Class of 2020: 10 Pieces of Advice For Future MBAs

Harvard Business School’s Dominic Marrone

5) Ask The Right Questions: “It’s impossible to be sure, but I used a few questions to help. Do you value the two years at a given school over two years at your company (or any other immediately attainable job)? Do you think you can markedly improve your trajectory through the opportunities offered at a given school? If yes to both, then it is now up to you to take advantage of the opportunities and make the MBA experience worth it. Healthy pressure.”

Dominic Marrone, Harvard Business School

“In my search for an MBA program, I dedicated time to visiting a wide spectrum of schools and focused on three questions: 1) Do I enjoy the students, staff, and faculty I meet? Culture is a real thing, so I looked for how a school perpetuates its program’s culture inside and outside the classroom. 2) Does the program’s curriculum timeline fit my needs? Internship recruiting starts nearly at the same time school starts, and as someone who recently shifted careers, I considered the theoretical foundations I would have during my first semester and how I could fare well in internship interviews. 3) How early could I make an impact? I wanted to hit the ground running and contribute to my MBA community, so I looked for student organizations with missions I could help advance early on as a first-year student.”

Isaac Reynolds, Ohio State University (Fisher)

6) Look For The Little Signs: “I determined fit for business school by prioritizing factors such as people, program strengths, conversations with current students, and visits to various programs. In evaluating schools, I focused on Consortium information sessions, webinars, conversations with admissions committee members, current students and websites. Culture was determined by interactions that I had with people at the schools I visited. For me, it was important that a school culture feels like family. When someone greets me with a hug and already knows something about me, I feel like they’ve done the work to get to know me, and that they’re recruiting me to be part of not only a school community but a family. I also paid attention to the interactions students had when I visited. Did they smile at each other? Did they greet each other when they walked by? What was their body language toward each other on the various panels they sat through? I knew a school would fit my career goal if I knew that I could fit in at the school and make an immediate impact. I also knew it would fit if there emerged a common positive theme that I was looking for in the conversations I had with everyone I met.”

Joshua Solomon West, University of Rochester (Simon)

7) Talk To People: “I made it a goal to talk to at least three students, three alumni, faculty, and two staff for every school that I was considering. The different perspectives were extremely insightful in determining school culture, opportunities graduates pursued, the level of investment I would receive from faculty/staff, and the ways that I could contribute to the schools. I knew that I wanted a school that had a pathway or focus on social/sustainable enterprise and considered more than just environmental factors in determining a sustainable enterprise.” Marnie Harris, Emory University (Goizueta)

“In today’s data-centric, internet age, there are a million different metrics you can use to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of various business schools. For me, I focused on (1) culture and (2) job opportunities post business school. To evaluate culture, I spent significant time speaking with diverse sets of students, faculty, and alums to understand their experiences and how they defined their school’s culture. To evaluate job opportunities post-business school, I spoke to people in roles I would pursue post business school and people who would hire for those roles to understand what types of backgrounds (and which business schools) were common.  I also spoke with career services to better understand what types of careers people went into after business school.”

Katie Schwartz, Northwestern University (Kellogg)      

Northwestern Kellogg’s Yasmina Maria Andrea Chalhoub

 8) Follow Your Gut on Classmates: “I physically visited all the schools I applied to, as well as reached out to alumni and current students. You can tell A LOT about an MBA program by the way their alumni treat you when you ask to connect. Determining your fit at a school can be as simple as a gut feeling you get when visiting. There’s also a saying I try to live by, “If you’re always the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I wanted to be surrounded by people that would push my intellectual boundaries and challenge me to be better both personally and professionally. You also need to ask yourself (about students AND faculty), “Would I hire these people? Would I want them to be my coworkers? Do I admire them? Would I want them to be my friends? Would I want to spend time with them outside of school?” If you can answer “yes” to all those questions, you found your fit.”

Yasmina Maria Andrea Chalhoub, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

9) Visit Campus: “You can do all the research in the world (and trust me, I did), but unless you visit the schools, it can be difficult to know how “fit” will really stack up. There were some programs that I fell in love with online, but when I visited I was really disappointed in the culture. There were also programs where I didn’t think I would be a good fit, but when I had the chance to sit in on classes and see the students and faculty in action, I realized it was a place where I could succeed. So my number one piece of advice is—visit, visit, visit. It’ll make your applications stronger, and it will help you to focus on where you really want to go. While you’re visiting, take notes! I brought a notebook with me to every place I visited and wrote down notes on pretty much every interaction and experience I had. It helped highlight the pros and cons of each program for me. Beyond that, I wrote down some adjectives that described my “perfect” program, then I made a spreadsheet (I know, I know) of all the schools I was interested in applying to and, after said exhaustive research, wrote 3 to 5 characteristics that I felt described each program. When I compared that to my “perfect” description, it was easy to see what aligned and what didn’t.”

Courtney Miller, Yale SOM

10) Know Your Story: “Be authentic and own your story! Applying to business school is a very introspective and somewhat taxing experience. However, I truly believe that it is necessary for individuals to press pause and take an inventory on where they are and where they’d like to be in the future. It is imperative that people become comfortable and well-versed in vocalizing their “Why MBA?” story. A highly persuasive applicant exudes genuineness, passion and a solid pitch on why their target schools are a good fit. I suggest that everyone have a comprehensive 30-second pitch ready once they begin applying to MBA programs. Whether you’re meeting campus recruiters, current students or fellow applicants, being able to share your unique story can set you apart from other applicants, and will inevitably increase your confidence.”

Kaila Squires, Wharton School



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