Defining Her Strengths, Researching Schools and Choosing NYU Stern

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Be reflective. Make friends. Take full advantage of the opportunity.

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 Lenore, a student at NYU Stern.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Lenore: I was born in Philadelphia and raised there and in the suburbs of the city. DC was one of my favorite places to visit growing up. Since it was just a short trip from home and my younger siblings, I was really excited to enroll at American University for my undergrad. I went in thinking I’d study international service, but switched to finance and marketing specializations after my first class in the business school.

Ice cream? Probably Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked or S’mores. But sometimes Turkey Hill Chocolate Peanut Butter. I guess it depends on the day. :)

Accepted: What did you do after finishing college?

Lenore: By the time I finished college I had worked in business communications, marketing for a start-up, and nonprofit business development. I didn’t yet understand how I could bring together what I thought were disparate interests in leadership, social impact, and business, so I would take a job and then keep freelancing or consulting or volunteering on the side, always trying to weave together those passions. I would throw myself into projects or jobs, but had a hard time feeling totally satisfied by any one of them. For example: a friend and I were hired to overhaul a local restaurant’s operations; then I was assistant director of an education nonprofit during a strategic redirection. In 2010 I moved to Haiti and worked as a project manager on a program for small businesses and social enterprises. Each of those experiences was enriching and educational for me, and helped me define my strengths and interests.

Accepted: What made you decide to pursue an MBA?

Lenore: Even though I went back and forth on how I would use it, I was always sure I would pursue an MBA. I love solving business problems, and believe that business plays an integral role, potentially a hugely positive one, in our communities and society.

My MBA application journey was an opportunity to identify patterns and common successes in the pieces of my professional background. Specifically, I started to recognize that the moments I was most proud of were those when I partnered with leaders to help shape their work and achieve success in their organizations. Through the admissions process and my own self-discovery, I recognized that working as a business and executive coach would allow me to combine each of the things I was passionate about.

Accepted: How will your MBA help you pursue your entrepreneur goals?

Lenore: An MBA deepens my business acumen, allowing me to support leaders more effectively. It also allows me the time to focus solely on my own professional development, which will make me a much better coach.

Accepted: How did you go about researching schools? Did you participate in any MBA fairs or events?

Lenore: I was first drawn to Stern when, during undergrad, I was looking for MBA programs with real-world opportunities to work in social enterprise. But I kept an open mind, and went to Forte Forums in Washington DC, listened to Forte webinars featuring admissions professionals from several schools, and visited as many of my target programs as I could. I also made a complicated spreadsheet and rating system to track the merits of each school! It was a long process, but I had a great roadmap as a member of the Forte Foundation and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.

Accepted: I’m sure MBA applicants reading your interview would be interested in seeing your spreadsheet. Could you share it with us?

Lenore: Unfortunately I no longer have the computer on which I created the spreadsheets, but here’s my suggestion if someone were to want to create one:

Create a spreadsheet to keep track of important details on each program. My rows were school names, and columns were titled with the features I valued most. I was looking for a program with robust social enterprise and entrepreneurship programs, an urban location, opportunities to travel, and flexibility in the curriculum (but of course these will be different for each applicant). I also took business school rankings into account, and I made a column for notes as well. In as many cases as possible, I went to the school and visited the campus. In some cases, I resorted to reading everything I could find online, and then supplemented that with conversations with current students and alum. Each time I learned more about a program, I tracked the information in my spreadsheet–I probably added to it over the course of two years and looked at 12 schools in total. The final addition to my spreadsheet was a column for my own personal rating of each school based all that I had learned. My personal ratings were also reflective of the intangibles, such as how well I connected with students during campus visits, as I think those are just as important.

All things considered, NYU Stern came out on top, validating the assumption I had made even before doing any research. Despite that I came up with the same result, the spreadsheet process was helpful in that I kept an open mind and it supported me in making an informed decision.

Accepted: Can you talk about your experience with the Forte Foundation? How have they helped you in your MBA admissions journey?

Lenore: I visited the Forte Foundation website quite regularly throughout my admissions process. The practical resources and webinars were especially helpful. I also valued the offline community that Forte creates; I met a GMAT study buddy and many friends at Forte events. Maybe most importantly, I draw inspiration from the Forte community, which is comprised of so many women living such full lives, pursuing and accomplishing their dreams.

Accepted: Which other schools did you apply to? Why did you choose NYU Stern?

Lenore: I ultimately applied to only two schools: NYU Stern and Georgetown, and was accepted to both. As I mentioned, I was interested in NYU even during undergrad, as the program offered an ideal match for my values and goals. NYU Stern provides an “education in possible,” and encourages broad and disruptive thinking. That is just the type of approach I planned to take with my degree and in my work.

Accepted: What are your 3 top tips for MBA applicants?

Lenore:

1. Be reflective. Your essays and interviews will be stronger if you know yourself and your goals. This process will give you the opportunity to tell your story often, so take the time reflect on what you would like to say.

2. Make friends. There are SO many resources out there for aspiring MBAs that you won’t be able to keep up with all of them yourself. Find buddies (through Forte and other networks) who are going through the process as well and can encourage and support you.

3. Take full advantage of the opportunity. You are making a significant investment, so get all that you can out of the process and the experience. Ask questions, make connections, visit schools, attend webinars: whatever you need to do to be informed and excited about pursuing your degree.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages

Thank you Lenore for sharing your story with us!

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Related Resources:

• NYU Stern 2015 MBA Questions, Tips, and Deadlines
Forte Helps Women in Business Thrive: Interview with Elissa Sangster
• Interviews with current MBA students

Why Johnson? An Admitted Student Shares her Journey

Debra_Yoo_Cornell_Johnson_StudentThis 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 follow up interview with Debra Yoo, who was recently accepted to Johnson at Cornell University. (We first met Debra last year – you can read our first interview with her here.)

Accepted: Welcome back! Can you just remind our readers — where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any other degrees?

Debra: I grew up in the Chicagoland area and attended Columbia University for undergrad where I majored in English and Asian American Studies along with completing Columbia’s Creative Writing Program (as you can see, I did not have a very business-oriented background!). After spending a few more years in NYC, I moved to Los Angeles with my husband. We were there for about four years before we relocated to Ithaca last month.

Accepted: Congrats on gaining accepted to Johnson! What are the 3 main traits of the Johnson school that attracted you to it?

Debra:

1) The people. Of all the students and alumni that I contacted at the various schools I applied to, those who attended Johnson had the highest response rate–by far. And not only did they respond promptly, they answered my questions very thoroughly and honestly. I was so impressed. It really speaks to the quality of Johnson’s smaller, tight-knit community.

2) The location. I know, I know–many folks out there don’t apply to Johnson because of its location, but Ithaca really appealed to me. Aside from its natural beauty, I wanted to be in a small town where I could get to know my fellow students without the distractions of a big city. I’m finding that many others here also had the same mindset when they chose Johnson, which once again shows that community is a high priority for most everyone here.

3) Johnson’s immersion program. I didn’t want my schooling to be completely academic and theoretical–I wanted as much hands-on experience as I could possibly get. At Johnson, most of the core coursework (accounting, finance, marketing, etc.) is completed during the first semester of the first year, leaving time during the second semester to complete an in-depth consulting project for a real-life company. For the marketing immersion, students in the past have completed projects for companies including Microsoft, Bayer and HP.

Accepted: How did you go about researching schools? Did you participate in any MBA fairs or events?

Debra: I attended a Forte Forum in Los Angeles in August 2013, which was unbelievably helpful. The Forum really helped me finalize my choices of schools; at that point, I had pored over a ton of websites but hadn’t made any connections with the schools in person. I looked into other MBA fairs, but none of them had all the schools I wanted to apply to–maybe two or three at most. The Forte Forum was the only event that had almost all the top schools present. If you are a woman planning on applying to top 20 b-schools, the forum is a great way to speak to recruiters from them in one room. And you get to do it in a smaller, female crowd. It’s wonderful all around.

Aside from the forum, I also emailed/spoke with ambassadors and alumni at all the schools I was interested in. I was originally planning on staying in the nonprofit space after graduating, so I had many questions about nontraditional paths that I wanted answers to. Speaking with the right alumni whose careers post-b-school resonated with me played a lot into my final decision making.

I was told that it was really important to visit campuses in person before applying, but I did not have the resources or time to do so. For a long time I agonized over whether I was decreasing my chances of admission by not doing campus visits, but I believe the impact was minimal (if it impacted me at all). But if you’re able to visit campuses, you really should! They can give you great fodder for your essays and help you make sure that the school is the right place for you.

Accepted: Can you talk about your experience with the Forte Foundation? What do they do and how have they helped you?

Debra: I love the Forte Foundation, and I owe much of my success so far to their support!

The Forte Foundation is a consortium of top b-schools and leading companies who support women in business. Women still have a ways to go when it comes to equal representation in business, especially in senior management. It’s an issue we all need to remain aware of and take thoughtful and deliberate actions to address.

I first discovered Forte when I started my MBA application process, and I’m so glad I did. I never thought that I would one day attend business school, so I was really starting my learning from scratch. I listened to several of Forte’s free webinars about the application process and read through their entire website for guidance.

I am also very thankful to have been selected a Forte Fellow by the Johnson admissions team. In addition to receiving a scholarship (that I am very, very grateful to have!), being a Fellow comes with many other benefits including networking opportunities and support for your job search.

I also attended the 2014 Forte MBA Women’s Leadership Conference that was held in Los Angeles earlier this year. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by hundreds of other talented, ambitious women who were all about to begin their MBA journeys. And it was also a great way to kick off our new lives as students and remind us that we are all working together toward closing the gender gap in business.

Accepted: Have you taken any classes or prepared in any other way to your smooth transition to business school?

Debra: I have never taken a single economics or statistics course in my entire life, much less accounting or finance. I was really concerned about my lack of experience in the area, so I completed an online pre-MBA mathematics course at a nearby university earlier this year. It exposed me to some of the common terms and calculations I’ll come across in school.

Johnson also provided us access to mbamath.com (I believe several other business schools do this, also) over the summer. I’ve been working my way through the units on finance, economics and statistics to prepare myself.

In addition to all the math, I switched my leisure reading time to business-related books, including authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Dale Carnegie and Sheryl Sandberg.

Accepted: What sort of career do you plan on pursuing post-MBA?

Debra: My background so far is in marketing/communications in the nonprofit sector. After school, I plan on doing marketing in the corporate world in the consumer packaged goods industry. I am hoping to return to the nonprofit sector later on down the line at a senior management level.

Accepted: B-school’s not cheap!  Do you have tips for financing an MBA?

Debra: It’s tough; really, really tough. The (very) few third-party scholarships I’ve found out there are for very specific populations and are for smaller amounts. All I can say is to really take your future career path into account when considering the cost of your program. If you are planning on entering the nonprofit space, look for schools with loan forgiveness programs like Yale or Stanford. And if you get scholarship offers, try negotiating the amount. When budgeting, keep a large buffer for travel expenses. Also check out loan alternatives like Common Bond. There’s some interesting stuff out there if you look for it!

Accepted: Do you have any advice for applicants about the start the MBA admissions journey?

Debra: Go beyond rankings, career placement stats and average starting salaries when narrowing down your options. Try to get as good a feel as you can for the community and the types of people at the schools you’re interested in. I think a good way to measure this is whether you feel a desire to contribute to and help develop and grow that community. You’ll be spending the next two years with those people and they will be your professional network for the rest of your life, so find a good match!

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages

Thank you Debra for sharing your story with us!

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Interview with a Future NYU Stern MBA and Forte Fellow

NYU Stern Admitted Student InterviewThis 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 an interview with Lourdes, a Forte Fellow who was recently accepted to NYU Stern.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite non-school book?

Lourdes: I was born in Lima, Peru, and my family moved to Charlotte when I was very young. I grew up there and attended North Carolina State University, where I obtained degrees in Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Business Management. My favorite non-school book is “It Happened on the Way to War” by Rye Barcott.

Accepted: Why did you choose NYU Stern?

Lourdes: I decided to go to business school to fine tune my analytical and economic skills and sought a program that offered practical knowledge applied in real-world settings. I also wanted to be in a location that could offer a business playground as a complement to my education. NYU Stern offers the opportunity to learn in NY, which is at the vortex of the business world. I also appreciated the dynamic leadership of the administration, faculty and students. NYU Stern was a curriculum that not only had a legacy of excellence but also a commitment to innovation. Being able to build on the history of the program, as well as implement visionary thinking, was a key factor for me.

Accepted: How would you say you’re a perfect fit with the program? (Unless you believe you’re not a good fit, in which case, please talk about that!)

Lourdes: Throughout the admissions process, the more I learned about NYU Stern, the more I found I had in common with the program. From speaking with students about their goals, with Admissions representatives about international treks to reading articles in the school newspaper about student life, it became clear that NYU Stern was the right fit for me. The students I met were impressive, fun-loving and helpful. They were willing to share insight about their experiences and also be real with me.

At Diversity Weekend, Dean Peter Henry asked us to think about how we would use our MBA degree to make a difference. That resonated profoundly with me in my decision to attend NYU Stern.

Accepted: What clubs or extracurricular activities are you planning on being involved in with?

Lourdes: I plan on being involved with Stern Women in Business, the Association of Hispanic & Black Business Students and the Social Enterprise Association.

Accepted: What have you been doing professionally since college?

Lourdes: My family has a business in the construction and design/build industry. Upon graduating, I worked for the firm in a marketing capacity. I created a separate division of the company dedicated to the real estate investments and property management. I wanted to get my feet wet in the corporate world and was able to gain a position on the sales and trading floor at Sanford C. Bernstein in NY. I was on the sell-side research team dedicated to hedge fund clients. I learned from leaders in the field and wanted to amplify my client-facing skills in a setting more directly tied to the business community. I came across a role in which I could apply my marketing and relationship building skills as the director of public policy at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. I monitored issues that affect the cost of doing business in Charlotte and actively engaged chamber members to learn about pro-business public policies. It was necessary to collaborate with stakeholders from the private, public and social sectors to gain their buy-in for issues.

Accepted: Do you plan on staying in that same industry post-MBA, or switching to something new?

Lourdes: My experience in different industries has driven me to learn a holistic approach to business. For that reason, I am looking forward to specializing in Management, Strategy and Social Innovation and Impact to learn the best tools for achieving profit by means of impactful initiatives. I am considering different industries and am seeking a career that will allow me to help a company reach fiscal goals while maintaining a social-conscious approach.

Accepted: What has your experience with the Forte Foundation been like? How has Forte helped you?

Lourdes: I became aware of the Forte Foundation while I was working on my school applications. I was thankful that there was an organization dedicated to promoting women in business. So you can imagine how excited I was to be named a Forte fellow! I was able to attend the Forte Conference in Los Angeles in June. I benefited from networking with the companies and panelists offering advice based on their experiences both in business school and their careers. I was offered an internship at the conference, which I am considering, for next summer. Forte helped make those connections.

Accepted: As someone who’s successfully applied to business school, you must have some good advice! Can you share your top 3 admissions tips with our readers?

Lourdes: I found the most important part of the admissions process to be self-discovery in terms of why I was pursuing an MBA, how I hoped to use my degree and what school was the best fit. Although the applications ask these questions, it’s important you ask yourself them as well. My top three tips would be:

1. Know your strengths and weaknesses.


2. Attend every MBA event (that your schedule allows) to learn the most about each program’s offerings.

3. Speak with at least two current students from each program you are considering.

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 NYU Stern, check out our NYU Stern 2015 MBA Essay Tips.

Thank you Lourdes for sharing your story with us!

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Leadership, Tech, & Forte: IV with a Cornell MBA Student

Check out the rest of our MBA student interviews!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, introducing Sarah Markels Maynard, a second year student at Cornell Johnson

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?

Sarah: I grew up in sunny San Diego, California. For college, I ventured back east to Wellesley College, where I majored in Physics. Something that I did not appreciate until after graduating from Wellesley was how empowering it had been to have strong, smart, and capable women in all of the leadership roles around me. It was incredibly inspiring for me and I feel that it helped motivate me to excel in hard science fields that I wouldn’t have normally felt comfortable pursuing. This is why it has been especially important to me to be involved in the Forte Foundation and other activities that support women in pursuing their desired careers.

Accepted: Where are you in b-school? What year?

Sarah: It is hard to believe, but I will be graduating in a few short weeks from the two-year MBA program at Johnson at Cornell University. The two years go by far more quickly than you think that they will! After graduation, I am excited to say that I will be joining GE Capital ECLP, a rotational commercial leadership program.

Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about Johnson? 

Sarah: I was originally attracted to Johnson’s tight-knit community and found that I truly connected to all of the students that I met while exploring my options for business school. Over the course of my two years I have found that Johnson really does hold up to my initial impressions. The faculty is superb and I love that the school truly responds to student concerns. In direct response to student and faculty input, Johnson is going to be revising its core curriculum for the upcoming year to better address student needs.

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

Sarah: While at Johnson, I have gotten extremely involved in the community – it adds a lot to the business school experience because it enables you to reach different groups across campus and give back to the community. As a Forte Fellow, I have been involved in several of the recruiting events for women interested in business school and I served as a student representative on the Diversity Council and the female subcommittee. Additionally, I served as President of the Women’s Management Council, VP of Marketing of the High Tech Club, and, most recently, I co-founded the Johnson Women in Technology Conference with one of my fellow second year classmates at Johnson.

Accepted: Can you tell us about the Women in Technology Conference?

Sarah: In my first year in business school, I went on a trek to Seattle to visit some of the high tech companies in the city. I shared a room with my classmate, Melissa Adeyanju, who was interested in pursuing a career at a tech company but was uncertain about her chances given her non-engineering background. Having worked in tech, I knew that a degree in engineering was certainly not a requirement! We spoke about ways that we could foster a community for women who were interesting in finding a future in tech and ultimately founded the Johnson Women in Technology (JWiT) Conference. The first year’s theme was “Power Up Your Future” and our aim was to start a conversation for women interested in investing in their futures in technology. We had an excellent line up of speakers and panels. We have already picked the new co-chairs for next year’s conference, so mark your calendars for March 20, 2015!

Accepted: Can you talk about your experience with the Forte Foundation? 

Sarah: I’m very proud to be a Forte Fellow and greatly value the doors that it opens up for female MBA Candidates. They hold an annual conference for women joining Forte Sponsor MBA programs and I highly recommend attending the conference, regardless of whether or not you are a Forte Fellow. I met some of my closest friends at Johnson at the Forte Conference in 2012 in Los Angeles. The conference is a great place to not only meet other incoming students, but also get some tips for hitting the ground running once you start your program.

Accepted: What would you say are your top 3 MBA admissions tips?

Sarah:

1. Know yourself – Understand your top three defining characteristics and weave these descriptions throughout your application and interviews. Knowing who you are and your defining strengths is key not only to getting into business school, but also finding your perfect career after business school.

2. Paint a clear picture of your future – When thinking about business school and writing your application, I realized that I had to do a lot of soul searching of how an MBA truly fit into my future and how it would help me get where I wanted to go. You should have a clear idea of the skills and experiences that only an MBA program can provide. Even more, you need to understand what you will bring to that MBA program.

3. Get to know current students – For most programs you are going to be dedicating two years of your life to your education. This means taking yourself out of the workforce and using that time to invest in yourself. You need to make sure that you actually like the people that you will be spending time with, especially during the demanding curriculum that many of the top programs will give you.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages

Thank you Sarah for sharing your story with us! You can connect with Sarah via LinkedIn.

This report will help you navigate the MBA Maze 

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Forte Helps Women in Business Thrive: Interview with Elissa Sangster

Listen to the full conversation!Things have come full circle for Admissions Straight Talk. We couldn’t be more excited about our second interview with the very first guest to have appeared on our podcast: Elissa Sangster, Executive Director for the Forté Foundation.

Listen to the recording of our conversation to learn about the newest programs Forté is running to support women MBAs (past, present, and future).  

00:03:32 – What’s new and exciting at Forté.

00:06:52 – Does going into business equal selling your soul?

00:12:51 – The very exciting MBALaunch program.

00:15:05 – Why Forté has reached out to 5,000 women in college.

00:20:20 – A word on the challenges facing women who want to go to b-school.

00:22:19 – Forté’s support for women post-MBA.

00:26:30 – What is the FortéFellows Program and how can someone get involved?

00:28:30 – The difference between the Forté Forum and other MBA fairs.

00:31:29 – Elissa’s take on the “Is an MBA worth it” debate.

00:36:47 – Advice for MBA applicants (very good advice, btw).

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!

*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Related Links:

• Forté Foundation
• MBA Launch
• Get Accepted in 2015: 7 Steps to a Successful MBA Application
, a webinar
• The Secret to MBA Acceptance, a webinar

Related Shows:

• Interview with Forté’s Elissa Ellis Sangster
• From Luxury Marketing to Entrepreneurship: A Talk with Daria Burke
• CommonBond’s Story: A Revolution in Student Loans
• Interview with Anna Runyan of Classy Career Girl

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Check out MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips