This is the first post in a four-part series I wrote to describe my experience applying to MBA programs.
As you will see (and this is dating back over ten years) I had just about ZERO outside guidance at all, and was for the most part shooting blind. Very blind.
My story is NOT meant to be a “how-to” account, laying out how applicants SHOULD approach their applications. Instead it is an honest account of my own experience as an MBA applicant.
As I walk through my story I call out a handful of ‘Teachable Moments.’ Hopefully these will spare all our readers the mistakes that I made in my past. Also, many of these moments have formed cornerstones of what we preach here at Admissionado.
Should I apply?
When I first decided to apply to business schools, I had no idea what to expect. I had only one friend who had been through the process, and the one snippet of guidance that he offered seemed a bit over-simplified to me. Taylor said, “Yea man get a 700 or better on the GMAT and you can totally get into HBS.”
But when I looked at his profile I was intimidated: he was of Latino descent and spoke fluent Chinese… something told me that while a 700 may have been good enough for Taylor, I might need to aim higher.
This was the only guidance I had when I entered into the process. It would be a long slog ahead.
Forget application strategy for a second. Actually there was only one REAL reason why I wanted to get an MBA: I hated my job and had nothing better to do. All my life I had thought I wanted to “build buildings” when I grew up. But 3.5 years into my career I’d already discovered that real estate development had left me flat. I had chosen the wrong business.
I figured that with a fancy MBA I could go ahead and do juuust about anything that I wanted to do. What would that actually be? Actually I had no idea. But with an MBA I figured I could go out and do, well, just about anything. And I figured I’d have plenty of time to figure things out while doing my MBA. Besides, my existing four years of work experience (I was told) would be perfect for getting an MBA. So the stage was set; an MBA it would be.
The statement “I’ll have plenty of time to figure out what I wanna do once I get to B-School…” is false.
Actually recruiting for summer internships begins in October, often less than one month into your first year. Also, unless you can pay cash for your degree you can expect to leave B-School with loan payments in excess of $700 per month. Think an MBA buys you freedom? Time to figure it all out? Think again.
But what would I tell schools for Why MBA?
Actually, all I wanted to do was to get away from real estate. The irony was… I couldn’t think of anything else to write about in my essays. All schools seemed to ask “What do you wanna do when you grow up?” Surely I couldn’t pretend to be something other than myself, could I? Given my resume, who would believe that I was passionate about anything other than real estate?
What did I know about myself?
- I had a great real estate background.
- I had a great entrepreneurship background.
- I had a great leadership background.
So it seemed that I had to rely on these two facts when I wrote my apps. And so it was settled, my career goals would essentially combine these two things: When I grew up, I would launch my own real estate development firm.
Learn how to select career goals. I didn’t know it at the time but I got lucky here. I handed it exactly right, exactly the way that we coach our clients. The best career goals (and arguably the most important aspect of any MBA app is to) tie your past experiences to your future goals. If you can do this you have a shot at getting in. If you cannot, you will be rejected. Easy as can be.
– – –