Joy Of The Unknown: A Stanford Admit Prepares To Take The Plunge

Anna Filochowska with her brothers after auditions at The Juilliard School in 2005. Anna will begin her MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall. Courtesy photos

I am excited to start a new life chapter next month as I begin my MBA studies at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Embarking on this journey, I am reflecting on the great privilege this opportunity presents, as well as my goals and dreams for the next two years. One of my goals is to gain new skills and a better grasp of the world’s pressing issues by studying with renowned faculty and brilliant classmates. I also seek to build meaningful connections and contribute to the kind spirit which emanates from the community. Simultaneously, I would like to go on this journey with an attitude of openness, curiosity, and no assumptions, so I can broaden my horizons, stretch my imagination, and have my opinions debated. I am excited to uncover problems and concepts that are currently unknown to me.

My road to the Stanford MBA program has already been permeated with much unknowing. My decision to apply was as perplexing to my colleagues as it was to myself. By sheer coincidence, I visited the Stanford campus during the Christmas holidays in 2020 as my brother, Peter, was living in the neighboring town of Palo Alto at that time. As all forms of entertainment were on pause due to pandemic restrictions, we were glad to explore open spaces, such as the famed Stanford University campus and the national parks of Northern California. Strolling around Stanford, my family and I enjoyed the beautiful architecture, Rodin sculptures, and abundant greenery. We even walked around the Graduate School of Business buildings and dormitories, read Phil Knight’s quote, and compared our shoe sizes against his footprint, simply out of curiosity and perhaps a bit of boredom.

Though my brother Peter had graduated with an MBA degree from Wharton just a few months prior, and my brother Marc was in the process of applying for an MBA at that time, it did not occur to me that I, too, would pursue that path. My siblings actively encouraged me to consider business education, but I was resistant — even annoyed at the suggestion. How could I give up my lifetime devotion to music, all my artistic achievements, and an exciting career as a concert violinist in the face of a business degree? Walking around Stanford, the thought of going back to school, let alone to study business, did not even cross my mind.


Anna with her brothers enjoying Stanford’s outdoor art collection in December 2020

Without any pressure or expectation, I inhaled all the beauty and grandeur of the place. I pondered how many prominent scientists and innovators, leaders, and Nobel Prize laureates had crossed those paths since the University’s founding in 1885. I was enchanted by the spirit of great wisdom and knowledge hovering in the air. Maybe, just maybe, on this breezy morning, the dream of being part of this grand legacy was being planted in the innermost parts of my soul and mind?

The introspective side of my personality has led me to question the purpose of all that I do and who I am. I also like to examine how my work benefits society at large. When the desire for continued education bloomed a few months after that initial visit to Stanford, I realized that the mission of the Graduate School of Business, “Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World”, perfectly aligned with my aspirations. Having researched more about the program and spoken with alumni and current students, I began to think seriously about joining this community of wildly ambitious, curious minds. I began to reflect on how my career aspirations fit in with my life vision. I began to dream bigger.

As soon as I felt that sense of hunger to study again, I acted on an impulse, similarly to other pivotal times in my life. Looking back, I never regretted having made a bold decision to move forward, outside of my comfort zone, into uncertainty. Experiencing the unknown liberates me: I have no expectations, no ego, no limits. When it came to facing the unknown and doing a career pivot with an MBA, I decided to take the plunge, too. With a clear objective and a detailed course of action, within a few months, I submitted an application for the program at Stanford GSB.


On a sunny afternoon of my 28th birthday, while listening to the sound of ocean waves, I received a phone call from the admissions director. I was shocked and overjoyed to have received the happy news. (Eight months later, I still feel the same way!) I have many people to thank for helping me realize my dream of pursuing a degree at Stanford, especially my family and friends, who supported and guided me through the process with invaluable feedback. I am grateful to my siblings, Peter and Marc, whose footsteps I may be following in the MBA endeavor, but who, most of all, are my role models and tireless cheerleaders. I am grateful to my mother who always wants me to reach for the stars and fulfill all my dreams, no matter how unachievable they might seem.

Some 17 years ago, we came to the U.S. for the first time with big dreams of receiving world-class music education at The Juilliard School in New York. We could never have imagined such a serendipitous life journey, full of twists and turns. Every big change, although preceded by uncertainty and unknowing, led to the blossoming of extraordinary possibilities and heightened consciousness. I am very proud of how far we have come as a family and how we continually strive to reach higher and grow further. I hope the learning and self-development never stop and we find a myriad of ways to give something of ourselves, share our happiness with others, and create opportunities for everyone to grow.

I believe that the Stanford MBA is my first step in this life mission!

Anna Filochowska is a native of Poland and a member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA Class of 2024.


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