Insights of a Tennis Player Turned Kellogg MBA

Check out the rest of our MBA Student Interview seriesThis interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now…introducing Kate Ruckert, a first year student at Northwestern Kellogg.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your most recent pre-MBA job?

Kate: I grew up in Vienna, Virginia, a suburb just outside of Washington DC. I received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Texas-Austin. I majored in Government and I minored in German. I had a great experience at Texas both in the classroom and on the tennis court. I had some outstanding professors, in particular one of whom is considered an expert on the American Presidency. After graduation, I played professional tennis, competing on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour (WTA Tour). After playing on the tour, I decided that I wanted to pursue other opportunities, prompting me to get my MBA.

Accepted: Why are you pursuing an MBA at this stage of your career? What do you plan on doing post-MBA?

Kate: In order to maximize my opportunity to succeed in “traditional” business, I needed to get an MBA. Building a stronger understanding of business concepts would provide me tremendous value long term. I came to Kellogg with the expectation that I would focus on a career in marketing, with a particular concentration in sports. However, I determined that my strengths were actually better suited for a career in finance. I have enjoyed learning about the market and gaining a deeper perspective for capital budgeting decisions that firms make. I am looking forward to my summer internship as an investment banking associate at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. Long term, I hope to have a successful career in investment banking.

Accepted: Can you tell us more about your tennis experience? What’s it like to pursue an MBA and a life in the business world alongside your involvement in the WTA?

Kate: Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a professional tennis player. To put so much into a dream and then actually see that dream become a reality was incredibly rewarding to me. I loved the competition, the training, the fitness and of course winning. I think tennis helped me to develop the skills that will serve me throughout my life. From tennis, I gained tenacity, developed a strong work ethic and an inner drive that has helped me flourish at Kellogg.

Accepted: How’s Kellogg going so far? What’s your favorite thing about the program? Least favorite?

Kate: I have loved my experience at Kellogg. I was excited and proud to have been accepted into the Kellogg program. The actual experience is even better than I expected. There are several things that distinguish Kellogg from other business schools, but the primary one is the people. Kellogg students are incredibly collaborative. They really want to help each other be successful. Kellogg students view each other as assets and they are truly interested in learning from one another. As a result my understanding both inside and outside of the classroom has increased tremendously. I came to Kellogg with no formal business training and I have developed a new lens in which to view the world. In addition, I would say one added benefit of pursuing finance at Kellogg is having the opportunity to work with some outstanding finance professors who are genuinely committed to students’ development.

My least favorite aspect of the program related to me and my lack of experience because in some classes they assume a certain level of expertise which I did not have and had to learn. Consequently, in the first quarter I spent a large amount of time learning the basic concepts and terminology and as a result, probably could not be as engaged as others. Now having spent the time to learn the terminology and the concepts, I have become a better participant in the learning experience.

Accepted: Can you recommend a nice coffee shop on or near campus, a good place to study or hang out with friends?

Kate: I actually find that most people tend to study at the Jake (Jacobs Center). I would also recommend studying at the Starbucks in downtown Evanston. It is one of the nicest Starbucks I have ever been to and it is usually fairly full of students busy studying. I would also suggest Pete’s Coffee and Tea for some studying.

In terms of hanging out, I think a lot of people enjoy going to BAT-17, it is a local restaurant/bar that has really great sandwiches and salads. In my second year, I hope to have a little more free time to explore Chicago.

Accepted: What are your top three tips for MBA applicants?


1) Be yourself. I think that this is one of the most underappreciated areas for prospective students. Be genuine and don’t be afraid of enthusiasm. I think that admissions teams are looking for bright students who are passionate and the best way to convey that is to let your personality shine through.

2) Talk to students at each of the schools you are applying to. I contacted the Women’s Business Association at every school I applied to and spoke with a female student about her experience in the program. I find that students give the most honest practical advice to prospective students. They are a great resource in understanding the culture of the school and how you might fit into the environment.

3) Research the programs you are applying to and see how those programs fit into your future goals.

In closing, I would advise any applicant to realize the incredible opportunity the MBA program affords, opportunities that most people will never get to experience. While the admissions process is difficult, there will be a tremendous sense of appreciation and pride once you are enrolled in the program.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Kellogg see:

•  Kellogg 2014 MBA Essay Questions & Tips

•  2013 Kellogg Executive MBA Admissions Tips

Thank you Kate for sharing your story with us!

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

GMAT, GRE, SAT, and All Things Test Prep

Bhavin-1-closeup-500x500GMAT, GRE, SAT… If one of these tests graces your future, tune in to our interview with Bhavin Parikh, CEO and founder of Magoosh, the leading online test prep company.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Bhavin for great test prep advice and the lowdown on Magoosh.

00:02:17 – The story behind Magoosh and a word about it’s future.

00:04:10 – Why Bhavin is on a “mission to change the way people learn.”

00:06:09 – More effective than traditional test-prep: How do you know?

00:07:44 – What makes Magoosh different.

00:11:39 – The risks of self-study (Magoosh is like a gym membership).

00:14:24 – Best GMAT (and GRE) prep tips.

00:18:29 – The million dollar question: GMAT or GRE?

00:22:15 – SAT changes ahead.

00:25:43 – The Hansoo Lee Fellowship for Haas entrepreneurs.

00:27:58 – Bhavin’s stand on the debate about the value of the MBA to entrepreneurs.

00:30:18 – Last pieces of advice for applicants.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

Admissions Straight Talk Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss a single episode! *Theme music is courtesy of

Relevant Links:

•  Magoosh
•  Should You Retake the GMAT?
•  How to Put Your Best Foot Forward on Test Day 
•  The Hansoo Lee Fellowship
•  7 Steps to a Successful MBA Application

Related Shows:

•  Interview with Chris Ryan of Manhattan GMAT
•  Linda Abraham on Overcoming Weaknesses
•  MBA Admissions According to an Expert
•  CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk:

Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes!     Subscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in Stitcher!

Is it Worth it to Get an MBA?

Check out our MBA Admissions 101 pages!

Does an MBA Pay?

Ah, an age old question. Let’s dive right in!

Forbes reports on a recent 2010 peer-reviewed study that was published in the Journal of Education for Business in which 550 MBA alumni were surveyed and survey data relating to pre-MBA pay, post-MBA starting salaries, and five years post-graduation salaries.

To make this research relevant to most prospective MBA students, this study is based on salary data from a high-quality business school that typically is ranked in the Forbes Top 50 but is not one of the most elite schools, such as Harvard or Stanford. For salary data on all of the Forbes Top 50 business schools, see the 2013 Forbes business school ranking.

Here are some highlights from the study:

• For full-time MBAs, post-MBA starting salaries increased by 50% compared to pre-MBA salaries. This is virtually unchanged from the 50-60% increase in 1994 and the 51% increase in 1997.

• The five-year post-MBA salary increase for full-time MBA grads was up 80% over the post-MBA starting salaries. Again, there was no significant change in this figure compared to previous years.

• For part-time MBAs, the post- over pre-MBA salary increase was 41%.

• The five-year salary increase for part-time MBAs was 56%.

• The report found little connection between the number of years of pre-MBA work experience and the five-year post-MBA salaries.

• For starting salaries, there was a $2,822 pay increase for each year of pre-MBA work experience – this isn’t very significant.

• Starting salaries were about $1,000 higher for finance majors than for marketing majors, but by the end of the five year post-MBA period, those salaries were identical.

• Women earned about 87% of what men earned for post-MBA starting pay. Five years later, they were earning 88% of what men were making. This is true across all disciplines other than finance and marketing. In finance, women earned about 90% of what men earned straight out of b-school, but five years later were earning only 70%. In marketing, both straight out of b-school and five years later, men and women were earning about the same amount.

• The report found no connection between an MBA’s GMAT score and his or her post-MBA salary.

• 94% of MBAs surveyed answered “yes” to the question: “If you had it to do over again, would you still go for an MBA degree?” In 1992, only 92% responded “yes” to that same question.

According to these numbers, there are substantial pay increases post-MBA, particularly five years later. (The Forbes article points to its 2013 Forbes business school ranking for further confirmation, reporting that almost all of the Top 50 programs illustrate an investment payback period of less than five years.)

Join us live for "The Secret to MBA Acceptance"!

How to Find the Ideal Internship

Guest post by Seven Ma, MBA Student at Duke Fuqua in its Health Sector Management Program.

Check out our MBA Goals 101 page!

Understand Your Goals

Most full time MBA students choose to do at least one internship during the summer between their 1st and 2nd years. It’s a great opportunity to apply what we’ve learned in class, rapidly build a professional network in the firm, experience what is going on in the industry, and may even lead to a full time offer. But how does one begin the searching process and find the ideal internship?

1) Talk to a lot of people

The first thing to do is to talk to people who either interned or worked for the firms or industries you’re targeting. It’s okay to not have a specific industry target, and that’s why this is a process that should begin as early as possible. I’d even argue that this should happen even before or during the MBA application process. It’s the easiest, and arguably the most efficient way, to learn about a future job role without actually taking the position. These are also called informational interviews, and offer fantastic insight on what it’s like to work in specific industries or functions.

Where does one start? An effective channel is with alumni. LinkedIn makes this very easy. Do an advanced search and put in some search criteria (company, geography, industry) and also input a school you went to. You’ll be able to create a spreadsheet fairly quickly.

2) Know what companies recruit MBAs for

Companies who recruit on campus at MBA programs are looking for specific roles to fill. It’s important to figure out what these roles are and think about which ones, if any, would be helpful for your future goals. This was something I did not do well initially. In retrospect, I should’ve explored marketing in pharma sooner.  When I started recruiting, I only knew that I wanted to work in pharma but did not know exactly which role would be the most interesting to me.

I should’ve taken time during the spring or summer before the MBA program to figure this out. That way, during on campus corporate presentations and networking events I can dig deeper in the firm’s culture and build more meaningful relationships with recruiters. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the first term of the MBA as classes and recruiting for the summer happen together. Having a targeted approach and head start in the process will be helpful.

3) Be open, and understand your goals

In the recruiting process, it’s important to think about the customer. In this case, it’s the hiring firm. An applicant has to clearly articulate how past experiences are relevant to a future position. To do this, the applicant must first understand what his or hers goals are in order to figure out the translatable skills and experiences.

One tip I have is to be as open as possible. This means to approach this process as a way to learn more about oneself. At Duke Fuqua, we had “Day in Consulting”, “Day in Finance”, and “Day in Marketing” for new first-year MBA students to do just that. However, it’s up to the student to take advantage of these opportunities through being introspective and inquisitive. This is again something that can happen before the MBA. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in industry conferences, Meetups, and several ways to network with folks in your industries or functions of interest.

4) Keep talking to people

Because the first point is so important, I want to repeat it again here. There is no substitute to engaging in conversation with people. I found that this is a great way to test your assumptions and also learn unexpected things about a role or company. The recruiting process is ultimately about finding the right fit between a firm’s culture and the applicant. Talking to people in these firms is often the only way to know what it’s like on the inside, short of actually having worked there. On my blog, I review a lot of books about biopharma companies and enjoy reading them, but they are no substitute to talking to actual people.

Download our free special report, Why MBA, to learn how you can best answer the popular "Why MBA?" application essay question.

Steven_MaSteven Ma is an MBA student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (’15). He has a background in the life sciences and is passionate about innovation in health care. The Duke MBA and its Health Sector Management Program has been a critical part in Steven’s transition into business and he enjoys sharing his experiences. Visit his blog, From Bench to Board.

The HBS Round 3 Deadline is Coming Right Up!

For all of you who are wondering if there is one last thing you can do to improve your Harvard Business School application before you hit submit, the answer is YES!

Take an hour and watch the recording of our popular webinar, The Accepted Guide to Getting into Harvard Business School

Learn the four key principles to gaining acceptance to HBS and make sure you’ve incorporated them in your application.

Watch The Accepted Guide to Getting into Harvard Business School!

Good luck completing your application and let us know if you have any questions.

Watch the Accepted Guide to Getting into Harvard Business School!

9 Fun Facts about the GMAT

Check out our GMAT 101 Page!

Happy 60th Birthday GMAC!

To celebrate GMAC’s 60th birthday, we’ve compiled the following fun GMAT facts from the GMAC site:

1. In 1953, nine b-schools met with ETS to create what would later become the GMAT. Those schools were Harvard, Rutgers, Columbia, Northwestern, Chicago, Seton Hall, Michigan, Washington University (St. Louis), and University of Pennsylvania.

2. Pre-1976 the GMAT was known as the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB).

3. The question formats on the 1954 exam were Best Arguments, Quantitative Reading, Verbal Omnibus (Sentence Completion, analogies, Antonyms), and Quantitative Reasoning (Problem Solving, Data Interpretation). On today’s exam we have Integrated Reasoning, Verbal (Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction), and Quantitative (Problem Solving, Data Sufficiency). As you can see, Problem Solving is the only question format present on today’s exam that was also used on the original test.

4. In 1997 the GMAT exam became computerized.

5. The GMAT was the first standardized test to use palm vein readers – this analyzes specific hand vein patterns of users to ensure security and catch proxy test takers. This was introduced in 2008 and 2009.

6. The first five countries to offer the GMAT (which was then the ATGSB) were the U.S., Canada, England, France, and India.

7. The exam was offered in Hawaii five years before Hawaii became a state.

8. The GMAT is currently available in 113 countries – on every continent except Antarctica.

9. The Official Guide for GMAT Review was introduced in 1978. It’s now in its 13th edition.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

CommonBond Offers New Refinancing Program for Grads

CommonBond just released its new Grad Refinance Loan™, available to law school, med school, engineering, and b-school graduates.

With the new refinancing program, borrowers will receive:

•  Low fixed rates for 10- and 15-year loans.

•  A single monthly bill after the consolidation of multiple loans.

•  Personalized service from the CommonBond team.

Do you want to learn more about CommonBond and how they can help you pay for grad school? Check out our recent podcast, CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans, in which Wharton grads and co-founders of this student loan financing startup share excellent advice on how you can finance your education.

CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans

GRE vs GMAT [Infographic!]

Magoosh just released an excellent new GRE vs. GMAT Infographic that presents a side-by-side comparison of the GRE and the GMAT. Check it out, share it, and decide which test is right for your b-school applications!

Magoosh GRE vs GMAT Infographic

Show Me The Money

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.

On a day like today, I’m doing my happy dance.  My MBA clients have been contacting me with good news from the schools to which they applied.  Several of them have multiple offers with scholarships attached, which immediately present the question:  Can they negotiate their scholarship offers?

Since most of you have yet to take your MBA negotiations class, I’ll give you a little advice…everything is negotiable.  You have an offer of admission and unless you did something egregious that the schools discover in their background research, the school will not take that offer away from you.  In fact, the schools want you to come to their programs so much that they’ve offered you scholarships, tuition discounts, or graduate assistantships to entice you away from other schools.  You are in the power position, but you have limited time to act.

If you have multiple scholarship offers, you have even more power.  So play the schools off each other.  You will need to provide proof of funding and develop a clear statement of what it would take to have you deposit and attend that school.  If school A matches school B’s offer, go back to school B and ask for more.  Many schools have some wiggle room with scholarship offers.  And the worst-case scenario is that school A will say “no” to your request and then there is no harm and no foul.

Caution: While you may be in the power position, remain likeable, respectful and courteous. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by coming off as arrogant.  And if you have deposited at a school, you have diminished your position of power.

If you need additional consultation on this matter, we are available to help you construct the communication that in the words of one of my former clients made his “investment in a very positive ROI.”

You may get accepted. You may get rejected. Either way, you need to answer one question: "Now what?"

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Wharton JD/MBA Student Interview with Craig Carter

Download free: Navigating the MBA MazeThis interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs (or in this case, a top JD/MBA program). And now for a follow up interview with Craig Carter, a second-year student at UPenn’s joint JD/MBA program. (We first met Craig last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: How’s your JD/MBA program going so far? Last we spoke, you had just completed your first year and had been involved only in the law school component of the program. How has your impression of the program changed now that you’ve had more exposure to Wharton?

Craig: The program is going great! Unfortunately, time is flying by too fast. In a couple months, my JD/MBA cohort will have completed the first two years.

My impression of the program has been enhanced through the Wharton experience. Business school and law school are two completely different environments and learning experiences. Business school is largely a team-based project oriented education. Whereas, law school is more individualized theoretical learning. The joint-program provides a complementary training that can only be appreciated after experiencing both schools.

Accepted: What was your favorite thing about Wharton? Least favorite?

Craig: My favorite thing is definitely the endless amount of opportunities to pursue – from clubs and conferences to the entrepreneurship center and leadership treks. There is definitely a place for each individual to develop and thrive in their chosen field or area of interest.

My least favorite thing is the size, which is a bit of a gift and a curse. There are about 850 people in each MBA class. The large size is my least favorite because it’s impossible for me to get to know each classmate as well as I would like. On the others hand, the size and scale creates more opportunities for networking, more diversity of experience in the classroom, and a broader alumni network to leverage.

Accepted: Are you feeling any sort of pull towards either law or business? Is there one field that’s drawing you in more than the other?

Craig: I am definitely feeling the pull toward business. The law is interesting, complex, and necessary; however, I will pursue a career in business. I entered the program intending to begin my career in business, but I have certainly gained a greater appreciation for the legal field after these first two years.

Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up yet for this year? If so, what is it and what role did Wharton play in helping you secure that position?

Craig: I will spend the summer in New York interning in J.P. Morgan’s M&A group. Wharton played a huge role facilitating the recruitment process. Between the career management office and the finance club, each student is completely prepared to secure an internship and succeed thereafter.

Accepted: What is your favorite class so far?

Craig: My favorite business school class was a dynamic marketing simulation. The course focused on issues such as the selection of which businesses and segments to compete in, how to allocate resources across businesses, segments, and elements of the marketing mix, as well as other significant strategic issues facing today’s managers in a dynamic competitive environment.

Accepted: With your dual curriculum, do you find you have time for extracurricular activities or for simply hanging out? Can you talk about how you manage the juggling act?

Craig: The dual curriculum does allow for extracurriculars and a lot of fun. However, it is quite a challenge to maintain a presence in both schools. On the social side, there is plenty of time to hang out with friends. At Wharton, people go out every night – who said Monday night can’t be just like Friday night? Law school is a little less aggressive about the party scene, but law students still know how to have some fun.

Accepted: Which clubs are you involved in on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?

Craig: I am involved in many clubs – affinity, professional, and athletic – at both schools. At Wharton, I am primarily involved with the Black MBA Association, the Finance Club, and Basketball Club. At the law school, I am in the Black Law Student Association, serve on the student government, and represent the student body on the faculty committee.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school or law school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages and Law School Admissions Services. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:

• Wharton 2014 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips

• Wharton Executive MBA 2014 Essay Tips

• What’s Right with Wharton (and How to Get In), a free webinar

• CommonBond: How Two Wharton Grads Revolutionized Student Loans

Thank you Craig for sharing your story with us!

Want to start a business? Partner in a law firm? Go into private equity? Run a media and entertainment company? How about all of the above?