We Asked MBAs How They Got Into Top Schools. Here’s What They Told Us

Elizabeth Varughese, Yale School of Management MBA Class of 2022

“During my application process, I highlighted that my passion for social impact and learning about the world has been important ever since I was a child. My brother is autistic, and that has deeply shaped how I live my life and try to leverage every experience given to me. After living in India briefly as a child, I went to the UN International School. That experience helped me realize how lucky I was to have access to the resources I had at such a young age, as evidenced by our school’s work with UNICEF and other UN-affiliated organizations. My passion for helping people drove my career choices, specifically working in municipal finance after college to help finance infrastructure throughout the U.S. I think my commitment and passion to having an impact throughout my life gave me an edge in the application process, and specifically at Yale SOM.” — Elizabeth Varughese, Yale School of Management Class of 2022

“Attend informational sessions and other admissions events. It helped me get an authentic understanding of the school and have genuine conversations with admissions representatives who would be reviewing my application.” — Lucas Seifu, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business Class of 2022

“It was extremely important for me to understand the values of INSEAD. I really did my due diligence: asking probing questions to alumni and current students in my current industry and my desired industry, but also outside of these. That way, I knew there was alignment. In fact, even my interviewer stated that she was impressed by the challenging and candid questions I asked her in order to make an informed decision. I think approaching the process with humility and confidence, evaluating, and ultimately truly believing that INSEAD was the best place for me came across positively in the process.” — Priya Mangat, INSEAD Class of 2022

James Chochrane-Dyet, MBA Class of 2022 at London Business School

“Before applying, I took the time to compare and get to know the different business schools in which I was interested. This involved speaking widely to MBA candidates, meeting representatives of student clubs, and speaking to admissions and faculty staff to really understand what made each school special. This helped my application and interviews because I was able to clearly articulate not only why LBS was the best school for me, but why my personal story and aspirations made me a good fit.” — James Cochrane-Dyet, London Business School Class of 2022

“I was incredibly intentional about reaching out specifically to individuals who were exactly where I wanted to be. That meant rather than reach out blindly, I put in a lot of work upfront to think about what my goals for business school were. That included listing out which opportunities here at Stern I was most passionate about seizing. For example, I came into Stern aware that Leadership Fellows and the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students were two experiences that would be really important to me. I then put in the work to connect directly with students who were, at that time, in those programs. As a result, when I wrote or spoke about why I knew NYU Stern was the right fit for me, I could speak much more intelligently and authentically about how I planned to be active on campus.” — Khalil Zueh Romain, New York University Stern School of Business Class of 2022

“I started networking with students early. I found club events via social media, club pages and Eventbrite and attended some including the Stern Private Equity Venture Capital Club Annual Conference off-campus.” — Angie Siefert, New York University Stern School of Business Class of 2022

Andrew Hazel, Dartmouth Tuck MBA Class of 2022

“Going out and visiting Tuck by way of its Diversity Conference allowed me to experience the Tuck community first-hand, which I am certain gave me an edge in my application process. Through my visit, I was able to sit in on classes, interact with professors and students, and explore Hanover. I remember feeling the close and supportive nature of the Tuck community even as an applicant. This enabled me to have a keen understanding of how Tuck would help me grow personally and professionally and what I would be able to contribute to the community. I was then able to articulate this sentiment vividly in my essays and interview.” — Andrew Hazel, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Class of 2022

“I don’t know if I could have been more candid about my excitement for Tuck. When asked why I wanted to go to business school by my student interviewer, I remember saying “I don’t want to go to business school, I want to go to Tuck.”” — Lulu Carter, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Class of 2022

“When I was applying, I found a plethora of information online about Tuck’s application. I took advantage of Tuck’s extensive, publicly available resources, particularly Tuck’s blog posts, and videos, to better understand Tuck’s essay questions. Using these resources took the guesswork out of figuring out what stories I wanted to highlight in my application.” — Lia Parker-Belfer, Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business Class of 2022

“I went to multiple admissions events in the city I was living in, Washington, D.C., to get to know the admissions representatives and alumni. I found this helpful because I was able to get a better feel for what Fuqua was like, as well as get to know the admissions representative who would know a little bit about me already when reading my application. I’m not sure if this truly gave me an edge with admissions, but it helped me feel more confident in my decision to apply, which was likely evident in my application.” — Audrey Dotson, Duke University Fuqua School of Business Class of 2022

Helen Elizabeth, Duke University Fuqua School of Business MBA Class of 2022

“I took advantage of Fuqua’s Open Season Interviews, which allowed me to “opt-in” for an early interview during a campus visit before I had even submitted my application. Rather than waiting for an invitation (or lack thereof) and deferring that decision to the Admissions Committee, I was proactive and demonstrated my interest and investment in Fuqua. I knew my test scores were perhaps not the most competitive, but I also knew that my personality and ability to interview are assets that could help me sell myself. By interviewing early, I presented a face and personality to my “25-Fun Facts” essay and the woman the Admissions Committee would read about on paper. I genuinely expressed my love of Fuqua and desire to join this community, before they could have the chance to say “no”. Be proactive with any chance you have to set yourself apart!” — Helen Elizabeth Old, Duke University Fuqua School of Business Class of 2022

“While a part of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s MBA Prep Program, we were encouraged to network with current students and alums in the industry or roles we were interested in. I spoke with several Ross students who came from a sports background or made a successful pivot into Tech. As for the alums, I talked to people who had a successful career in the sports industry or had a role at the intersection of sports and tech (e.g., sports partnerships/marketing at a tech company). Through my conversations with both groups, I learned how Ross could position me for success in a long-term career in Sports Tech. Furthermore, it served as research that helped me craft my essays to express my short-term and long-term career goals that not only made sense but were unique.” — Alexia Sabogal, University Of Michigan Ross School of Business Class of 2022

“I only applied to a small handful of programs, but I made sure I knew those programs like the back of my hand. I could rattle off the names of professors I wanted to do research with, clubs I hoped to join, and classes I couldn’t wait to take. I didn’t select the schools I applied to based on rankings; I selected them based on fit. I made sure that shone through in my interviews.” — Sam Buck, University Of Michigan Ross School of Business Class of 2022

“I believe being engaged in pre-MBA admissions recruiting events definitely gave me an edge during the application process. I was able to meet and have conversations with current students and staff through events such as Diversity Weekend, Discover the Difference, and Women’s Weekend. In addition to the events hosted by the school, I was also able to engage with Tepper through organizations such as The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Forte, and Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA). All of these interactions allowed me to truly see why Tepper was the perfect fit for me and I was able to discuss those connections in my application and subsequent interview.” — Kneisha McClinton, Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business Class of 2022

“The most important thing that I was advised to do throughout the process is to be honest about myself and my journey. I was so nervous thinking that I had to be perfect to get into business school until a mentor of mine reminded me that if I was perfect I probably wouldn’t want to go to business school in the first place. To anyone looking to apply now: embrace your flaws and try to understand exactly what you are looking to get out of business school, it will make your experience all the better.” — Branden Karnell, Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management Class of 2022

Arvind Rajan, HEC Paris Class of 2022 MBA

“It was writing my own application from the heart, instead of trying to second-guess what the ideal application would look like for the school. I strongly believe HEC Paris wants to understand the applicant better as a person and does not award brownie points for a certain kind of profile. This kind of goes back to the question on ‘myths’ about the school. While it is important to put one’s best foot forward, it is imperative that an applicant does not get carried away in the process and portray a persona that (s)he is not, just so that it will seem great on paper. I did speak to quite a few alumni and students of HEC to understand more about campus life and how I could possibly contribute to discussions in and outside classrooms. I felt this was necessary to understand if I would be a cultural fit. But once I was convinced that I was, I wrote my essays with the sole intention of representing who I really was. I strongly believe this gave me an edge!” — Arvind Rajan, HEC Paris Class of 2022

“Showing your genuine interest in the school is certainly important – for both parties involved. Prior to my application, I continuously engaged with the school, attended events at the Munich Campus (pre-COVID), and was always prepared with questions for the particular person I was talking to. This approach allows you to determine whether the school is the right fit for you as well and to demonstrate to the school that you are serious about your application. It was also very useful to attend the Open Day, during which I actively participated in the case method session they invited us to as well as enjoyed the opportunity to join the Women in Business Club members. I found it invaluable to take the school up on the opportunities they offer throughout the application process and actively engage with staff members and students.” — Katharina Klohe, IESE Business School Class of 2022




Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.