This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Erik Moon, a recent graduate from Stanford MSx.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where did you go to business school?
Erik: First of all, I’m a bit older than the typical MBA student. I’m in my early 40s and have nearly 20 years of experience in product management, project management and operations in telecom, data centers and corporate IT. I’ve spent about half my career in Silicon Valley and the other half in Northern Virginia – so the two primary schools I was interested in were UVA / Darden and Stanford GSB.
I did my undergrad (BS Economics) as well as a masters degree (MS Information Systems) at George Washington University in Washington DC. I just graduated (2014) from the Stanford MSx program (previously known as the Sloan Fellows program). It is a full-time one-year program for experienced professionals. The summer / fall quarters are spent taking mostly core classes (like an MBA 1st year) and the winter / spring quarters are mostly electives (like an MBA 2nd year).
Accepted: What’s the difference between Stanford Sloan and Stanford’s MSx degree?
Erik: Same thing… The Sloan program has almost 60 years of history as a degree program for experienced professionals. The program has changed significantly in the last few years to make the curriculum more flexible and incorporate the opportunity for many more electives than in years past. It is a 4-quarter full-time degree program, so Stanford doesn’t like to call it an EMBA – so students are not able to continue work while taking classes, but many students (approx 30%) are sponsored by their employers.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Stanford? And if you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Erik: That is a huge question! My favorite thing about Stanford has to be the optimism – the students all expect to be doing great things some day. People don’t come to Stanford just to slowly climb into middle management. The GSB motto – Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world. – is not an exaggeration…
If I could change one thing, I would want to increase awareness of the MSx program. It is a hidden gem that many people have simply never heard of in their b-school search. I think the branding (not wanting to call the program an EMBA) makes it very confusing. When mid-career applicants ask if Stanford GSB has an EMBA, the first answer is “NO” – then these applicants simply look elsewhere. But if they ask the right question – “Does Stanford GSB have a mid-career graduate business degree program?” – they would find the best “executive-level” business degree at the best b-school in the world.
Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier? What do you wish you would’ve known when you started the program?
Erik: Since it is only a 1-year program, it is important to understand exactly what you want to get out of your short time on campus and quickly figure out how to get it. It requires a lot of initiative and focus when there are lots of life changes and distractions all around. You can’t sit back and expect all the good things to come to you – students need to actively seek opportunities and grab it.
That said, Stanford GSB has an acronym – FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out – there are so many events, clubs, guest speakers, presentations, brown-bag-lunches and other things happening that it is really easy to get frustrated or swamped. You have to come to the realization that you will never be able to attend everything. Again, important to quickly determined what you will get the best value for your time and prioritize!
Accepted: Can you tell us about Stanford’s unusual six-point grading system?
Erik: I blogged about this here: http://sloanlife.com/2014/08/02/gsb-grades-the-elusive-h/
Bottom line: Get your highest possible marks as early as possible and anchor your GPA nice and high while you’re taking relatively straightforward core classes. This affords you the freedom to later take classes you WANT to take and not worry at all about the grades.
Accepted: Were you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?
Erik: Not at all central, but the clubs are great ways to find other students with similar interests (and usually get a lot of free food / beer). I mostly spent my time with Entrepreneurship Club and High Tech Club. Participation is completely optional and you could certainly get by with never attending a club event…
Accepted: Now that you’ve graduated, what are you up to?
Erik: I’m currently working on a startup – Hinted.com – we’re building a platform for personal and professional feedback.
Accepetd: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the b-school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Erik: I should have gotten off my ass and applied sooner… I could easily have done this 3-4 years ago… The GMATs were a perfect excuse for me to procrastinate. In retrospect, should have just bitten the bullet a long time ago when the quant material was a lot more fresh in my mind.
Accepted: Do you have any other advice for our business school applicant readers?
Erik: Apply to the best school you know you will get into first (and that you would be willing to go to) – and apply early! This will take off all the pressure. Once you have this acceptance, you can go pursue the dream schools top down, instead of inching upwards. This is the approach I took – I first applied to UVA Darden GEMBA and was accepted. I was completely willing to take that program – but then I started realizing that maybe I should try getting into more exclusive programs. I applied to Stanford MSx and intended to apply to Wharton San Francisco. I was accepted into Stanford and didn’t even have to fill out another application.
Also, if you want to go to a top school, don’t even bother applying until you can post a 700 GMAT or better. The application process is simply too competitive.
You also need to distinguish yourself in some way. You can have a 750 GMAT, a 3.9 GPA and great work experience and not look like an interesting candidate. Find something interesting about yourself where you can truly say that you have world-class talent / skills / experience to differentiate yourself.
Don’t hold back – you are your own best advocate – your b-school application is not the time for modesty (but don’t lie either). Demonstrate how you will take what Stanford (or other school) will give you and leverage that to give back to the community.
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.
You can read more about Erik’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Sloan Life. Thank you Erik for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
The LBS essay questions get right to the point, covering the core factors and that’s it – no nonsense, no meandering, no excess verbiage in the questions – therefore, ensure there’s none in your essays. Although succinct, these two questions, together, create a well-rounded picture of your candidacy: who you are as a professional (including past experience and future goals) and who you are as a person more broadly (in ways that are relevant to and will enhance LBS). In answering each question, keep in mind the picture that they create together. Note that the London Business School has historically been very concerned about your contribution and fit, and these essays continue that emphasis.
1. What are your post-MBA plans and how will your past experience and the London Business School programme contribute? (500 words)
A solid, user-friendly, and effective structure for this essay starts with an intriguing fact, anecdote, or quote. This opening should relate to your goals and engage the reader. Then detail your post-MBA plans, focusing more on the practical aspects and the short-term phase.
For the second part of the question, either (a) weave in salient points from your career as you delineate your goals or (b) discuss the relevant past experience in a separate paragraph, whichever works best for you. Then add a paragraph addressing specific aspects of the LBS program that support your plans.
2. How will you add value to the London Business School community? (300 words)
Identify and describe two to three distinctive points (can be professional or non-work, but at least one should be professional) that show the adcom what you’ll contribute to the program. Show how they’ll add value by specific anecdote and/or detail. In doing so, consider the LBS culture. This short essay is a way to demonstrate your appreciation of the program’s culture, values, and personality, so address those factors in discussing how you will add value.
3. (Optional). Is there any other information you believe the Admissions Committee should know about you and your application to London Business School? (300 words)
You can use the optional essay not just to explain a problem (e.g. low GMAT, employment gap, choice of recommender) but also to present new material that you think will enhance your application. However, if you are making the adcom read more than is required, there should be a good reason. First, succinctly explain any points that need explaining. Then, if there is something you feel is important that you haven’t had a chance to discuss elsewhere, write about it, noting why it’s important for your application.
|Stage||Application deadline||Interview decision sent on||Admission decision sent on|
|2||05 January 2015||05 February 2015||26 March 2015|
|3||27 February 2015||02 April 2015||14 May 2015|
|4||17 April 2015||21 May 2015||25 June 2015|
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com.
In the last academic year (2013-2014), enrollment of international students at U.S. colleges increased 8% to a record high of 86,052. Here are some highlights from a recent article by The Chronicle of Higher Education:
1. One-third of the foreign students in 2013-2014 came from China, accounting for nearly 60% of the growth of the foreign student population at American colleges.
2. The Chinese student demographic in the U.S. has gotten younger. Ten years ago, more than 80% of Chinese students were in graduate school, whereas now the split is closer to 50-50 between undergrad and grad students.
3. There has even been growth among Chinese high school students studying in the U.S. (about 23,500 students). This means that in the future, a) U.S. colleges will be able to recruit Chinese students from U.S. soil, and b) Chinese college students will have an easier time adjusting culturally and academically to college life in the U.S.
4. Possible reason for increase in growth of Chinese student population: dissatisfaction with the Chinese school system.
5. The second largest source of international college students in the U.S. is India, with foreign student volume up 6%.
6. Possible reason for increase in growth of Indian student population: a stronger rupee, making overseas study more affordable. Many of the Indian students attending university in the U.S. were recruited from other countries where Indian families work or study.
7. The countries with the largest percentage growth in foreign students were Kuwait (43%), Brazil (22%), and Saudi Arabia (21%), all three of which have large government-sponsored scholarship programs in place to send students abroad (and pay in full for their studies). This makes them very attractive to American universities.
8. Most of the Saudi and Kuwaiti students who study abroad go to the U.S. (86% and 68% respectively), compared to just under 50% of Brazilians.
9. More than 10% of student visa holders in the U.S. are on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) which allows students in the STEM fields to stay and work in the U.S. for up to 29 months after completing their studies.
10. In terms of American students studying abroad, those numbers are barely moving. In 2012-2013, the number of students who went abroad went up just 2%, with an increase in the number of non-white students and an increase in those students studying in STEM fields.
I’ve been working at a company called Pinfinity for about two years. The field of business is one where guts matter just as much as brains and where the people that win in the end are the people who are willing to look far ahead into the future and be willing to ride it out through the bumps and loops that you have to go through. You have to adapt and change on the go, and when things get tough, quitting is not an option. There is a lot more in common between medical school and business than I anticipated, and I have realized that there are some things that I learned from business that I would have benefited from during college, and even into medical school.
1. Procrastination: Do not get into the habit! It is bad in college, it is worse in medical school. There at just days, I know, where getting started is the most difficult thing to do. Looking at the huge task at hand makes it easy to get overwhelmed so try by just making one tiny move in the right direction such as writing one sentence down, then one paragraph, etc. Do not look at the end, just focus on one step at a time.
2. Time management: This is of key importance to getting through medical school and those heavier courses in college. Pay attention to where you’re focusing your time. Now pay attention to the number of hours in the day that you are spending watching TV, playing video games, or looking though Facebook. You’ll be surprised how much time is wasted, and if you were to restrict that wasted time, your productivity would skyrocket.
3. Multitasking: Somebody told me once that multitasking is the best way to do multiple things wrong really quickly. Try to focus on one thing at a time, be it studying, writing, or watching TV. This will allow you to get things done efficiently and with a better end result.
4. Leadership: Medicine is leadership, no matter how you cut it. The main goal of the career is to become an attending physician, the doctor who is making all of the big decisions, caring for patients and having the responsibility of keeping the sick from getting sicker. Commonly they are asked, “What do you want to do Doctor?” with everybody expecting the next step in care from them. Developing this skill now is a great way to get ahead of the pack. Start and run groups at school, get high positions in current clubs, or excel in sports. Become a strong leader now, and it will help you greatly in your road to medicine.
5. Research: Research, both in small and large scale is a must. Being good at efficiently figuring out answers on your own, be it via reading or searching on the net, is of extreme importance. Any team will see you as a key part of it, other students will trust your judgment, and you will get respected in the wards and by your supervising physicians. In the long term, a CV that shows your interest in research as a component will always be looked highly upon, both on your medical school application and beyond.
By keeping these things in mind, making that jump into medical school won’t be as daunting as it can be.
Have any of your other life experiences taught you something about excelling in your path to medicine? Tell us about it!
Carlos Guzman is a 4th year medical student at UCLA and the VP of Content Management at Pinfinity, a company aimed at providing study materials for starting medical students and beyond. Get published now! contact him at Carlos@pinfinity.com
In the words of a Columbia applicant who was asked “was there something you wish you had known ahead of time?”:
Yes – I wish I had known more about the interviewer: what company she worked for, her role in the organization, her seniority, etc. That would have helped me mentally prepare for the kind of person I would be speaking to and be able to relate to her better.
If you have your interviewer’s name, Google him or her and try to glean a little information about this person so you can connect better on an interpersonal level. If you don’t know your interviewer’s name or simply can’t find it on the Internet, don’t sweat it. It isn’t a must.
Nationally recognized career coach Dr. Lois Frankel advises job applicants before a job interview to remember that, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” I am a firm believer in that adage.