IV with a UC Berkeley Haas Admitted Student and 2013 MBA Launcher

Check out the rest of our MBA Applicant Interview series!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicants, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing Marisa who will be starting at UC Berkeley Haas in the fall.

Accepted: Let’s start with some basics: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?

Marisa: I’m from Santa Barbara, CA, but went to college at Northwestern University, where I majored in Middle East History and International Relations.  My favorite non-school book is “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini — he’s such a powerful storyteller.

Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to Haas! How would you say that you’re a good fit with the program?

Marisa: Thank you!  I was really attracted to Haas’ four Defining Principles, but particularly “confidence without attitude.”  When I visited the school and spoke with both current and former students, I found this cultural attribute to be absolutely true — these people are rockstars, but they are humble about their accomplishments and eager to collaborate with others.  I think this phrase describes me pretty well.  I’m confident and ambitious but don’t like to be a jerk about it, and I certainly don’t believe that my success should come at the expense of someone else’s. Plus, I truly believe that humility is essential to good leadership, and I like how Haas emphasizes that as a key aspect of their culture

Accepted: Which other b-schools had you considered?

Marisa: I applied to Stanford’s GSB in Round 1, and Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business in Round 2 (but withdrew my application after being accepted to Haas).  I also strongly considered Northwestern’s Kellogg SOM but ultimately decided I did not want to return to Evanston.  I don’t like to repeat experiences, even though I’m sure Kellogg itself would have differed from undergrad.  Also, it’s freezing.  But we’ll pretend that wasn’t a serious factor…

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to in starting b-school in the fall?

Marisa: I’m most looking forward to meeting my classmates and hearing about their experiences and goals for the future.  I’m also looking forward to some of the experiential education opportunities at Haas, like the International Business Development course and Social Sector Solutions consultancy.  As a history major, I rarely had the opportunity to directly tie my classroom learning to practical applications, so I look forward to learning new material in class and then applying it on projects right away.

Accepted: You have a really interesting work history — currently at Deloitte and previously at the FBI. First, can you tell us about what you did at the FBI (if you’re allowed…), and then, how did that lead you to Deloitte, and where do see yourself working post-MBA?

Marisa: My work history sounds more interesting than it is!  I was a strategic intelligence analyst in the FBI’s counterterrorism division, where I basically conducted research and wrote papers (sounds like a history major, right?).  The intelligence products I wrote, and briefings that I gave to decisionmakers, theoretically helped guide investigations of terrorist activity.  I did have some cool experiences (briefed the Director a couple times and traveled internationally to brief some partner agencies), but ultimately I found the pace a little slow and the bureaucracy more than a little maddening.  I was also far from the action on the ground, so I didn’t feel like I was able to have a true impact in my role.  Ultimately, it just wasn’t the right fit.

I saw consulting as an opportunity to help organizations like my previous employer address the issues that get in the way of executing their missions effectively. So last January I joined Deloitte as a consultant in their Federal Practice here in DC, where I have been working with IC clients on things like strategic planning and business process improvement. I have also been heavily involved with the Federal Women’s Initiative (WIN), founding and leading the WIN Gen Y team focused on engaging and empowering junior women professionals in the Federal Practice. Deloitte is a great company and I’ve learned a ton, but I feel ready to take the next step in my career with an MBA.  Post-Haas, I see myself working in international development consulting, helping organizations create positive social and economic impacts in emerging markets (specifically, in the Middle East).

Accepted: Can you tell us about your experience as a 2013 MBA Launcher? And what about your experience with Forte? Are these programs that you’d recommend to other b-school applicants?

Marisa: I really enjoyed participating in the pilot Forte MBALaunch program.  For those who are unfamiliar, Forte Foundation established this program to help MBA-interested women navigate the application process, from identifying target schools to acing the GMAT to executing on essays and interviews.  In 2013, the program was launched in New York, DC, and Chicago and included an in-person kick-off event, monthly webinars, a personal advisor, placement in a peer group of other MBALaunch women, and attendance at a local Forte-sponsored MBA fair.

I found the monthly webinars, particularly the ones that forced me to really think about my “story” and how to present myself to the admissions committee, to be extremely helpful.  I don’t think I would have had quite the edge I needed without that guidance.  Plus, since the program started in January, it forced me to start thinking about the process very early, and then kept me on track for Round 1 submissions.

When I applied to the program, I was most excited about being paired with an advisor — a woman who had received her MBA and would help me through the application process.  However, I ended up finding the peer mentorship of my fellow MBALaunch women to be even more impactful.  My advisor provided some necessary tough love and advice — like insisting I consider retaking the GMAT when that was the last thing I wanted to do, which led me to improve my score by 30 points.  But my peer group provided me nearly constant support.  We shared resources, read each others’ essays, and advised one another when we ran into challenges.  In fact, even though the program has officially ended, we’re still getting together soon to help one of our members make her enrollment decision.

Overall, I had a really positive experience with MBALaunch and the awesome Forte women who run the program.  I hope to continue my involvement with Forte in the future.

Accepted: As someone who applied successfully to b-school, you must have some good tips to share. Can you offer 2-3 tips for our readers?

Marisa: Every applicant is different, but I can offer some general tips that worked for me:

1. Get beyond the rankings lists.  Really think about what you want, and what characteristics are important to you — class size, location, specific focus areas or experiences, recruitment relationships, etc.  It’s not as obvious as you’d think, so talk to those people in your life who know you best and can help you figure out what aspects of a program to prioritize.  And keep an open mind — your dream school might just surprise you.

2. Talk to current students at the schools you’re considering before you start your applications, especially if you’re unable to visit campus before applying.  Not only will this help you get a feel for a school’s culture and determine whether it’s a good prospect for you, but it will also help you target your essays and guide your recommenders in a way that demonstrates your fit with the school.  Speaking of guiding your recommenders…

3. Have candid conversations with your recommenders about why you’re applying to MBA programs, why you’re a fit with the schools you’ve chosen, and what questions they need to address in your recommendations.  I put together packets of logistical and background information for my recommenders, including deadlines, instructions, the specific questions (if available), and context on what I was hoping to get out of an MBA at each school.  Some recommenders will want you to write your own recommendations — resist the urge, and push back!  You can offer to provide as much or as little support they need in terms of brainstorming content and keeping them on track with deadlines, but ultimately the best recommendations are genuine.  If someone doesn’t want to write your rec themselves, they’re probably not the best person for the job.

4. Visit campuses in the spring before you apply!  I totally didn’t do this and wished I had, because many schools don’t open for tours prior to the R1 deadlines.

5. Be sure to take breaks to be with friends and talk about something — anything! — besides b-school.  When you’re head-down in applications with deadlines approaching, it’s tempting to shut everyone and everything out.  The whole process can become an obsession very quickly, so this is way easier said than done, but totally worth keeping in mind.

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


2013 Forté Forum: Inspiration, Opportunity and the MBA

Forte“As a Forte Fellow, I have access to many great benefits, including networking events, webinars, and the annual Forte Conference. Even before school started, I was welcomed by my second-year Forte mentor from Georgetown who helped me navigate the first weeks of school.” – Teri Delgado, Forté Fellow and recent Accepted.com blog interviewee.

Do you want to learn more about the Forté Foundation? Attend the 2013 Forté Forum!

Female business leaders and admission officers from top b-schools will be available for networking, advising, and mingling during the upcoming Forté Forum event for women. These professionals will help you explore the possibility of pursuing an MBA, develop the best career strategy, and choose the right business school for you.

DATE: August 19 – October 2, 2013
TIME: 6:00 – 9:00 pm
PLACE: 10 cities across North America and Europe

August 19 Chicago
August 20 Boston
August 21 Washington D.C.
August 22 Atlanta
August 26 Houston
August 28 San Francisco
August 29 Los Angeles
September 3 New York I
September 4 New York II
September 5 Toronto
October 2 London

PRICE: Free for pre-registrants and $5/£5 at the door.

Register for free and reserve your spot here.

For more information on what the Forté Forum does and how they can help you, please see our podcast with Elissa Ellis Sangster, the head of Forté.


The Value of an MBA for Women [Infographic]

UNC Kenan-Flagler and the Forte Foundation joined together to create an infographic that highlights the role an MBA plays in the life of a working woman.

MBA for Women

Via HowToMBA and The Forte Foundation

Forté’s MBALaunch Deadline Just Days Away!

Forte MBA Launch

MBA Launch for Women

2014 Women MBA applicants in/near Chicago, D.C., and New York, listen up: You have through Monday, December 31st to submit your 2013 Forté MBALaunch for Women applications and be entered into the GMAT voucher raffle (a $250 value).

The Forté MBALaunch for Women is a 10-month program that provides female applicants with guidance and resources during the MBA application process, including a one-day event, webinars, group meetings, and one-on-one feedback from experienced advisors.

Learn more and apply now.  

Accepted.com Accepted.com ~ Helping You Write Your Best

Upcoming Forté Forum Events + FREE Smarties Books!

Forté Forum

Eminent women business leaders will be available.

Eminent women business leaders and admission officers from top MBA programs will be available for mingling, networking, and advising on MBA admissions, financial aid, and careers for women during the upcoming Forté Forum events.

Additionally, four lucky participants will win free copies of Linda Abraham’s and Judy Gruen’s book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top B-Schools!

The 2012 Forté Forum schedule is as follows:

August 20, Chicago
August 21, Boston
August 22, Washington, DC
August 23, Atlanta
August 27, Dallas
August 29, San Francisco
August 30, Los Angeles
September 4, New York I
September 5, New York II
September 6, Toronto

Register for free at http://www.Fortéfoundation.org/forumonline to reserve your spot now.

For more information on what the Forté Forum does and how they can help you, please see our recent podcast with Elissa Ellis Sangster, the head of Forté.

Accepted.com Accepted.com ~ Helping You Write Your Best


Current Student Interview – Lydia from USC Marshall

USC Marshall student - Lydia Kung

USC Marshall student – Lydia Kung

Here’s a talk with Lydia Kung, a USC Marshall student interested in pursuing a career in international business. Thank you Lydia for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!

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. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?

Lydia: My name is Lydia Kung and I was born and raised in San Francisco. I am a double Trojan so in addition to currently pursuing my MBA at USC, I also attended USC as an undergraduate student. My field of study was international business in the Marshall Business School and I graduated in May 2006. I have a background in Information Technology recruiting and non-profit event planning and fundraising.

Accepted: Why did you choose to attend Marshall? How does your graduate experience at Marshall differ from your undergraduate experience there?

Lydia: I chose to attend Marshall’s MBA program for several reasons. First, I had an amazing experience at Marshall as an undergraduate student and loved being a part of the Trojan family. Second, Marshall’s MBA curriculum was very appealing because of the diverse array of courses it offers and the flexibility for students to customize their schedules. Lastly, Marshall’s PRIME program (Pacific Rim International Management Education) was a top selling point. I have a background in international business and have always wanted to work overseas. This program, which consists of a semester-long course and 10-day excursion in the Pacific Rim, was the perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge and gain hands-on experience working on a global consulting project.

My experience at Marshall the second time around has been phenomenal, and I can honestly say I love USC even more now. The class size is much smaller compared to the undergraduate program with roughly 220 students, and the courses are more strategic and interactive. Class participation and group discussions are heavily emphasized, and a strong focus is placed on developing presentation and communication skills. There are also significantly more group projects so you learn quickly how to work in teams and collaborate with individuals with different personalities and backgrounds.

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

Lydia: My experience with the Forte Foundation has been great. I receive frequent emails with information about upcoming events (i.e. workshops, seminars, networking socials) and there are countless opportunities to get involved. I highly recommend Forte to anyone interested in pursuing business, increasing their professional development or just connecting with others.

Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?

Lydia: My favorite class has been the Management Communications course I took my first semester. It taught me the importance of effective communication and challenged me to step outside my comfort zone to hone my “soft” skills. You are required to make numerous individual and group presentations, which greatly helped improve my public speaking and leadership abilities.

Accepted: Can you tell us about the Marshall MBA Ambassador Program and your role with the group?

Lydia: The Ambassador Program is a wonderful opportunity for prospective students to visit and interact with current MBA students to learn more about the Marshall experience. It currently consists of 26 first year full-time students who guide class visits, lead Admit Weekend and act as liaisons between the admissions office and applicants interested in Marshall. I am the Co-Director for the Ambassador Program and my responsibilities have included spearheading event logistics for Admit Weekend, scheduling class visits, conducting Q&A sessions, meeting prospective students and overseeing the Ambassador team.

Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up for the summer? What role did Marshall play in helping you secure that position?

Lydia: I am currently interning at Mattel for the summer in the Human Resources department specializing in Leadership Development and Talent Acquisition. Marshall played a significant role in helping secure my internship because I found the job posting through the school’s career services website and was able to network with Mattel employees through on-campus and off-site recruiting events.

Accepted: What are some of your favorite things about living and studying in Los Angeles?

Lydia: Los Angeles is a bustling, vibrant town and it’s exciting to be surrounded by such diverse groups of people and communities. The weather is amazing and I enjoy not only being able to hang out at the beach, but also to experience the Hollywood lifestyle since Los Angeles is the entertainment capital. Studying in the area is fantastic because there are a wide range of industries and ample opportunities to find internships and employment after graduation, especially with the help of the Trojan network which has a strong presence in the community.

Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to Marshall?

Lydia: I would advise prospective students to have a clear understanding of their motivation to attend business school and relay that message through their applications. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to pursue, but it will be helpful to have a pretty strong picture of the function and/or industry you are interested in so your goals for earning your MBA are evident. Marshall is also looking for well-rounded individuals that demonstrate leadership potential and a desire to make a difference in the community. Therefore, applicants should highlight their professional and extra-curricular leadership experience and be explicit about how they intend to make an impact at USC.

For complete, soup-to-nuts guidance on the MBA admissions process, please purchase Linda Abraham’s new book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools – now available in paperback and Kindle editions!

Accepted.com Accepted.com ~ Helping You Write Your Best

Admissions Straight Talk: Interview with Forte’s Elissa Ellis Sangster

Elissa Sangster, Forte FoundationWelcome to the first episode of Accepted Admissions Straight Talk, a biweekly podcast about what’s new, thought-provoking, and useful in the world of graduate admissions!

We had a great conversation with Elissa Sangster of Forté Foundation about women and MBA admissions. For advice, insight, and info, check out the full audio.

Show Notes

3:30:00 –     Why are women underrepresented in MBA programs?  What are the origins of Forte?

6:16:00 -     What women need to hear.

8:25:00 –     The virtual campus, Forte forums, MBA Women’s conference and Forte’s other awesome resources.

11:23:00- Forte Fellows- what and why.

13:12:00 - International Women’s Day- what are we celebrating anyway?

16:36:00 – Is an MBA still the gold standard? [or Are one-year programs - the new MBA? ]

18:52:00 – Women in the MBA application process- distinctive challenges?

21:40:00 – Networking is key (sound familiar?). Meet other women with similar career goals, and boost your chances for success.

22:53:00 Work-life balance- advanced planning will save the day.

25:50:00 Why entrepreneurship is a great option (and why Linda loves the number 5).

28:05:00- What Elissa wants every woman business school applicant to know.

Admissions Smart TalkSubscribe to Admissions Straight Talk in iTunes so you don’t miss any segments! Stay in the admissions know. (And while you’re there, feel free to leave us a review.)

*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Admissions Straight Talk: New Podcast

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and finally just decided to do it:

I’m starting a podcast, Admissions Straight Talk. I plan a bi-weekly show, 20-30 minutes long, in which I will interview thought leaders in the admissions world. Each segment will be posted here on this blog. Of course, if you prefer to download the podcast automatically to your iWhatever, please subscribe in iTunes.

The first segment goes live today. Elissa Sangster, Executive Director of the Forte Foundation, graciously agreed to be the inaugural interviewee. Elissa served as the Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin before joining Forte. She has led Forte from its infancy to its current position of prominence, transforming it into a major resource assisting women entering the business world and applying to MBA and other business degrees.

We covered a lot of ground in the show, and I hope men and women will tune in. There is valuable info for both genders.

After you’ve listened, please provide feedback. I am new at this and welcome suggestions for improvement. You can provide your feedback below or in iTunes tomorrow after the segment goes live.

Thanks for listening.

Linda AbrahamBy Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com, and author of the recently released MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Pick the MBA Fair That’s Right for You


I came across this excellent post about MBA Fairs by MBA Podcaster and asked permission to publish as a guest post on the Accepted Admissions Blog. MBA Podcaster said “yes” so here it is.

MBA Tour season is officially here. There are some fantastic events happening all around the world and online so there’s no excuse to not chat one-on-one with your top schools. Here’s a summary of the top tours happening now.

Why We Like It: You pick the schools you want to meet with, your resume will be pre-screened by the school and Access MBA and if you’re a fit you will be selected to sit down one-on-one with admission’s reps from the schools you pick. Very well represented by international schools.
Where: All across Europe, Middle East, Asia and South America
Cost: Free
When: September through December
Etc: Access MBA events also offer prospective MBA students personalized services such as one-to-one meetings and workshops with the world’s best MBA programs, interactive panel discussions with school representative, individual MBA consulting sessions and GMAT advising.

What: The Economist’s Which MBA? MBA Fair
Why We Like It: This is the best virtual MBA Fair available. The Economist has put together an interactive web platform that’s easy and fun to use and where you can virtually chat one-on-one with admission’s reps.
Where: At your nearest computer
Cost: Free
When: 48 hours from September 7th – 8th 2011
Etc: Talk to admissions officers one-on-one and in chat sessions, broaden your perspective and learn more about diverse MBA programs, gain insight into the MBA experience from webinars, videos and downloads. You could win a FREE iPad 2 when you log in and visit 5+ school booths

Why We Like It: Intended for women, this forum is a great way to network with high profilers from top schools and make an impression in a less crowded environment. Also, the events are well attended by alumnae who are now working at top companies across the country so it’s a chance to also make a connection for a summer internship.
Where: All across the United States plus London 
Cost: Free for pre-registrants
When: September 13 – October 4th, 2011
Etc: As a special offer to MBA Podcaster users, Forte Foundation is offering half-off Premium Membership to those who register for a Forum, a $25 value. Upon registering, you’ll be sent a link to sign up for discounted membership along with the promotion code.

Why We Like It: You’ll find the largest number of schools, and the most top ranked schools, in a traditional tour environment. Walk the floor, shake hands with the full time admission staff members present and discuss your questions or application. 
Where: All over the world, upcoming tours are in Latin America, Asia, India, Europe and Canada 
Cost: Free for pre-registrants
When: Now – ongoing
Etc: Schools include Columbia, Cornell, University of Chicago, INSEAD, HEC, IE, Kellogg, Michigan – Ross, University of Maryland, Schulich, McGill, UBC and many others.

Why We Like It: Kaplan has done an impressive job of breaking into the MBA touring world. They’ve put together an impressive list of schools including Stanford, Chicago Booth, Haas, Kellogg, Tuck, Duke Fuqua, IMD, INSEAD and many others.
Where: Across the United States 
Cost: Free for pre-registrants
When: Ends August 23, 2011
Etc: Events include breakout sessions for GMAT training, admissions strategy and happy hours hosted by various schools.

By MBA Podcaster, which delivers relevant information and advice through excellent biweekly audio and video segments for those planning to apply for a Master in Business Administration.

MBA Fairs: Free Special Report!

Current Full-Time Cornell Johnson Student Interview


Accepted.com is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at selected MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Cornell JohnsonHere’s a talk with a student who came to Cornell Johnson with a life sciences/criminology background, then transitioned into an international career in finance.

We hear Ithaca is “gorges” but what about those winters?

I’m a native of Hong Kong and grew up in Toronto, so the winters weren’t a big deal.  Cornell’s proximity to Wall Street was a major advantage during my job hunt.

What did you want out of an MBA program? Did your career goals change once you arrived?

I did want an Ivy League school — maybe it’s Asia — but people are way more aware of names than rankings, and that helps with the job search. I was deciding between Brand Management and Finance, but realized all the good brand management jobs were restricted to Americans. So I dedicated my search to finance, since I don’t have a green card and was not going to add an additional challenge to an already tough process.

What strategies helped you find a job?

Face to face time is so important.  I basically commuted to New York City a lot, made countless phone calls, even flew out to Hong Kong to meet people.  But the effort paid off.

What are you doing now?

I’m working in finance with the cash sales trading group in Citigroup in Hong Kong.

How did you sell yourself to them, without having a finance background?

Honestly, I think my life sciences familiarity gave me a different perspective and helped me sell myself as a special candidate. With life sciences, I’ll have a strength when selling equities in bio tech, pharmaceuticals.

What was your best day on campus at Cornell?

My best day was when I got my internship and full time offer! From then on, I could focus on my classes and social life. I was just cruising by then.

What was your worst day?

There were a few — mostly during the initial job search, when i was looking for an internship. The process was competitive, and first semester is always intense. It was very difficult to balance the academics and the job search.

Who were your favorite professors and why?

My Chinese professor was fantastic, because she really, really took the time out to make sure I learnt my Chinese well in preparation for class. I also really liked my accounting professors Margaret Shackell Dowell and Mark Nelson. Accounting wasn’t my forte, but they let me take my time to make sure I really understood the concepts.

Can you recommend any cozy places to warm up, and fill up?

Plumtrum, Sangam and State Street Diner.

And finally why do you think you got the job you want?  Any tips for incoming students on the job hunt?

Yes, network early! Get your resume ready early, be confident in yourself, be realistic, and also have backup plans.

Michelle StockmanInterview conducted by Michelle Stockman, who worked in the Columbia Business School admissions office, has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, and has assisted Accepted.com clients applying to top business schools since 2007.  She is happy to help you with your application.