Launching Her Application with Forte and Following Her Heart to Chicago Booth
This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Jamie Kwak...
Accepted: We'd like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Jamie: Hello everyone! My name is Jamie and I am from the beautiful and warm city of Los Angeles, California. I attended the University of Southern California and majored in accounting.
Accepted: If you could meet any famous person - past or present - who would it be and why?
Jamie: Oprah! I am reading her book “What I Know For Sure” and I am touched by this book. Her words are so inspirational and this book has made me a big fan of hers. Also, she has accomplished so much in her life and is considered one of the most powerful and influential women in the world. I would absolutely love the opportunity to meet her one day.
Accepted: Where are you currently in b-school? What year?
Jamie: I am in my second year at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (class of 2017). I can’t believe I will be graduating in less than six months!
Accepted: How did you know that Booth was the right "fit" for you?
Jamie: Choosing a business school to attend is a pretty important decision. I made the decision to attend Booth by listening to my heart. There was something about Booth that felt different. Whenever I spoke to members of the Booth community, I felt that they were welcoming me with open arms. They would spend so much time on the phone with me and put me in touch with other Boothies. The connections were so genuine. Like many of my peers, I had created a pros and cons list; I spoke with current students and alums from the different schools. I crumbled the piece of paper with this list and threw it away. I ultimately had to convince my mind that my heart was right. This “pay it forward” culture was just something that meant a lot to me and that is why I decided to trust my heart – my heart chose Booth.
Accepted: You are an alumna of the Forte Foundation's MBALaunch Program! Can you tell readers a little bit about it?
Jamie: Sure! The MBALaunch program is a curriculum designed for women who are interested in applying to business school. The women at Forte do a fantastic job creating a structured roadmap for you and scheduling modules to help you with every part of the business school application. Also, my favorite part of the program was my “Jam Session Group.” We were assigned a group, which was comprised of 5 MBALaunch participants and 2 additional mentors. Every month, we would meet up for a “Jam Session” and chat about our progress. The two mentors, LeTisha and Genevieve, were 2 Forte members who had recently graduated from an MBA program. They were so crucial in helping us prepare for not just the application, but the MBA program in general. My group members and I formed close friendships and we were each other’s biggest cheerleaders. We would exchange tips and advice over email, and some of us would meet up to study together for the GMAT. When we started writing, we would read each other’s essays and provide feedback. We completed the MBALaunch program back in 2014, and we still keep in touch. As a matter of fact, 3 out of the 5 of us met up at the Forte Conference in June 2016. I am so proud of each and every one of my group members. We are all enrolled in an MBA program (see below).
Pretty impressive group, right?
Accepted: How did MBALaunch prepare you for the MBA application process? Would you suggest their program to others?
Jamie: I would highly recommend the Forte MBALaunch to anyone who is interested in applying to an MBA program. Not only does Forte have resources to help you with every part of the application (from the GMAT to the essays), you become part of a network of extremely accomplished women. The resources and the opportunities that become available to you are priceless.
What’s funny is that I attended the Forte Forum in Los Angeles back in 2014 when I was applying to business schools. The first two representatives I met were from Booth. Kylie Wilcer and Kelly Smith were just so nice and helpful in answering all my questions about the school. Fast forward two years, I am an Admissions Fellow at Booth and get to work closely with Kylie and Kelly. They still are as awesome now as they were the first day I met them. The Forte Foundation held this event and facilitated my first introduction to Booth!
Accepted: What has been your greatest challenge since starting at Booth? How have you overcome it?
Jamie: Time management. Most students want to make time and have a healthy balance between family life, social life, and school life. Once you start your MBA program, you need to prioritize and focus on two of these three things at a time. I heard this from so many people and brushed this tip aside. I thought I was already great at time management and I could do everything. I was wrong.
What I had to quickly figure out was how to best manage my energy. Google Calendar has helped me with this. I live and die by my calendar because there are so many things going on every day. Google makes it easy to color code so I have different colors for my different calendars (school/social/family). I look at my calendar at the beginning of every week to see if my colors look well-balanced. If it looks like I am going to have a busy week, I make sure to schedule some time for myself to recharge. Every business school student will have different tricks for time management, but this is what works for me.
Accepted: Lastly, what are your top three GMAT tips for success?
1. Ask for help
I find that many people don’t like to share failures – myself included. What I realized is that many people are probably sharing the same struggles as you or are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Once I told some of my friends that I was struggling with the GMAT, all of them helped me study and provided excellent advice. I also learned that other friends were also struggling and we found time to study together.
2. Study smart
I was focused on getting as many reps in as possible. My friends helped me realize that I needed to drill down and figure out what types of questions I was struggling with. Once I addressed one weak area at a time, I did much better.
3. Don’t give up
I took the GMAT three times. The first time, I didn’t do well. I studied A LOT for the next few months. My second time, my score was 80 points lower than my first attempt. I thought about giving up and not going to business school. That experience in itself was pretty traumatizing and I was drained both mentally and emotionally. High school and college taught me that there is a positive correlation between grades and time spent studying – the GMAT proved that wrong. I took a week off and decided to study again. My third time, I scored well above a 700.
I have friends who took it once and scored extremely well and I wondered why the test was so hard for me. I stopped doubting myself and decided to put my head down and charge forward. One of my favorite quotes is “comparison is the thief of joy.” It rang so true for the GMAT and even now in business school. Try your best and don’t give up!
Thank you Jamie for sharing your story with us - we wish you continued success!
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