This MBA Candidate Overcame Impostor Syndrome To Win Admission To 6 Top B-Schools

Impostor syndrome affects even the most talented business school applicants. Daniel Figueiredo suffered from it —  but overcame it in spectacular fashion

When Daniel Figueiredo applied to seven elite business schools across the United States, he didn’t expect to get accepted at all of them.

He didn’t. He got accepted to six.

Figueiredo was admitted to Harvard Business School, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, New York University’s Stern School of Business — which offered him a full-ride scholarship through the Consortium Fellowship program — and Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business. He was waitlisted at Columbia Business School.


Daniel Figueiredo

None of it came easy for Figueiredo, who — as a first-generation college student and son of Brazilian immigrant parents — has battled imposter syndrome all his life.

“I cope with this imposter syndrome by reminding myself of the struggles it took to get to this point in my career, and why I persevered,” Figueiredo tells Poets&Quants. “From my first job at the age of 14 at a local Dunkin’ Donuts to breaking into investment management, I’ve always felt a responsibility to emulate my parents’ work ethic and seize the opportunities provided by their sacrifices.”

The key for Figueiredo was an all-or-nothing approach.

“I either wanted to go to the schools I applied for, or not get the MBA at all,” he says. He shared two key pieces of his admittance success: Honing his story, and budgeting his time — step by step.


After falling in love with finance – specifically, investing — during his undergraduate degree at Worcester State College, he knew that this is what he’d pursue in his career.

Right out of college, he landed an internship with Sun Life Financial. Following his internship, he stayed on with the company, working in several different roles while pursuing his CFA charter.

His dream was to land an investment role, and began thinking about getting an MBA. “People debate between doing the CFA or an MBA,” he says. “But I always had an MBA in the back of my mind as a way to grow as a business leader and become a better investor.”


He took two years post-CFA to focus on his career. In 2020, when he started looking for growth in his role – and to expand his investment authority – he thought about his MBA again. He began to study for the GRE tests outside of work.

That year, he got a promotion and decided to put the MBA on hold. Instead, he applied for the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) program, which is a nonprofit organization that helps to transform the careers and life trajectories of more than 8,000 Black, Latinx, and Native American individuals – from college students to seasoned executives. The MLT ran several events, where he got the opportunity to connect with MBA students at top business schools in which he aspired to attend.

This experience reaffirmed his dream to go to B-school. Seeking more strategy skills and the ability to learn how to manage companies, Figueiredo knew that an MBA would help him to become a better investor who understood the challenges of leading a company.


Armed with confidence that this was the right path for him, In 2021 he put the MBA back on the table. He started working through the application questions and thinking about how an MBA would help him to achieve his goals. “I’m someone that’s uncomfortable talking about myself,” he shares. “It was hard to get over that in the beginning. But I overcame it and was able to sell myself to some extent, highlighting everything I’ve achieved.”

The amount of reflection required in the application process surprised him — especially when it came to the essay writing. “It’s a little bit like therapy, where you’re working through your experiences and putting things into perspective,” he says. “You learn a ton about yourself through that process.”

He worked on his essays for a full year. In fact, he believes that the extra time and effort he put into honing his story is what helped him get admitted to his MBA programs of choice. “Writing my story helped me to tie in my past experiences and show that I have the skills to expand into different investment asset classes,” he continues. “It helped me ensure that I was putting my best foot forward and present myself in the clearest way possible.”

Next page: Daniel’s decision 

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