MBA Applicant Blogger Interview with Tim

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“It’s a lazy stereotype but we’re famed for our ‘stiff upper lip.’”

Get ready to read about our next blogger, Tim, an MBA applicant from the UK who blogs at The adventures of a (provisional) MBA student. Tim shares his experience as a British applicant applying to US schools. Thanks Tim, and best of luck to you!

Accepted: Let’s start with some basics: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? And what is your current job?

Tim: I’m from London in the UK and studied Engineering at Durham University. I’ve worked mainly in manufacturing since graduating, and I am currently a production manager in a cosmetics business.

Accepted: What stage are you up to in the b-school admissions process?

Tim: I’m only really just beginning – I took my GMAT in January and since then I’ve mainly been researching potential schools and preparing to write essays. There’s so much to learn and read out there before you can make an informed choice.

Accepted: What’s been your greatest challenge so far? How have you approached it?

Tim: As an international applicant, without doubt the most difficult part so far is getting to know the schools and get a feel for their personalities from a distance. There’s plenty information out there on facts and figures (almost too much, and conflicting advice) and it’s a bit of a cliché but the culture and values of an educational institution is particularly important. I don’t want a watered-down experience in a large student body but I’m finding it difficult at this stage to get a real feel for some important differences.

I’ve already had some face-to-face contact with some of the schools, and luckily living in a big international city like London there are quite a few presentations now starting to be scheduled over the summer that I hope will allow me to get some more personal information. As I get a bit further with research I’m planning to reach out to some current students too.

Accepted: Where do you planning on applying? Which is your top choice, and why?

Tim: I’m still undecided on my final choices of where to apply. At the moment I like lots of different aspects of different schools. For example I’m interested in supply chain management as it relates heavily to my current job and I’m interested in MIT’s strengths in this aspect and their LGO program. Haas‘ values resonate really strongly with me and shine through in a lot of their communication – that seems particularly strong there. Stanford’s history in fostering innovation, creativity, and its world-famous environment in Silicon Valley is a big draw. I can see the sense in applying a lot of case-based learning to real-world business problems and Harvard Business School is renowned for pioneering this so where better to experience it? Every week I seem to discover something new that appeals to me – I think the coming decisions to narrow down the list will be difficult ones.

Accepted: Why do you want to study in the U.S.? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay close to home and enjoy lower tuition and a shorter program?

Tim: One reason for choosing to study again is that as well as learning the material in the classes (which of course is valuable in itself) I’d experience a different environment and broaden my horizons, especially as peer-learning and sharing in the class is such an important part of an MBA. I was lucky to study in one of the most inspirational universities in the UK with a fantastic history and it really taught me how inspirational studying in that type of world-class environment. I’ve already had the student experience in the UK and gained a lot from it, now I’d like to do the same outside the UK.

Accepted: How have you found the experience of applying to American schools as a Brit? In one of your posts you talk about shifting to an American-style conversation — can you elaborate on that?

Tim: Well it’s certainly different ‘across the pond’. Many people I’ve met from North America in general are warm, friendly, and really welcoming people. They’re also not afraid to talk about their own feelings, seem super-confident about their strengths and weaknesses and open up quite readily. I just don’t think this is something that comes naturally to most Brits – it’s a lazy stereotype but we’re famed for our ‘stiff upper lip’. I think it is a big cultural difference between the UK and the US; I work quite a lot with Americans and see great examples of this contrast on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this is also reflected in the admissions process. I think selling my strengths to the extent that would be considered ‘normal’ is going to be quite challenging as I get to essays (and hopefully interviews).

Accepted: Did you take a GMAT course? Can you offer some advice in this area (i.e. advice in choosing a course or general GMAT tips)?

Tim: I didn’t take a GMAT course, I was entirely self-taught. I tried some free online introductory sessions but didn’t really get enough out of them to justify the investment in a full course, although they were interesting. I have my debrief on my own GMAT experience on my blog but my main advice would be to use practice tests a lot to track progress, identify weaknesses and then focus on improving them. As well as this, don’t read too much into forums where everyone gets a superstar score as it can be quite demoralizing, and remember to keep motivated by rewarding yourself for progress regularly!

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your admissions experience? What do you hope to gain from blogging?

Tim: I had two reasons for starting a blog. Firstly, purely selfishly no one I knew personally was considering something similar and I felt quite isolated – I hoped with a blog I’d find someone to share my thoughts and calibrate them with others, and also another blogger had recommended it for its soothing effect during the demanding admissions process.

Secondly, if I couldn’t find some reassurance out there with someone with a similar background to me then maybe no one else could – I hope it will inspire someone else too in the future. On first impressions MBAs seem to be about finance and management consulting and not for ‘people like me’. I’m more and more convinced most people feel like that when they first hear what an MBA is and I wonder how many get lose interest at such an early stage.

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