afa Malu was one of those students. A mechanical engineer by trade, he would dwell on whether he had the right stuff for business school. Fast forward to now and he is a first year at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, where he hopes to move into a tech career. And he has some advice for prospective applicants who are weighing if the risk is worth the return: Don’t sell yourself short.
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
“I was skeptical about my ability to get into a top business school,” he admits. “Once I took stock of my accomplishments thus far – and my motivation for pursuing an MBA – I realized I was in a perfect position to get into a school like Foster. I have encountered a lot of people who do not try because they do not think they are qualified; self-doubt has denied them potentially great opportunity. There really is little to lose if they just believe in their ability and taking a chance.”
Malu is hardly alone in that sentiment. The Class of 2019 took – and re-took –their GMATs. They picked apart their lives to form their story and fuel their essays. Now, you’ll find them spread out from Haas to HEC Paris. They’ve made it! How did they do it? Ask 25 MBAs and you’ll find 25 different paths to the top business schools.
Cecily Sackey, for one, took “trust the process” to heart during her journey to the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. However, following that process taught her something far deeper: Believe in yourself. “It’s easy to go crazy comparing yourself to others during this process,” she notes. “While I don’t think it’s 100% unavoidable, the sooner you stop, the better off you’ll be. The MBA process is an incredible opportunity for self-reflection and I recommend taking advantage of that from the moment you start your application.”
“FIND YOUR TRIBE”
This reflection process is a critical first step to becoming a graduate business student. Done right, applicants will come away with a purpose that narrows the options. In the process, adds Carnegie Mellon’s Kimberly Turner, it helps them ‘find their tribe’ – the types of people who will make them better and enrich their experience.
“Talk to any person you can affiliated with a program of interests – students, admission’s staff, faculty, but especially students,” she urges. “Get a sense of whether you would not only enjoy spending time with those that you meet, but that you are learning something as you engage with them.”
These are just a few kernels of wisdom from Class of 2019. As part of our annual ‘Meet the Class’ series, we ask selected first-years to offer a piece of advice to prospective students on how to Improve their odds of being accepted into a leading MBA program. From self-analysis to GMAT preparation to writing essays and collecting recommendation letters, here is some of the best – and most original – advice shared by some of the top first-years at the top business schools.
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