Congratulations to Doug (not his real name), a re-applicant who turned his story around to get into MIT and INSEAD! He took some time out from his blog TopDogMBA and being a general badass to answer a few of our questions about how he achieved MBA admissions success.
Accepted to: MIT Sloan & INSEAD
1) Why do you think you were able to get into MIT and INSEAD?
I was able to get my greatest hits, unique story and personal fit across in a convincing and precise way. I did my research very carefully to ensure I was the right fit at these schools, but getting my story across, knowing what to highlight, what to skip (and there was a lot I wanted to put in but ultimately binned) and how to position myself was critical. Most applicants have what it takes and a well-crafted application will always attract attention and, with a bit of luck, the right result!
2) What was the most challenging part of the app for you? And how did you overcome that challenge?
Writing the essays. The first time I applied to MIT (I am a re-applicant, having applied to five b schools in 2013/14) knowing when and how to start my essays became such a big thing I ended up delaying it for ages. This time I made a detailed timeline and forced myself to get up an hour earlier in the morning and work late to finish a draft most evenings. Putting something down in writing almost every day helped me overcome this challenge. It was also made a lot easier through the encouragement and enthusiasm of Uyen, my Admissionado consultant, which helped keep me on track.
3) Tell us about your interviews. What do you think you did right?
Practice, practice and more practice. What at the time seems like a pleasant chat over thirty minutes actually requires you to hit quite a few targets in a short space of time. Practicing helped me keep my nerves in check and helped me realize how I really came across and gave me the insight I needed to present myself better. This is where the critical eyes and ears of Uyen really made a difference. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re nearly there if you get an interview invite – there’s still a lot to do!
4) What advice do you have for future applicants?
Start your research early, go to as many schools on your list as possible. Not only will it give you first-hand insight into the schools which will help frame your essays, it will save you a lot of time and disappointment if the fit isn’t there. The curriculum is pretty much the same at every top school, so understanding the subtle differences in culture and the student/faculty dynamic could make all the difference in your application. For any re-applicants I’d also add make sure you re-apply in Round 1 – it will be a tough sell to say you love the school and they’re your top choice if you applying in later rounds.
5) What was the most surprising thing about this process for you?
It sounds dumb now, but just how thought-provoking and time-consuming this process was. I thought I knew myself well, just had to do the GMAT and tap out a few words, but I had to do a lot of soul searching before I even started my applications to figure out what I really wanted, how to get there and how each school could help me achieve those goals. That process took months but I’m glad I took the time to do it right, and it gave me a great foundation to build on once Uyen was signed up.
6) What was most HELPFUL for you in the process?
Other than my wonderful Admissionado consultant, you mean? 🙂 Finding devoted and friendly students and alums at each of my target schools. I met them when I visited campus or sponsored events and through mutual friends. I found a few people who I made a real connection with, and they really helped me draw out my personal story, critique my essays and gave a fresh perspective to my applications. I can’t thank them enough and really look forward to giving the same support to the next generation of applicants.
To hear more about Doug’s story, check out his blog at TopDogMBA.