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My USC/UCLA MBA App Experience

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Joined: 16 Oct 2014
Posts: 35
Concentration: Strategy, Organizational Behavior
GMAT 1: 710 Q44 V42
WE: Project Management (Energy and Utilities)
My USC/UCLA MBA App Experience  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 08 Sep 2015, 15:10
Before I begin, please note I was only interested in attending schools in southern California because a) I have been working abroad since 2013 and desperately miss my hometown and b) I'm "busy" aka lazy, so I didn't have a lot of time to prepare multiple applications like some of you crazy hard-working high-achieving applicants did. I was only interested in UCLA and USC. I ended up applying to USC R1 and UCLA R2.

Area of interest in MBA: Consulting
GMAT: 710, Q 44, V 42, IR 8, AWA 4.0
GPA: 3.36, Political Science, Top 50 US University
Work experience (WE): 4 Years, business development in maritime industry
Nationality: Asian American
Age: 24
Gender: Female
Extra-curriculars/community: volunteering at orphanages, other nonprofit involvement

The GMAT is honestly the most annoying part of the B-school app. Get it out of the way early on so you can move onto the more stress-inducing-yet-fun parts, such as writing the essay. My verbal skills are decent since I am a native English speaker (and used to be an editor for a newspaper lol), but my quant was/is still really bad, so I hired a math tutor to help me with the GMAT questions. I bought the prep books from GMAC and studied straight from that book and the free sample test you can access online. I started studying a couple of hours per week around April 2014 an scheduled my test for September 2014, like one week before USC/UCLA was due for Round 1.

I bombed the AWA section because I was anxious and wanted to get to the quant part before all the math melted out of my brain, so I was like whatever, if adcom is going to give me a hard time over the AWA then I'll just get my MBA online or something, dgaf. In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by my 710 score, as I was expecting something in the 600 range. Broke 700, good enough for me, onto the apps.

As stated prior, quant is not my strong set (I know, I'm Asian, what happened to me idk). I have failed out of math classes in my undergrad, also scored C's and D's in other math classes. My highest grade in any math course was a B+ in business statistics. My GPA was a 3.36. I did not go to a difficult university. I spent a couple of days moping over my miserable undergrad performance and wish I went to fewer raves, but you know, life is life, gotta move on.

Knowing that my quant skills were going to be a severe bumper for me getting into B-school, I enrolled in a UC Berkeley Extension course called Math for Management. It's an online class, but you have to take the final in person at a testing center (I was abroad so I took mine in the US embassy). In the "other things you want to say" secondary essay section that all the schools put in their apps, I acknowledged my weakness in quant but mentioned the Berkeley class and also casually mentioned that I was on Dean's list for the last 5 quarters of my undergrad and graduated early because I learned how to manage my time better. So I was trying to get them to see that a) I'm not a bad student despite the 3.36 GPA in a social science major, I was just bad at time management and b) I am willing to try and improve on my quant skills by going on my own initiative to take online classes.

I had already known I wanted to apply for B-school by early 2014, so I already started preparing snippets of what I wanted to put in my essay, whatever thoughts or theories or qualities I wanted to exemplify. I kept a notebook with me at all times and jotted things down while I was working or out with friends or whatever. I am probably the worst procrastinator ever and did not start on my essays until the same week apps were due.

I do not recommend this, but at the same time, you know your own skill and pace. If you can write essays on the fly and clearly articulate yourself in writing, then by all means, wait until the last minute like me. Otherwise, start early. However, I spent so much time thinking about the essays and what I wanted to say that by the time I got around to writing them, everything flowed pretty seamlessly and I only did minor editing.

I don't suggest writing a piece of literature or being too profound. Talk about real life, tangible experiences that prove you can share stuff in the classroom. Don't spend too much time talking about qualities; write about experiences you've had that exemplify those qualities. AKA not "I am such a fantastic leader and I'm open minded and I love working in teams and collaboration is the best" but "I went through x situation where we had to mobilize a team to deal with x problem. We came up with x solution and this is how it was implemented and this is how it has impacted the company." Be specific with your goals. Talk about how MBA school can help you. Talk about areas where you might feel inadequate at work and how getting an MBA at your target school will help you overcome those hurdles.

I applied to USC in Round 1 and was waitlisted. I had my interview over skype, details here. I received my admit and some money shortly after Round 2 decisions were released. I thought I did really well for this interview, but apparently not, since I was waitlisted haha.

I did not sit in on any classes at USC since I applied round 1 and had no plans of visiting the US at the time. However, I have been on campus multiple times, have a lot of friends and colleagues that are alums or currently at USC. I managed to get a rec letter from a trustee member and was taken off the waitlist and admitted within a week. This school intrigues me. It's got an alumni network that is like mafia-status and everyone is somehow so proud of being a Trojan. Knowing that I want to work in socal in the future, Marshall just felt like a logical choice. It was kind of hard to get a hold of their admissions office, and I have sent a few emails to current students that have gone unreplied. It's a shaky impression, but I don't doubt the strength of the network.

I applied to UCLA in Round 2 and was admitted. I had my interview in person, details here. I really felt like I did so badly on this interview, as you will see if you read my interview breakdown, but I was able to portray my fit for the campus and my desire to grow as a leader within the program.

I have stated before that UCLA is my dream school. I have held the school in high regard for most of my life and was pretty bummed when I was rejected from their undergrad program. However, that didn't stop me from applying for their grad school, and apparently dreams do come true! I went to a TON of Anderson events. Went to their alumni thing for students that happened to be living abroad, went to coffee meetup with a current student, sat in on a class and honestly, this school is just amazing. Their students practice what they preach. Collaboration is not a buzzword. Everyone is so nice and so friendly and so willing to go out of their way and help and talk ... I just felt like such a terrible selfish person next to all of them. These are people that are skilled and have substance. I am still boggled by the idea that I have an acceptance from Anderson.

With admits from both schools that I applied to, I have agonized over USC and UCLA all month. Their admit pre-MBA orientation falls on the same weekend, so I don't really have a chance to check out both schools in full. That said, I have already decided to withdraw my application at UCLA and have submitted my deposit for USC.

Note that UCLA is higher ranked, has a better career center, arguably has better professors and a better MBA program, is in a prettier part of town, has better name recognition nationally and internationally, will probably have a smarter, more experienced incoming class, and will make me a better person. However, USC fits better with my long term goals, which will require a strong network with deep pockets to tap into. Also, I don't plan on leaving socal, so I don't need the UCLA brand. If I wanted to work in the Bay Area in tech or on the East Coast, I would have chosen Anderson without hesitation. USC has plenty of recognition in OC/LA, so that's enough for me.

I also want to mention that USC weirdly has a lot of entrepreneurs. Frankly, USC doesn't strike me as an innovative school and it's been sliding in the rankings. Anderson is the one that's always "thinking in the next" and has TED talks and has the cool curriculum and all that, but somehow USC has billionaires (5 of them, see here, UCLA nowhere on the list) and a shark tank week and CEOs and executives crawling all over the place in socal. Maybe this is premature, but based on the people I've met and already know, I've come to the conclusion that UCLA makes innovators that can work, while USC makes innovators that can network. And if business has taught me anything, it's not what you know -- it's who you know.

Thus, I've decided to move forward with Marshall. UCLA is still a fantastic, awesome school of dreams and I am so grateful for the opportunity. I've met students and alums that have become good friends and advisors. But Marshall is simply a better fit, and I am super excited to join the Trojan family.
Fight on!

Originally posted by J5D on 21 Apr 2015, 08:55.
Last edited by J5D on 08 Sep 2015, 15:10, edited 1 time in total.
Joined: 30 Jan 2015
Posts: 27
GMAT 1: 710 Q41 V46
Re: My USC/UCLA MBA App Experience  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Jun 2015, 13:54
This was a great read, thanks for sharing.

I'm from LA and I agree that within Southern California, the UCLA and USC brands are essentially interchangeable in terms of prestige.

Congrats and good luck!
Joined: 29 Jan 2014
Posts: 22
Concentration: Marketing
GMAT 1: 640 Q35 V42
GPA: 3.55
WE: Business Development (Aerospace and Defense)
Re: My USC/UCLA MBA App Experience  [#permalink]

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New post 07 Jan 2016, 12:28
Great post. I'm a current Marshall student (PM, not FT), so welcome to the family. I agree with your assessment 100%. Marshall is

I'm sorry to hear you didn't get responses from some current students, but feel free to PM me if you have any questions. Overall, I've found that the majority of alumni are willing to go out of their way to help (including putting me in contact with CEOs, investors, and other heavy-hitters). I've been fairly involved in a number of the entrepreneurship activities and I know the resources that are available on campus. I also started my own business last year with a fellow Marshall classmate.

Congrats on picking Marshall - I have not regretted it one bit and I'm confident neither will you.

Fight on!
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Re: My USC/UCLA MBA App Experience   [#permalink] 07 Jan 2016, 12:28
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