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Chandler’s MBA Reflections: A Journey of Inspiration

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MBA reflections

Stacy Blackman’s B-Schooled podcast is chockful of tips and inspiration for every leg of your MBA application journey. Often, it’s the hosts’ personal experiences that make it such a unique resource in the MBA admissions landscape. That’s why today, we’re recapping some vital takeaways SBC consultant and B-Schooled host Chandler Arnold has shared on the pod. Don’t miss Chandler’s MBA reflections on three things he wishes he had known when applying to business school.

Curious about your chances of getting into a top B-school? Contact us to talk strategy with a free 15-minute advising session with an SBC Principal Consultant.

“I wish that I had been more honest and more vulnerable in my essays.”

Chandler: Schools are increasingly focused on emotional intelligence. In reading your essays, they want to connect with you to understand how you’ve learned and grown. They want to understand authentically who you are.

MBA reflections

When I applied, it was important for me to talk about being a member of the LGBTQ community. But it took me a long time to figure out how I wanted to tell that story.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #103: The Power of Authenticity in MBA Applications

Ultimately, that experience became an onramp to a larger discussion about what I learned and how it changed me. I also explored how it made me a stronger, more empathetic leader, as well as better able to connect with others in all facets of my life.

If you’ve battled cancer, survived a traumatic event, or had a life-changing experience you want to share, that’s great. But know this:

It’s not about the thing that happened to you. Rather, it’s about how you responded to that event, what you learned from it, and how you grew. That’s what these business schools want to understand.

It may sound like a subtle distinction, but it’s really an important one. If you reread your essay and you still ask yourself, “So, why is this important? How did I grow from this experience?” You probably haven’t pushed yourself far enough.

You may have picked the wrong example as a jumping-off point. Or, more likely, you haven’t leaned into that experience enough to really share your own vulnerabilities and growth.

“I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying that I wasn’t what the admissions officers were looking for.”

Chandler: I was kind of obsessed with the fact that I wasn’t a typical MBA candidate. For example, I had spent my whole career working for one nonprofit organization and I was worried that my accomplishments wouldn’t stand out or wouldn’t resonate with an audience that wasn’t used to reading nonprofit resumes.

To get around that, I specifically formatted my resume to highlight the quantifiable results that I’d driven. I put a big focus on quantifying successes not only in terms of dollars raised or children reached, but also in terms of how I performed relative to the goal, relative to expectations, and relative to performance in previous years.

MBA reflections

And that was all good. But I was still trying to pretzel myself into what I thought an MBA student was supposed to be. Looking back, I should have leaned so much more into who I was and what made me different, unique, and special relative to all the other applications they were reviewing.

I now realize that the two things that I was most worried about at the time—being gay and coming from a social enterprise background—were probably incredibly helpful in terms of helping me stand out and distinguish myself.

“I wish I had done more homework.”

Chandler: Now, I’m not talking about traditional homework here. And I’m not even talking about the homework of understanding what makes school X different or unique versus school Y. Obviously you should do all of that. I’m talking about more student and alumni-centered homework—something I didn’t realize was a possibility when I applied.

Knowing what I know now, I say, think about the clubs or the student groups or the affinity groups that you might like to get involved with. Next, figure out who those co-presidents are and reach out to them.

Now, I was the president of a few clubs at my own business school. Frequently, folks would reach out to me and say, “Hey, I’m an admitted student. I’d love to learn more about the social impact club. Do you have 15 minutes that we might have a quick phone conversation?” And I always said yes.

I’ve worked with tons of clients who’ve reached out to a ton of current students and something like 85-95% of them are happy to have a short conversation. That’s a great way to learn about the program and about specific topics or issue areas that you’re interested in.

Don’t miss Make the Most of Your First Year of Business School, Chandler’s in-depth conversation with Stacy Blackman

Tap Into the School’s Alums, Too

Chandler: Another thing I’d suggest is doing that same “homework” with alums from your dream school—especially alums with a similar background or doing work that you’d like to do after graduation. This is easier to figure out than it might first sound with Google, LinkedIn, and alumni magazines.

A lot of my clients have been able to say something like, “I’m coming from the entertainment world. I want to go to Fuqua, and I want to do X, Y, and Z after graduation. Oh, wow. Here’s an alum from Fuqua who’s doing X, Y, Z that came from a similar background.” Suddenly, they’ve identified someone who’s 10 years ahead on their own career progression and came from a similar spot.

You can do all kinds of things with that information. Most importantly, you can use them as proof that someone from your background can thrive at that school and do what you want to do after graduation. Reach out to that person to learn more about their experiences. If you ask for 15 or 20 minutes, most people will say yes to a prospective student.

Even if you don’t connect in person, you can learn a great deal by becoming students of the career paths of the people who have gone before you.

We hope you’ve gleaned some helpful takeaways from Chandler’s MBA reflections as an applicant. The podcast episode with this advice includes an additional segment on how Chandler rocked his MBA interviews, so give it a listen for the complete scoop.

Each week on B-Schooled, you’ll hear expert insights like these from our seasoned hosts and their guests. You can check out the archive here, or on any of the major podcast platforms.


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs. From our All-In Partnership to interview prep, essay editing, resume review, and much more, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.


Ashley is a former MBA Admissions Board Member for Harvard Business School (HBS), where she interviewed and evaluated thousands of business school applicants for over a six year tenure. Ashley holds an MBA from HBS.

During her HBS years, Ashley was the Sports Editor for the Harbus and a member of the B-School Blades Ice Hockey Team. After HBS, she worked in Marketing at the Gillette Company on Male and Female shaving ...

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Kerry is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS).

During her 5+ year tenure at HBS, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a wide range of backgrounds across the globe. She also led marketing and outreach efforts focused on increasing diversity and inclusion, ran the Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP), and launched the 2+2 Program during her time in Admissions.

Kerry holds a B.A. from Bates College and  ...

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A former associate director of admissions at Harvard Business School, Pauline served on the HBS MBA Admissions Board full-time for four years. She evaluated and interviewed HBS applicants, both on-campus and globally. 

Pauline's career has included sales and marketing management roles with Coca-Cola, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM.  For over 10 years, Pauline has expertly guided MBA applicants, and her clients h ...

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Geri is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS). 

In her 7 year tenure in HBS Admissions, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a diverse set of academic, geographic, and employment backgrounds.  Geri also traveled globally representing the school at outreach events in order to raise awareness for women and international students.  In additio ...

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Laura comes from the MBA Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS) and is an HBS MBA alumnus. In her HBS Admissions role, she evaluated and interviewed hundreds of business school candidates, including internationals, women, military and other applicant pools, for five years. 

Prior to her time as a student at HBS, Laura began her career in advertising and marketing in Chicago at Leo Burnett where she worked on th ...

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Andrea served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.  In this role, she provided strategic direction for student yield-management activities and also served as a full member of the admissions committee.

In 2007, Andrea launched the new 2+2 Program at Harvard Business School – a program targeted at college junior applicants to Harvard Business School.  Andrea has also served as a Career Coach for Harvard Business School for both cu ...

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Jennifer served as Admissions Officer at the Stanford (GSB) for five years. She holds an MBA from Stanford (GSB) and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Jennifer has over 15 years experience in guiding applicants through the increasingly competitive admissions process into top MBA programs. Having read thousands and thousands of essays and applications while at Stanford (GSB) Admiss ...

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Erin K.

Erin served in key roles in MBA Admissions--as Director at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and Assistant Director at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB).

Erin served on the admissions committee at each school and has read thousands of applications in her career. At Haas, she served for seven years in roles that encompassed evaluation, outreach, and diversity and inclusion. During her tenure in Admissions at GSB, she was responsible for candidate evaluation, applicant outreach, ...

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Susie comes from the Admissions Office of the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she reviewed and evaluated hundreds of prospective students’ applications.  She holds an MBA from Stanford’s GSB and a BA from Stanford in Economics.

Prior to advising MBA applicants, Susie held a variety of roles over a 15-year period in capital markets, finance, and real estate, including as partner in one of the nation’s most innovative finance and real estate investment organizations. In that r ...

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Dione holds an MBA degree from Stanford Business School (GSB) and a BA degree from Stanford University, where she double majored in Economics and Communication with concentrations in journalism and sociology. Dione has served as an Admissions reader and member of the Minority Admissions Advisory Committee at Stanford.  

Dione is an accomplished and respected advocate and thought leader on education and diversity. She is ...

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Anthony served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

During his time as a Wharton Admissions Officer, he read and reviewed thousands of applications and helped bring in a class of 800+ students a year.  Anthony has traveled both domestically and internationally to recruit a ...

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Meghan served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Marketing at the Wharton MBA’s Lauder Institute, a joint degree program combining the Wharton MBA with an MA in International Studies.

In her role on the Wharton MBA admissions committee, Meghan advised domestic and international applicants; conducted interviews and information sessions domestically and overseas in Asia, Central and South America, and Europe; and evaluated applicants for admission to the program. Meghan also managed ...

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Amy comes from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she was Associate Director. Amy devoted 12 years at the Wharton School, working closely with MBA students and supporting the admissions team. 

During her tenure at Wharton, Amy served as a trusted adviser to prospective applicants as well as admitted and matriculated students.  She conducted admissions chats with applicants early in the admissions ...

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Ally brings six years of admissions experience to the SBC team, most recently as an Assistant Director of Admission for the full-time MBA program at Columbia Business School (CBS). 

During her time at Columbia, Ally was responsible for reviewing applications, planning recruitment events, and interviewing candidates for both the full-time MBA program and the Executive MBA program. She traveled both internationally and dome ...

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Erin B.

Erin has over seven years of experience working across major institutions, including University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School, and NYU's Stern School of Business.

At Columbia Business School, Erin was an Assistant Director of Admissions where she evaluated applications for both the full time and executive MBA programs, sat on the admissions and merit scholarship committees and advised applicants on which program might be the best fit for them based on their work experience and pro ...

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Emma comes from the MBA Admissions Office at Columbia Business School (CBS), where she was Associate Director. 

Emma conducted dozens of interviews each cycle for the MBA and EMBA programs, as well as coordinating the alumni ambassador interview program. She read and evaluated hundreds of applications each cycle, delivered information sessions to audiences across the globe, and advised countless waitlisted applicants.</sp ...

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The post Chandler’s MBA Reflections: A Journey of Inspiration appeared first on Stacy Blackman Consulting - MBA Admissions Consulting.

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