MBA Inspiration from Former SBC Client, Dual Admit Nick
The most gratifying element of our work here at Stacy Blackman Consulting is partnering with talented applicants from all walks of life to help them achieve their MBA dreams. SBC consultant and B-Schooled podcast host Erika interviewed her former client Nick for a special episode during the height of the pandemic (you can listen to their full conversation here.) Nick was one of those rare dual admits who get into both Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School that we see only a handful of times each season.
During their chat, Nick shared his journey from the military to the MBA and later revealed what he considered the secret to his admissions success. “I’ve always kind of had an inkling that I wanted to do something in business,” Nick explained. “As a young kid, I started my own eBay business. And I just loved the idea of running an enterprise.”
But the military calling came first. Nick graduated with a 3.88 GPA from West Point, scored 730 on the GMAT, and had nearly five years of military experience before applying to b-school. His last position was working in foreign affairs while stationed in Hawaii.
By then, Nick felt he had maximized the leadership and growth opportunities the Army provided. “I was like, Okay, so I’ve really done basically all the things that I’ve wanted to do in the military,” he said. “It’s time to end this chapter while it’s still going well and move on to the next thing.”
“It was time to pursue that second passion, that second career, which was business, which I’ve always wanted to do.”
Request a free MBA advising session with Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help with your complete MBA applications.
Make Time for the Journey
When Stanford GSB is among the schools a client has their sights on, we usually recommend they start working on that application first. After all, it’s the program that, in many ways, requires the most effort.
Stanford GSB’s main essay question is: What matters most to you, and why? Because Nick came to SBC with his application materials in February, he had ample time to flesh out and strategize his MBA essay themes well before the fall deadlines.
Nick’s first task was to spend a month writing down everything in a free-flowing style, just getting his ideas on paper. That exercise inspired him to dig deep as he thought about his values and sifted through meaningful life experiences.
For example, Nick taught English in Asia as a volunteer, and this process forced him to ask, “Why does this matter to me? Why do I feel good when I do this?”
“Putting all of that together really helped me shape an essay that felt very genuine,” Nick said.
What stood out the most for him, Nick said, was how much he ended up appreciating the entire application process. He considers the months of brainstorming, writing, and revising an invaluable experience from a personal growth standpoint. “It’s not something that I did on the regular,” he recalled. “It really helped me get back to what I wanted to get out of life at that point.”
“Not being stressed about it, knowing you have a lot of time, was really helpful. It made it much more enjoyable,” he added.
Authenticity is Everything
The pandemic forced many people to take stock of their lives and figure out what they wanted to change or prioritize. For those targeting top MBA programs, applicants need to reveal what truly motivates them and why they have their particular future goals.
Many applicants wrongly believe they must have saved orphans or cured cancer, all while launching a successful startup, to get admitted into a top MBA program. Nick’s own stories were not epic in scale. Instead, they highlighted the kind of one-on-one help anyone might have offered to another person.
Night and Day Interview Styles
B-school applicants always want a preview of what an actual interview is like with Stanford GSB or HBS. Nick shared that his two MBA interviews were quite memorable, in part for how different they were from each other. For example, the Stanford interview occurred with a 1974 GSB alum at a Starbucks.
“It wasn’t formal at all,” Nick revealed. Although the interviewer had a clear list of behavioral questions, “I thought it was quite conversational.” By the end of the meeting, Nick walked away feeling good about sharing his experiences with the interviewer.
Check out SBC’s Stanford GSB Interview Guide, a comprehensive resource to help you prepare.
In contrast, the Harvard Business School interview was a whole other beast. “This was much more formal, and quite intimidating,” Nick shared. His took place at the New York Harvard Club—as old-school an establishment as they come. He described soaring ceilings, taxidermy elephants “like Teddy Roosevelt shot,” and “oil paintings of all the Supreme Court justices and presidents.”
But despite the formality of the experience, Nick said that the tone of the conversation was still very cordial. “The questions were quite odd,” he acknowledged. “They were like, you know, curveballs a little bit. But I think what was key was just maintaining that conversational tone and trying to react the best way possible.”
“I went into the interview trying to be mentally agile, and ready to just talk about different things. And I think that served me really well,” Nick said.
Nick also left his HBS interview feeling optimistic, even though it was a daunting experience. “That one’s burned into my memory because of how intimidating it was at the time,” he admitted.
SBC’s Harvard Business School Interview Guide reveals the qualities HBS seeks in successful applicants.
HBS/GSB Interview Intel
For Harvard Business School, it’s usually members of the admissions committee doing the interviews. But with Stanford, it’s typically alums. Having the alumni ask behavioral questions lends itself more to a conversational, laid-back feel.
“With HBS, they’re definitely trying to see how you think on your feet,” Erika explained. With HBS’s famous Case Method of instruction, discussions move quickly, and students must react, jump in, and share their views.
During the HBS interview, they are essentially trying to see how you would act in class.
So, Where Did This Dual Admit End Up?
When B-Schooled caught up with Nick, he was winding down his final semester at… Harvard Business School! As he reflected on the transition from the military to HBS, Nick admitted that he had many self-doubts at first.
He thought, “Wow, I’m surrounded by people who are very very different from me, come from industries I have no idea what they’re talking about, and like, how do I fit into this? Do I belong here? What do I have to offer?”
Nick decided to try to get to know people to combat those feelings of impostor syndrome. “Once you get to know someone on a personal level, it’s much easier to have them explain” things like investment strategy or investment management to you, he said. “Now I have friends in all those things!”
“Overall, the highlight of HBS for me is having the time and opportunity to meet people who are so different from you, who come from such different backgrounds… That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most,” Nick noted.
Even more than the incredible speakers, the exposure to new industries, and the Case Method, he said, “What will really stick with me is the time spent with really great people and talking about interesting things.”
Request a free MBA advising session with Stacy Blackman Consulting to learn how we can help with your complete MBA applications. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.