SBC Scoop: Finding the Right School For You

Davis was a very interesting and non-traditional MBA candidate.  Following graduation from UC Berkeley, his US home had been Boston for eight years.  However, he really wanted to get back home to the West Coast.  As a unique candidate, and an older one, he concluded that he was a stretch for a top business school but still decided to try, and applied to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, hoping that solid numbers, well written essays and alumni status would help him get in.

Davis had a 3.5 GPA and a 700 GMAT.

In terms of career, Davis spent one year as a strategy consultant, working for a boutique firm, and traveling extensively.  After that, he spent six years working from home for a very small travel company that led tours through Southeast Asia.  He managed all business functions for that company.  Finally, he joined a different travel company in Latin America, working in tour operations in Chile for one year.

When he applied to Haas, he honed in on the “traditional” aspect of his application, thinking that his one year of consulting was the most relevant to business school and would make him seem most like a typical business school student.  This was a mistake because that experience was seven years old by the time he applied.  It also was the least reflective of Davis, and left the admissions committee wondering why he left this role if he was so focused on it now.  His story was ultimately full of contradictions and did not feel authetic.

Davis was rejected from Haas on his first attempt.

As it turns out, Davis was a friend of a friend, and through an informal conversation, I encouraged him to apply again.  This time he added Stanford and INSEAD to his list, and reapplied to Haas.

He completely overhauled his application.  His main essay for Stanford talked very little  about his work experiences, and focused on his personal background and how it fueled his passion for exploring the world, and enabling others to do so.  He also discussed hs gratitude for his ability to travel, and how that tied into his background.

Again, Davis was denied from Haas.  He was also denied from INSEAD.  But he was admitted to Stanford..

I thought this was a great example of how important it is to really be yourself in your application and find the school that is right for you.  Contrary to popular belief, it’s not uncommon to be admitted into a more highly ranked program, and denied by a seemingly less competitive one.  That’s because the process is not all about numbers – it’s about numbers and experiences and personalities and FIT.  Davis FIT at Stanford, loved the experience and has never looked back!  Now he just has to decide who to root for at Berkeley/Stanford sporting events!

What do you think?  Does this outcome surprise you?  Do you see how Davis fit with Stanford?

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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