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Interview with a Kellogg MBA candidate (class of 2020)

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Interview with a Kellogg MBA candidate (class of 2020)  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Jul 2018, 12:13
@FuturePM91 has been one of the most active GMATClubbers last year. She applied to 10 b-schools and was accepted into 5 of them, including Kellogg with scholarship. Kellogg is where she is eventually headed this fall.

We at MBA Decoder had a chance to interview her and ask her about her application journey. We have also got some cool advice from her about the do’s and don’ts of the application process. Read on to learn more…

MBA Decoder:Tell us about yourself.
FuturePM91: I am a 27 old female (was 26 at time of application) originally from South Eastern US. I grew up with a single mom due to my father passing away from cancer when I was two years old. My first “adult” job was working with the United States Department of Justice as a student clerk with the United States Attorney’s Office at 15 years old. I worked with the federal government focusing on victim witnesses for about 7 years all through college and part of high school. For college, I attended Georgia Tech where I studied Biology. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time, but I had a passion for science and data-based decision making as well as animals and medicine which is why I chose to study biology. As I got to graduation, I was feeling burnt out on school and therefore I knew I didn’t want to go straight to grad school for biology. So, I began looking at analyst and data focused positions, eventually accepting an offer to join a product management team at IHG. While there, I found my passion for using data and a scientific approach to solve business problems, particularly with technology. I also found that this thought process was in high demand in many businesses. So, I decided to pursue an MBA so that I could continue using my skills to improve decision making in business. I am particularly interested in technology organizations and social impact organizations, My dream would be to found my own business based around technologies that have positive social and economic impacts on underprivileged communities.

MBA Decoder: Tell us about your admits and where you are finally going.
FuturePM91: I ended up applying to 10 schools due to abysmal GPA (I had a high GMAT though), so I felt I had to cast my net wide. I would not recommend doing this unless you’re in a similar situation because it was very difficult. In the end my results were as follows:

HBS: Denied w/o interview
Wharton: Denied w/o interview
Kellogg: Admitted with $$
Haas: Denied w/o interview
Ross: Admitted
Yale: Denied w/o interview
UCLA: Waitlisted w/o interview
McCombs: Admitted w/ $ (full scholarship)
Tepper: Admitted w/ $ (full scholarship)
ASU: Admitted w/ $ (full scholarship)

Out of the schools that I had interviewed with I had already narrowed down my top choices to either Ross or Kellogg. I told more than a few people that if I were lucky enough to get into both I would have no idea who to choose because I had fallen in love with Ross during interview weekend and Kellogg had been my top choice since the beginning of the process. In the end, although a difficult decision, the scholarship money from Kellogg really was the deciding factor because for me, the two programs were neck to neck for the things that I cared about and for program fit. I did attempt to negotiate with Ross but was unsuccessful. If it had been successful, my choice may have been different, regardless I am very happy with my decision and I cannot wait to start at Kellogg this fall. I attended DAK 1 in February and it really solidified that I was making the right choice. I met so many smart, successful, and inspiring future classmates and JV’s (Kellogg’s term for significant others). When speaking to one of my mentors, I mentioned that I felt slightly out of place and underqualified at DAK but I felt like this is the exact reason why I should go there and I still stand by that statement.

MBA Decoder: You started thinking about an MBA back in 2015 but applied to b-schools only in 2017. What were these interim years like, from the application standpoint?
FuturePM91: Between 2015-2017, I was focusing on putting myself in the very best position possible to apply to b-school. I knew I had an uphill battle with my GPA. The first thing I did once I decided on this path was to tell everyone at work about my goal and how I planned on getting there. I was very fortunate to have an extremely supportive company, so this allowed me to put my hat in the ring for big projects that would give me leadership experience. It also set me up for a big promotion which I earned at the end of 2016. If an applicant is like me and thinking about business school in the future with a lot of time to plan, tell your boss and your peers about your goal if you believe that they will be supportive, if not just do your best to take on as many big projects as possible. I also spent 6 months of that time studying for the GMAT. I would wake up around 4:30-5am and study for a couple of hours before work then another hour when I got home. Saturdays were dedicated to practice tests. It was a challenging process and took a lot of self-discipline. I was aiming to get the highest score possible and knew that it was crucial to my applications so I prioritized it. I missed all of football season (which is a big deal in the southern US) but it paid off so it was worth it.

MBA Decoder: You applied to a wide range of b-schools. What was your selection process?
FuturePM91: Choosing schools is pretty hard. It is difficult for applicants to pick out what is actually different among top programs. Given that I wasn’t sure about how competitive I would be I decided to choose 3 very competitive programs, 3-4 top programs that were slightly less competitive, and 3 schools where I felt very confident about my chances of admission. I wanted to stay within the top 25 because given my salary and the post-MBA salary of the top 25 vs other programs these were the only ones that had an ROI that was high enough to justify the program. I then grouped the top 25 schools into the buckets I described above and chose the specified programs based mostly on a) being close to a big city b) strength in tech and/or social impact and c) how the teaching style and community would fit with my personality.

MBA Decoder:You started very early. By May/ June you were already writing essays. Tell us how that helped.
FuturePM91:I started my Kellogg and HBS applications in May. However, I didn’t start with their specific essay questions. I started with finding stories that I believed showcased my leadership skills and biggest accomplishments and digging into my background to solidify what exactly I wanted to accomplish and why I was motivated to pursue those goals. These two things are the basis of most MBA essay questions. My HBS and Kellogg applications took about a month each but after I completed them I knew my story and what I wanted to convey like the back of my hand. My editing process was to just write out everything and not worry about length at first. After that, I pared down the essays to the most important points to meet the word limit. My first Kellogg essay was over 1600 words, almost 4x the actual word limit! After those two, I was able to complete the other applications in about a week or two per school. This is the only reason why I was able to complete so many applications on time. Starting as early as possible definitely helps. I highly recommend it.

MBA Decoder: Your GPA was low for some of your target b-schools. How did you address this?
FuturePM91: Let’s be honest, my GPA (2.6) was significantly low for ALL of the schools I was applying to. I addressed this by getting the best score possible on my GMAT (740), and writing the optional essay. In my optional essay, I explained some personal reasons as to why my GPA was low. Mostly, as a first-generation college student, I was not prepared for college, did not focus on studying particularly in my early years, due to both immaturity and a demanding work schedule. I did not have family support for undergrad so I was working to support myself and pay for school. After taking responsibility for my shortcomings in college I also explained what I had done to prove myself since.

MBA Decoder: You have got significant community leadership work experience. How did you decide the split between personal and professional stories in your essay writing?
FuturePM91: My general rule was one community leadership story and one professional story. This worked well with my goals. My volunteer work is motivated by my upbringing and how cancer has affected my life through my father and now my sister. These effects of cancer on my childhood and my life is my motivator for wanting to go into social impact. My volunteer work illustrated my why. My professional skills, on the other hand, focused on leading solutions to complex business problems using tech, so my professional skills helped me to illustrate my plan for “how”. Both of these supported my goal of using business and technology to solve social impact problems.

MBA Decoder: Would you like to give some advice to future applicants? If you could make that b-school specific, it would be great.
FuturePM91: First, realize that you are part of an extremely competitive pool of applicants. Everyone is just as smart, as accomplished, and as driven as you. In order to differentiate yourself, you may need to take a more humble look at yourself and find what makes you MORE than just smart, accomplished, and driven. What makes you MORE rather than what makes you the same is what is going to get you in. That is why it is so important to be yourself in the application and not just who you think adcom will like.

Second, given the above competitive applicant pool, please do not base your self-worth on whether or not you get into any one program. Not getting in does not in any way diminish or erase your accomplishments thus far. There are successful people from all MBA programs and many who don’t have an MBA at all. Your future is what you make of what you get and not determined by any one school.

MBA Decoder: What aspects of the application process would you approach differently if you were to apply again?
FuturePM91: I would invest more in travel to the schools for interviews. I did a lot of Skype interviews and only traveled for my Ross interview. Interview weekends give you insight into who could be your future classmates and are also great networking opportunities. Plus for some schools (like Kellogg) it guarantees that you have the opportunity to interview. The cost is small compared to the overall cost of school and well worth it in my opinion.
Namita Garg,
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Interview with a Kellogg MBA candidate (class of 2020)   [#permalink] 12 Jul 2018, 12:13
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