From the Trenches: Insights from Successful Applicants

As one group of nervous applicants transitions to being enrolled students, another group gets ready to apply. Why not learn from the successes, failures and decisions of the group before you? For the next several weeks we will be publishing interviews that we conducted with some of last year’s clients. We provided a list of questions and asked that they be brutally honest and try to provide any insights that could help future applicants.

Biggest mistake you made or almost made in this process?
Selling myself short by thinking that I could not overcome seemingly minor weaknesses in my application. There is clearly more to the admission process than GMATs and GPAs and my success throughout the process clearly proves it.

Some keys to your success?
One key to my success was making the process personal at each school by reaching out to an admissions counselor or staff member regularly. By the time my application went to committee at Columbia, the admission counselor called me the night before to find out if there were any last minute updates to my application. I was able to develop this relationship through campus visits and regular communications. Also, reach out to the clubs and organizations that you are interested in and gain their support.

My advice is also to interview with an admissions counselor rather than an alumni. I found admissions counselors much more prepared for interviews and it made the process more enjoyable.

How did you put together the following important aspects of your story?
– why MBA?

I positioned myself as a career switcher and need the training that is taught so well at top business schools. Beyond the academics, I was looking to build a professional network and take a break from 6 long years of investment banking. The opportunities for personal development and testing my limits were equally as important to me.

– what are your career goals?
My career goals seem to change daily, but I am pretty sure that I want to pursue a consulting internship for the summer. I enjoy working in professional services and the complicated business issues that consultants face interests me. Down the road, I hope to use my management and leadership skills to run a division of a major multinational.

What was most helpful in your interview prep?
Most helpful to the interview prep was the confidence that I gained in working with my consultant. The story she helped me prepare was succinct and communicating it actually became fun. I’d suggest interviewing at your top choice schools after you have had a bit of practice. Again, admissions counselors in my opinion host much smoother and easier interviews and they don’t get interrrupted by business calls. I also found it helpful to speak with current students and get their thoughts on the interview process and figure out what the “hot topics” are.

How did you select your recommenders?
Selecting recommenders was pretty straightforward for me. My boss knew I was applying so it made things easier. I would say that you need to give your interviewers a minimum of 3 months to get the job done and check in with them weekly. Start by giving them concrete examples of your experiences which support the rest of your application. It is helpful to find a recommender who went to business school. The style of writing and knowledge of what the schools are looking for will be helpful.

What were you most nervous about in your profile?
I was most nervous about my GMAT score initially.

How did you overcome this potential stumbling block?
I realized that my strong GPA and global business experiences far outweighed my lower than average score. I focused on other quantitative elements of my background and made sure that my recommenders knew to focus on this area.

How did you select your list of schools?
My list of schools was largely based on the strength of the overall program. Having a finance background, I wasn’t really interested in a program that was well-known for finance. I wanted to learn more marketing and develop my soft skills. I thought Kellogg provided the best opportunities for me. I did apply to a couple of safety schools as well. I received very interesting financial incentives to attend a lower top-tier school, but my decision was ultimately based on career development opportunities and not near term finances!

What was helpful when you hit writer’s block?
My consultant was helpful when I hit writers block.

How did you stay motivated?
I stayed motivated by being organized and balanced. Its easy to get caught up in the process but things just have a way of turning out for the best.

What was the best GMAT resource?
The best (and only) GMAT resource is “The Offical Guide”. Manhattan GMAT is the only test prep company that uses these “real” GMAT questions in their lessons.

End result: Attending Kellogg

For other Kellogg insights, visit: Majalo

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