How I Got In: Every MBA Consultant Said He Didn’t Have A Chance At Stanford GSB. He Just Graduated


Stanford Graduate School of Business

You wrote in a LinkedIn post that every free consultant you spoke with told you that you didn’t have a shot in Round 3. Tell me a little bit more about that.

So I made the decision to apply around January 2020. All the admission consulting companies give you a free call to chat about the process, and I talked with several of them. Just, you know, this is my background, it’s Round 3, that kind of thing. I think my biggest decision at the time was whether to apply then or wait until Round 1 the next year?

Most of the consultants were like, “You don’t have a shot.” My GMAT score was definitely on the lower side. I hadn’t thought about standardized tests in so long, and that was definitely a challenging point for me. I was also 31 which is on the older side when it comes to average years of work experience. Then, of course, in Round 3, the pool is as small as it can get at that point.

Is it just something in your personality that when you hear “no” it makes you want to charge ahead?

For sure. I think, ironically, if they were like, “You may have a shot,” I don’t even know if I would have done it. I think the “no” fueled me more. I do think it’s in my personality. If you label me as an underdog, I will very much want to prove you wrong.

I remember watching a video with Kirsten Moss (MBA admissions director at Stanford) where she says something like, if you’re debating, just apply. You never know.

It really helped me decide: You know what, I’m going to pour my heart into my essay, talk about all the reasons I would be a great fit despite my GMAT, and hope that they see what I see. So that was, I think, really what fueled me to just hit the submit button anyway.


So, let’s talk process. You had already taken the GMAT when you applied to Stern, correct?

Exactly. I want to say it was fall 2018.

And what was your score?

It was 640.

Did you consider taking it again?

I did. It was a crazy few months, and it was all during quarantine. I decided to apply in January, the Round 3 application was due in April. I actually took the GRE after applying just in case the score was higher. I set my expectations because I knew it was a very condensed time frame. So ultimately, I just went with the GMAT and that’s what they evaluated me on.

So, tell me about your essay process, since you decided to go all-in on that.

I knew it wasn’t going to be the standardized test that gets me in, so I decided to really think about, like, what makes me me and what I could bring to the table. For the “What Matters Most” essay, I said, what matters most to me is the brain. I talked a lot about coming out at a very young age, at 10 years old. I talked about how I was relying on my intuition at that point in time, and how I grew up with a lot of anxiety. But ultimately, it was sort of this reliance on my intuition that I think has helped me kind of make a lot of the choices I’ve made today. I think sharing that part of me felt really exciting because it was probably also one of the first times I was able to think about this larger narrative of my own life: What matters to me? How have I become the person I am today? And how do I want that to impact what I do next?

So, yeah, I talked a lot about the brain, intuition, and decision-making. I do really believe that was what helped me stand apart in the round.

How long did you spend on your essay?

I would say about maybe 45 days. I think I started in late February, and then the application was due April 8.

What advice do you have for others when completing Stanford’s “What Matters Most” essay?

The first is to be patient, time allowing,. Really take the time to think about what matters most to you. If I didn’t land on the brain, I really don’t think my essay would have been what it was. I think the most important part of the process is actually deciding on the thing, not the writing. Writing comes after that.

Next, have conviction in the thing that matters most to you. I had such conviction and belief, and I had so many stories I could draw from for why it matters. I feel that ultimately it is what made the essay successful.

What was the most difficult part of the application process?

I think one of the hardest parts for me, ironically, was tapping into the different parts of my brain for different parts of the application experience. There is the “What Matters Most” essay, and I feel like that’s a very emotionally driven, vulnerable thing to talk about.

But then there’s another essay that’s about why Stanford and what would you do here. To me, that was more of a forward-thinking essay, where I really had to think about how I wanted to spend the next two years, and it taps into another part of you that’s a little less reflective and a little more future-focused.

For me, it was a little harder to just switch gears between all the different parts of the application: All the logistics of getting recommendation letters and things like that. I think being agile, and deciding where to spend my time most effectively, especially given that it was only like a 45-day period, was a bit more difficult. It wasn’t a lot of time to get all my ducks in a row.

Did you end up working with a consultant?

I did. It was actually the last one I met with, and she was an incredible consultant. It felt like a beautiful process in the end because, yes, people were very honest that they thought it would be really difficult for me to get in. But, what stood out to me with the consulting agencies, in the end, was they were all like, “If you want to do it, you should do it.”

I could see the value and having someone to bounce ideas off of and be a sounding board. Ultimately, it helped me get in. I endorse the value of getting feedback throughout the application process. I view the experience as a sort of meant to be, and I needed people telling me “no” to ultimately make the decision to say “yes.” I then used the expertise that they bring to the table.

You also wrote in your post that you were able to give a keynote talk on trusting your body and intuition for decision-making.

Stanford does the LOWkeynotes program every year, and the topic that I applied with was called “Body Wisdom as a Framework For Decision Making.” In that keynote, I talked about all the moments I’ve had to trust my intuition for making big decisions in my life.

I think what felt powerful about giving that keynote was that throughout my time at Stanford, I started to realize that a lot of my intuition comes from the signals my body gives me. After my essay talking about intuition being in the brain, it felt like a full circle moment. I was still talking about intuition, but I had a lot more clarity with where it lives within me. I talked about my decision to apply to Stanford, and how it felt like a very kind of visceral, guttural decision to make. I invited Kirsten (Moss), and she was there, and it was just sort of a beautiful moment. I felt like things were playing out in the way I hoped they would.


What are the biggest pieces of advice about the overall process you could offer people who may be reading this and considering an MBA?

I think the first piece of advice would be to trust yourself. Trust that your story matters and that you have something that you could bring to the table. It doesn’t have to be your standardized test. I went into business school with a lot of imposter syndrome, and ultimately, my grades were good. I graduated. Trusting yourself is probably the first big piece of advice.

The second would be to look for the “hell yes!” when looking for schools. Prioritize the schools where you are over the top excited about, because I think that will come through in all of the content that you create in your application.

I think the third piece of advice, which is a little more logistical, is to network and talk to people. I found a lot of support just through reaching out to people from undergrad and from other experiences who had either gone to Stanford or to the GSB. They were really helpful in helping me navigate the experience and thinking about different parts of myself to show.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working at Apple, which has been a dream that formed early on once I got to Stanford.

What I loved about Stanford is their flexibility and taking “across the street” classes, as they call them. I got to do a class where I performed a one-man show in May, and I’m actually performing that again now in San Francisco in a few months.

It’s called “Maybe You Just Think They’re Handsome,” and it’s a bit about my coming out experience and knowing so young as a kid.

I’m also doing a little bit of coaching now as well, which Stanford also helped to inspire, on intuitive-based decision making.

What else would you like to add?

I think another layer that we didn’t get to touch on is that I was also waitlisted. I think another big part of my personality is perseverance, and while it was a condensed journey, it was a very intense journey. There was a lot that happened during the quarantine and COVID, and I have a sense of pride in coming through it: Being told that the odds weren’t in my favor, applying over COVID, taking the GRE, and then getting waitlisted. I ended up taking a bunch of Coursera classes over the summer just to show that I could do this. There were a lot of moments I could have stopped trying to prove myself, but I’m happy I did it.

Oh! I didn’t realize that you were waitlisted. That must have been torture waiting to hear the verdict?

It was. It was a really intense few weeks. I’m a big journaler, so I remember writing in my journal all the time: I could see it happening in my mind. I could picture wearing the Stanford hat, and I would really try to visualize myself there.

I would check the blogs to see when they call based on where you are. But I was not getting the call. And then I saw the 650 area code came up on my phone, which I know people talk about, and it was Kirsten (Moss). I remember leaving that call being like, “Oh my god, she must think I’m a hot mess.” I was just so shocked that I got in.

I would say that at every point of accelerating in the journey, I was floored. When I got an interview, my mouth dropped. When I got waitlisted, I was disappointed but at least I was still in it. When she called, I was completely shocked that it was happening.

I remember I was sitting in my living room with my cat. And when she called, I just started freaking out and pacing around the house as she was talking to me because I was simultaneously so happy and thinking I have to move again.