Now that this journey has come to an end, I wanted to share with all of you my application experience. I hope every reader takes something out of it, maybe just information about some b-schools (as I will share all my research) and I also hope that many of you find it inspirational; especially those of you who, like me, did not manage to join the 700's club. Here is my story:A little bit about myself
I am from Spain and, as you can tell by my username, I am a 27 year-old female lawyer.
I have lived in Spain during my whole life except for a year I lived in Toronto. I graduated from a top university in Spain in 2011 in Law and Business Administration and decided to take the "law path" and become a lawyer. After an internship in an American law firm, I entered a British firm and have been working there ever since as a Finance lawyer, so I am not the typical MBA applicant, and I think that has helped me a lot.Considering the idea of going to b-school
Although I have always fancied the idea of doing an MBA and living in the States for a while, it was not until December 2012 that I started to think about it seriously. I will not bore you with all the reasons that made me realize that I wanted to do an MBA and that now was the right moment. In the end my main goal is the following: I want to make a career change to business (I have several ideas and I go with an open mind). Obviously there are other factors but, all in all, in my particular case, the MBA experience it is about the pursuit of happiness, about finding my true passion and learning from every aspect of the journey. Ok, I decided I want to go to b-school... now what?
The first thing I did was speaking with a friend (a former lawyer who was studying a MBA at CBS to make a career change to business) and he advised me to do some research, talk to students or alumni and start studying for the GMAT.My target schools before taking the GMAT
I am an ambitious person and I am also an optimistic but I am also a very practical person, so I was aiming high enough to meet my goals. I was determined to enter a top program, however, I was not obsessed about it being top 5 or M7, my goal was anything within top 15 and once that level was reached the decision will be about the details.1) Schools I discarded straightaway:
a) Tuck, Ross, Kellogg, Darden, Duke and Yale because of location, they are too remote. My fiancé is coming with me so I also needed to consider the job opportunities he could have there. (I reconsidered Duke later and maybe I should have reconsidered Kellogg, but that is another story )
b) Columbia and NYU because they are in NYC. I love the City, indeed I have visited it many times but the idea of living there does not appeal to me (and especially as a student as it is crazy expensive). 2) Schools I started considering but eventually discarded
a) HBS (crazy, right?). I like the case method but I am not a fan of using it for every single class, plus I did not feel a great connection with the Harvard people I talked to (not my style) and I had the impression its culture was a little back-stabby (not saying that is the case, it was just the vibe I got).
b) Wharton. I did not have the chance to speak to many people but I got along really well with the ones I talked to. I was really excited about the Lauder program. However, I finally decided not to apply for personal reasons (long story short: it would imply "dragging" my fiancé to Philly and then spend many months abroad and I felt it was just not fair to him).3) Schools I was targeting:
a) I dream about living in Cali so my main targets were all California schools. Stanford was my dream school (especially after talking to students and visiting) and Haas and Anderson really appealed to me. After talking to more people and visiting I could say I fell in love with both schools.
b) Booth and MIT: I must admit that at first I was not passionate about both schools because of its location/weather, far too cold and long winters. However, after all it would only be for two years and both schools had a strong enough appeal to compensate for the location.Struggling with the GMAT
Last January I started studying for the GMAT, the problem I had was that I have a very demanding job that requires long hours and many weekends, so I had to study late at night and during the weekends I did not have to work. At first I planned to take the GMAT on April but I had a big peak of work in the middle and I could not make my first attempt until July. During 5 months I did practically have no free time, when I was not working I was studying for the GMAT, it was crazy! I do not dislike the GMAT, but after few months I was too tired and I just wanted it to be over... so I scheduled my exam for the middle of July and, despite I had another horrible peak the previous three weeks (working over 15 hours a day with no time to study) I decided not to postpone it again and going for it. I got a 640, lower than my CATs, but the worst part was not the 640, it was my 42 quant score. I was devastated, all that effort was not paying off. I felt that I could do better and I decided to retake it at the end of August. This time, I was more relaxed at work and I was scoring over 700 in all my CATs and I was feeling pretty confident. However, imagine my surprise when I saw a 660 in my screen... I can't express with words how I was feeling, I was crumbling, after more than 6 months of hard work, my dream was shattering in front of me... I did not know what to do. I could try again and apply R2 but, what if my score never gets higher?
So I decided to take a mixed approach, I decided to apply to two schools with my 660 in which I thought I had more chances with my GMAT in R1 and then retake the GMAT after that and depending on the results deciding where to apply in R2. R1: Applying to Booth and Anderson
I knew my GMAT was much lower than average for both schools but I decided to play hard and go with everything I have, after all, GMAT is just one part of the application, plus I had the demographics advantage (being a female) and I have a very atypical and unique profile so I decided to focus in my strengths and convey my fit with the school and my accomplishments through them. I focused on the rest of the things that made me unique and all the good things I had to offer to the class. I deeply researched both schools and tailored my app to the school and it seemed to pay off because I received invitation to interview from both schools! I was so excited!My experience with Booth:
I must admit that, despite at first I was not really excited about Booth because of its location and because it seemed too finance, the more I got to know it the more I liked it. I went to an event in Madrid and really connected with the alumni and the admissions person who hosted the event. When I visited campus I stayed with some Spanish students who welcomed me into their home and introduced me to many other students. I felt really welcomed there and really liked the campus and the city. When they invited me to interview they offered the possibility to make it in an international location where they were hosting an event. And, as I have a friend living in London, I saw an excellent opportunity to visit my friend and do the interview there. The event was very nice, they brought some London alumni and I could talk to other potential class mates, which seemed very cool! However, I was really unlucky with my interviewer and had an awful experience: First of all, they did not tell me who my interviewer was until last second and when he introduced himself I found out he worked for a company that had recently bought some assets of a project in which I participated (and was listed in my resume) so I was really shocked that they put me with an interviewer with whom an obvious conflict of interest existed. Anyway, I kept going with the interview and he was really hostile, he obviously was against lawyers pursuing MBAs and it was really clear by his tone, questions and comments. There were more horrible details that I did not like but this is not the place to talk about it. It was my first MBA interview so I was not sure if that was normal or not (I found out later that it is not) but I left with a bittersweet feeling and I knew I was not getting in and, on decision date I received the expected ding.My experience with Anderson:
I always had a great vibe about this school since the beginning and the main reason is because of its people. I had a friend who studied there and he put me in contact with the president of the alumni chapter in Spain, who sent an email to the community saying that I wanted to talk to alumni because I wanted to apply and I received a massive and warm reply. Even alumni from class of 1986 (now busy CEOs) wrote to me to talk and one alumnus even took me to breakfast before work to talk about UCLA! I really connected with them. I must admit it was the people to whom a felt the stronger connection. When I visited campus classes have not even started but one students put me in contact with someone with admissions, showed me around the school and around the city. I also met with other students and I really got along with all of them. My interview was with someone from adcom by Skype, it was very conversational and the question were specific to learn my fit, I finished the interview with a great feeling. I finally knew I was in (and with $) on decision date.Retaking the GMAT
After finishing my R1 essays I went back with the GMAT and retook it on November to get another annoying 660!!! Grgrg. At that point, I decided that I was done with the GMAT and, as I was not doing bad with my score so far, I decided not to retake it. I was aware that it meant giving up on Stanford but I was happy with my other options so I decided to wait to hear about R1 and then decide if I was applying for R2.R2: Haas, Fuqua and Sloan
Before the R2 deadline I received the ding from Booth and did not get any news from Anderson and, as decision date was after the R2 deadline I had to go to R2 (despite I had a good feeling about Anderson, I don't like to have all my eggs in one basket).Haas
: I felt this was a long shot (as I was outside the 80% GMAT range and it is a very selective school). However, I felt Haas was a lot about fit and I really loved the school, and I did not want to give up on Haas without trying because I thought I had a slight chance. I am very happy with the outcome of my essays but the deadline was approaching and still no news. However, on decision date I found out that, against all odds, I was WL! I could not believe it! I also had a great connection with Haas people and loved it when I visited campus. Fuqua
: I must admit that at the beginning it was my safe school but, after doing some research it started to become one of my top choices. I did not have the chance to visit but I got to speak with many students and alumni and I must say they are great! Awesome community, totally get the Team Fuqua thing! My interview experience was fantastic, I was interviewed by an alumnus in Madrid and after the interview we spent like more than an hour talking! I was really excited when I received my offer of admission (In with $$) and despite I was leaning towards UCLA since the beginning, it really made me reconsider going to Duke. In the end I opted for UCLA because of the location factor (not only for recruiting but also for employment options for my fiancé and because I am a big fan of LA, I always wanted to live there).Sloan
: It is an awesome school and the people are fantastic. However, I was never completely convinced about it (especially for location issues). I loved my campus visit and I got along really well with the students but I never felt the perfect click I felt with other schools. All in all, I still loved the school and applied in R2, where I was WL without interview. As I was not completely excited about Sloan, I decided to withdraw from the WL.
I hope I did not bore you too much with my looooooong post and that you find this information useful. My advice would be to make extensive research of the school and tailor your essays. Despite I used parts of other school essays in others, I always started every single essay from scratch. Also, do not freak out about the GMAT, it is important but it is not everything you can have a fantastic GMAT and get dinged and you can have a 660 and still get in, and even with scholarship.
If I have learned something as al lawyer is that the perfect situation does not exist and you have to try to win with what you got, and believe me, if you play your cards smartly, you can get unexpected results.
The ultimate applicant does not exist, use any part of the app you can to enhance your strengths and try to minimize your weaknesses and always use the essays to get to know you as a person, show them what you have that makes you unique and that will enable you to stand out from the crowd!