It wasn’t one MBA consultant that told him not to waste his time applying to Stanford Graduate School of Business in Round 3. It wasn’t even two.
In all of the initial calls he had with consultants to talk about his background, Jason Buchel heard different versions of the same theme: “You don’t have a shot. Consider waiting until next year.” He figures he had four such calls in January 2020 after deciding a) he was ready to apply for an MBA and b) he wanted to earn it at Stanford GSB, one of the hardest business schools on the planet to get into.
It’s not like he didn’t understand the consultants’ points: At 31, he was on the older side in terms of work experience. At 640, his GMAT score was on the lower side–nearly 100 points below the latest class average of 738. Plus, he wanted to apply in Round 3, which has fewer class slots available than Rounds 1 or 2.
INTUITION FOR THE WIN
“Basically, everyone said it wasn’t worth my time or energy. When I heard that, it almost made me want to do it more,” Buchel tells Poets&Quants. “I thought, ‘But I know I could do this.’ I felt like I had things to give to Stanford and to the world.”
Last month, Buchel graduated from Stanford GSB, the only school he applied to.
“I can’t help but think if I listened to the noise around me instead of my intuition, I’d be in a much different position than where I am now,” he wrote in a Linkedin post about his achievement. “If you are out there thinking of doing something new and hear voices say you’re too old or too ‘anything,’ trust yourself and that your story matters.”
Poets&Quants connected with Buchel this week to talk more about perseverance, his admission process, and the power of “no” in motivating one to charge ahead. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Where did you grow up, and what did you study as an undergrad?
I grew up in Long Island, New York. I actually hadn’t really thought about business school until I went to college. I went to WashU in St. Louis and studied neuroscience and psychology. I think that was the first time I realized I wanted to do more business-related fields, so I thought about business school at that point.
I ultimately decided to begin my work in healthcare marketing, which definitely had a business lens, but I still got to do some of the neuroscience and health-related stuff that I was interested in. But it really wasn’t until the late 20s that I thought business school would be a nice way to build on that foundational knowledge about marketing, while also thinking about big ways to have an impact on the world.
What were you doing in healthcare marketing?
I was at a few different ad agencies, but the most recent one was an agency called GSW. I did a little bit of business development, and I was also working in engagement strategy, so really thinking about the customer experience. I did a little bit of product management and product marketing as well, thinking about how to build websites, mobile apps, iPad apps, and things to ultimately get more people to use the healthcare products that our clients were building.
I also taught myself to code during that time which I think started to build my interest in entrepreneurship. That was a pretty big part in shaping my desire to go to business school. By the end, I was leading product marketing for a women’s health startup and had personally launched 3 apps on the App Store.
When did you ultimately make the decision to apply? How long of an application period did you have?
I think the decision to pursue an MBA, honestly, was pretty quick before applying to Stanford. The thought was in my mind for several years, and I actually applied to NYU Stern a few years ago. I got in, but it just didn’t feel like the right fit. The decision to apply to Stanford was actually not until about January 2020.
Did you apply to other schools in 2020 or just Stanford?
Stanford was the only school I applied to for a couple of reasons. One, I had moved to Los Angeles the year before, and I fell in love with California. So there was definitely just a geographic interest there.
But I think the part that really excited me about Stanford was the way they talked about the program. I loved that it was all about change from the inside out. Their motto is, I know, everywhere, but the idea of going from lives to organizations to the world felt like this trajectory that made a lot of sense to me. There was also, from what I understood about Stanford, this really big focus on interpersonal dynamics, and I thought there was a lot of focus on emotional intelligence. With my psych and neuro background, that really interested me.
Finally, just the geographic location to tech companies here is, of course, a big one.
NEXT PAGE: The motivation factors of ‘no’ + How he tacked the GSB essay