MBA Student Interview – Ben from NYU Stern

Ben Loveland

NYU Stern student – Ben Loveland

Here’s a talk with Ben Loveland who recently graduated from NYU Stern and is now working as an Associate at Credit Suisse in the Global Industrials Group for the Investment Banking Division. Thank you Ben for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!

This 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. 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?

Ben: I’m from East Setauket, NY (Long Island) and went to Villanova (PA) on a full Army ROTC scholarship. I graduated in 2005 with a political science degree and wished to pursue the JAG corps and attend law school. However, at the time I graduated and was commissioned into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease that forced me to accept an honorable medical discharge.

With my very short military career over, I had to find another career. I took a position with Accenture, which is an IT consulting firm, and learned a lot about working on client sites, working in teams, and meeting tight deadlines. I wasn’t absolutely enthused by the product of IT, so I decided to make a switch into finance and see what a lot of my classmates were doing in NYC.

I was lucky enough to get hired before the financial meltdown and started at Goldman Sachs in February of 2008 in their Credit Derivatives Middle Office. Of course, a month later Bear Stearns collapsed and Lehman went down not much later. The work was extremely fast paced, I worked with top-notch people, layoffs were almost constant, but I thrived. I joined Goldman as an Analyst, then was promoted to Technical Specialist and then Associate.

After two years, however, I realized that a long-term career in Operations was not what I sought. I wanted a position that was revenue-generating, client-facing, and more macro than Sales and Trading. Investment Banking seemed to fit into my long-term career goals, and fit my personal skill set, so I set up meetings with some GS employees in IBD and quickly learned that to get into banking, especially in the midst of a financial crisis, you must be recruited out of a top business school (Analyst or Associate new hire). I decided that I needed to take the GMAT and get the ball rolling on finding a top business school.

Accepted: Why did you decide to attend NYU Stern? 

Ben: The first thing about Stern is that it’s in the city, so there are a ton of alums around the city, especially in financial services. So I met some alums and had a very favorable impression from them on their experience at Stern and the types of recruiting that happens there. I also visited Stern and immediately thought it was the best fit for me, personality-wise. It’s a top business school, with extremely smart and talented students, however, it was also a place that was collaborative internally, competitive externally.

My impression before visiting was that there was no secluded campus and therefore a diluted community of commuters. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I found a community that was supportive and engaged, almost tighter in the space that occupies Stern because of all the madness of the city surrounding it. I found the faculty to be top-notch, student-body to be down to earth, the career opportunities stellar, and a surprising amount of international engagement (students, faculty, travel, global learning, etc.). After visiting other schools in the area, and considering a jump to the west coast, it turned out to be a no-brainer for me.

Accepted: What are some of your favorite things about living in New York City? What were some of the advantages of studying in the Big Apple? 

Ben: I’m very biased, but I think NYC is the best city in the world. The amount of cultural, social, and academic activities here are incredible. I thought Stern did a great job of utilizing all of the resources the city has to offer. The center of the financial world is here, so for me personally, that was a huge advantage. NYC also has some great advantages for students wanting to study strategy, entrepreneurship, brand strategy, media, etc. There are so many companies and industries here it really is amazing. Also, getting keynote speakers to address the student body is fairly simple, since a lot of executives are either based here or visit here frequently. I also think the quality of the faculty is in large part due to the awesome location, many adjunct professors can run their business and teach at Stern in their free time. Pretty impressive.

Accepted: I see you’re now working as an Associate at Credit Suisse. What role did NYU play in securing that position? 

Ben: NYU set it up completely. I was on a pretty standard track of Investment Banking, so all of my initial meetings with banks were on campus. All of the bulge bracket banks and many mid-tier investment banks come to Stern to recruit, so the opportunities for IB are tremendous. The standard tracks (Consulting, IB, S&T, Marketing) are mostly setup by NYU through their “on-campus” recruiting. Stern set up the corporate overview sessions, the meet and greets, and interviews, which are critical to getting a job at these places.

Accepted: How has your experience in the U.S. Army contributed to your business skills?  

Ben: Due to my abbreviated stint in the Army, I can’t really speak about my huge amount of leadership experience, but I can speak of the Army training and how relevant it can be in business. I think firms like to recruit ex-military because there seems to be a lot of critical business qualities in military candidates: loyalty, respect, discipline, leadership, integrity. I think humility and eagerness play a large role as well. In organizations where chain of command, organization and leadership are important, such as Investment Banking, military candidates will do extremely well. Also, firms recognize their ability to handle pressure well, make quick decisions and be quantitatively strong, so S&T also seems to be a good fit. For me personally, I think the military helped instill a sense of discipline and maturity that seems to be rare for students coming out of college. I think having some training grounds to practice leadership and taking command of a unit can certainly help in a workplace when a project needs a push to make a deadline or meetings that tend to end in chaos, it can certainly help to have someone who can seize control and guide a group toward a decision.

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

Ben: I think more than any other top program, Stern looks for candidates that have strong EQ. For future business leaders, just being smart and analytical is not enough. They have to be able to lead people, to deal with clients, shareholders, employees and on and on. Stern has a process for measuring EQ which tends to work extremely well in the classroom. Certainly by coming off as respectful, hard-working, down to earth and sociable, in addition to being smart and ambitious, it will help your case. Be prepared for the interview, although it is a friendly interview, they are looking for a candidate that has done her homework on the school and her future career plans. If a potential candidate does not appear to be ready for a job interview, it is unlikely that candidate will be prepared for on-campus interviews in the fall, so that will not reflect well.

For specific advice on how to create the best application for NYU Stern, please see Linda’s NYU Stern 2013 MBA Essay Tips. ~ Helping You Write Your Best


MBA Applicant Blogger Interview: Motown, Ms. HR, and Mads Mom’s Journey


Next up in our series of featured MBA applicant bloggers are Motown, Ms. HR, and Mads Mom from the blog, “Fortune 800: Our Journey to an MBA.” Please enjoy their thoughtful answers and use them to help you make your way through the MBA admissions process.

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?

Ms. HR: I was born and raised in Michigan. I grew up right outside of Ann Arbor (Canton) so it was no surprise that I wanted to attend the University of Michigan. I graduated from the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!!!) in December 2007 with a BSE in Electrical Engineering.

Mads Mom: I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, but was never an Ohio State fan, although everyone assumes that I should be because I am from Ohio. Obviously, I did the complete opposite and went to the University of Michigan where I graduated in 2007 with a BA in Sociology.

Motown: I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. I also went to the University of Michigan and graduated in 2008 with a degree in Civil Engineering and minor in History.

Accepted: When do you plan on applying to business school? Which schools will you apply to? Do you think you’ll apply to a “safety school”?

Ms. HR: I’m planning on applying this year in either round 1 or 2. It depends on when I complete the best application possible for me. I have about 7 schools on my list as of now but I plan on narrowing that list down to 5 schools. My top 3 schools are Cornell, Vanderbilt and Kellogg. I’m DEFINITELY planning on applying to a safety school. I know where I want my career to go and I need an MBA to get there so I’m anxious to get started.

Mads Mom:
I am planning to apply to business school for Fall 2012, during round 1 or 2. I have not narrowed my list of schools down yet, but some possible schools include University of Michigan, UCLA, Berkeley, NYU, and Cornell. I will definitely be applying to a “safety school” because I ultimately want to go back to school next year no matter what.

I’m pretty set on Round 2. That’s when I will have my transcript available for the class I am currently taking and when I know I will be very confident in my application. Also, I want to interview and apply at the same time. Not to mention, I want to visit some schools this Fall before apps are due. I feel like a lot of business schools are great, and I will be happy attending any of the schools I’m applying to, which is why I don’t have a ‘top’ choice. I am applying to 6 schools, 2 are Consortium and the rest are a range of safeties and reaches.

Accepted: Why do you want to go to business school? What are some of the factors motivating you?

Ms. HR:  I want to build some fundamental knowledge on business and HR. Coming from an engineering background I feel like it’s a necessity in order to be successful in my career change to HR Management. The main motivating factor for going back to school is most HR leadership rotational programs require an MBA or Master’s in HR. I know that an MBA will give me that fundamental knowledge so I can be successful in my future career. Another motivating factor, is just my pure passion for HR. I’ve had to work on some projects with HR and after every project I felt like running straight over to HR. I know without a doubt that’s where I’m supposed to be.

Mads Mom:
I am a career changer, so I want to go back to business school because I plan to break into the new career field of high tech marketing. Some of the factors that are motivating me include the fact that I want to get into a career that combines my two passions for technology and design. Going back to school will give me the foundation I need, and the possible pay increase doesn’t hurt either.
Motown: I’ve always had a passion for helping out Detroit. So once I looked at my grad school options and did some research, I realized that an MBA was the best fit for me. I would love to increase my business acumen, expand my network, and hone in on my leadership skills. I desire to first pursue non-profit consulting and then eventually open a non-profit back in Detroit that focuses on urban and economic development.

Accepted: Does cost play a factor in where you’re applying? Do you plan on applying for financial aid or scholarships? Has your current job offered to pick up part or all of your b-school tab?

Ms. HR: Cost is a factor but at the same time it’s not really. If I get into my top choice school I doubt I would turn it down due to cost. I’ve done some research and there is money out there that you can get. I will be working extra hard to try and nail down some scholarships. I also plan on applying for financial aid. My current job does tuition reimbursement but I would have to go to school part time. I would like to take the time off and just focus on school and take in all a full time MBA has to offer as well as expand my network.

Mads Mom:
At this point in time, cost is not really playing a factor in where I am applying. I definitely plan on applying for financial aid and scholarships, but I pretty much don’t want the factor of money to deter me from going to a great school. My current job has not yet offered to pick up part of my tab, but I haven’t asked or persuaded them yet either.

Cost definitely plays a factor, which is part of the reason I am applying through the Consortium. I also looked into schools that have loan forgiveness programs since I am interested in the non-profit/social enterprise space, which does not pay as lucratively as some other jobs. I will be applying for financial aid and seeking out scholarships/grants as well. My current job doesn’t offer to pay for business school for people that want to go FT.

Accepted: Do you plan on returning to your pre-MBA job (in a more prestigious/lucrative position) after you finish business school? Or do you plan on moving to a new function or industry?

Ms. HR: Eventually I would love to come back and work at my current company. I really enjoy working here but at the same time I would like to work elsewhere for a little bit to gain a different perspective and really see if the grass is greener elsewhere.

Mads Mom:
I do not plan on returning to my pre-MBA job because it is in a totally different industry that I want to get into.

I’ve spoken to a few MBA’s at my company, so it’s not totally out of the picture. But for now, I plan on moving into a new company within a totally new function.

Accepted: What courses or experiences or people have motivated you to go to business school? How?

Ms. HR: The main thing that motivated me to go to business school is the exposure I’ve had to HR at my current company. That exposure made me realize HR is where I would like to go with my career. An MBA will help get me there. Another motivating factor was hearing the career paths my HR colleagues took. Knowing that an MBA helped some of them tremendously I’m more than willing to go back to school so I too can have some of those same opportunities.

Mads Mom:
My mother has a number of degrees and if there was someone that motivated me to go to business school it would be her. Personally, I decided that I wanted a career change and to get where I wanted to go I knew I was going to need and MBA to get there.

Motown: As far as coursework, at Michigan I took this really cool class where we worked with a village in the Dominican Republic where we helped them filter their own clean water. That really changed my perspectives on technology and the possibility of leveraging it to help communities. Also, last fall one particular conversation I had with a JD/MBA was really inspiring and made me finally decide that an MBA was for me in order to reach my future goals. For a long time I thought MBA’s were just people that did investment banking, I had no idea about the wide range of careers that MBA’s could have!

Accepted: Why did you choose to blog about the MBA application experience?

Ms. HR: At first I was really against blogging. I didn’t think I would have enough time to write or enough things to say. It was Mads Mom that kept on pushing it and I’m so glad she did. Now that I’m in the groove of things I’m really glad we are documenting our journey. Hopefully it will help current and future applicants out and we will always have detailed memories of our journey. Without question, I’ve learned a lot from our readers. I think the collaboration between us and the readers benefits everyone. Also for me, blogging makes me think long and hard about the b-school process and I hope this in depth thinking will help me build a great application.

Mads Mom: While doing all my b-school research I came across a number of blogs, and just figured that maybe someone would want to read about mine. I knew I was going to be extra busy because I have a little girl, so pushed for Motown and Ms. HR to get into it together and it seems to be working out great. It’s fun to just write a quick note, even if no one reads it, so that you can look back and remember what you went through to get to where you want to go.

I personally love blogs and read them all the time. So when Mads Mom suggested it, I was excited about it. It’s great to just document this whole, introspective process and be able to look back and see how far we have all come!

Do you want to be featured in’s blog, Accepted Admissions Almanac? If you want to share your MBA admissions journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at ~ Helping You Write Your Best


MBA Admissions: Yale SOM and Investment Banking


This post about Yale SOM and investment banking is part of a series of interviews of top MBA programs called “MBA Career Goals and the B-Schools that Support Them.” Please subscribe to our blog to ensure that you receive all the interviews exploring the elements at each school that support career goals in finance, consulting, general management, entrepreneurship, marketing and more.

Here is the interview with the Admissions Office and Career Development Office at Yale SOM.

What kind of background and skills do you like to see in applicants expressing interest in a career in investment banking?

Yale SOM seeks candidates with experience in a wide variety of industries and functional areas for careers in investment banking. Valuable attributes for applicants include strong quantitative skills and financial acumen, client communication skills, attention to detail, a strong work ethic, and the ability to thrive in a team environment. Desirable applicants must also demonstrate passion for a career in investment banking and be able to articulate reasons for entering the industry.

What aspects of your curriculum are best suited to students who want to eventually pursue a career in investment banking?

In addition to the core Integrated Curriculum which includes Accounting, Economics, and Spreadsheet Modeling, students can declare an ‘emphasis’ in Finance.  The many finance-oriented elective courses include Advance Financial Analysis, Capital Markets, Venture Capital & Private Equity Investments, Financial Instruments & Contracts, Corporate Finance, and Security Analysis & Valuation.

Which school clubs and extra-curricular events are most relevant to people interested in investment banking?

The Finance Club at Yale SOM supports the career pursuits of students focused on investment banking through weekly meetings and workshops in practical areas like resume writing, interview preparation, and gaining insights on specific roles, career tracks, specific banks, and the industry in general. Treks, visits from alumni, and other events are also sponsored by the Finance Club and other finance-related clubs. Related clubs cover Sales & Trading, Investment Management, Private Equity, and Real Estate.

Since “investment banking” is a very broad term, can you break down some of the some of the sub-categories in the field that Yale SOM excels in?

Yale SOM excels in a wide range of areas within an investment bank. “Investment Banking” typically refers to mergers and acquisitions and other financial advisory work. Approximately 50-70% of first-year student students who intern at investment banks work in investment banking. This figure is representative of most top business school programs. The other 30-50% of students who are hired by investment banks work in a variety of areas including research, sales & trading, capital markets, direct investments, investment management, and operations.

Which investment banking firms recruit at Yale SOM? How many graduates of your 2010 class received offers from each of these firms?

Over a dozen investment banks recruit at Yale SOM, including the large banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, Credit Suisse, and UBS, as well as more regionally-focused and boutique banks including Nomura, Houlihan Lokey, Lazard Middle Markets, Celfin, and Banco Santander. Other banks without an on-campus presence also recruit Yale SOM students as well. Among them are Rothschilds, Brown Brothers Harriman, Jefferies, Macquarie, Piper Jaffray, Bank of New York, and Royal Bank of Scotland. In 2011, the largest employer for summer interns was Goldman Sachs.  15% of the class of 2010 pursued careers in Investment Banking.

Thanks to the Yale SOM Admissions Office and Career Development Office for granting us this interview. ~ Helping You Write Your Best

The Spiced Up MBA


When one applies to business school they typically worry about whether they have enough work experience under their belt, or whether they can compete with Ivy League graduates and 4.0 GPAs.  But statistics show that since the financial crisis MBA programs are no longer looking for cookie cutter students. “Diversity” is the name of the game.

The Spiced Up MBAAn article in the Financial Times (“Variety is the Spice of Life”) looks at how recruiters are now focusing on finding all different kinds of students to enroll in their MBA programs.  Schools like Harvard, Wharton and Stanford are enrolling fewer investment bankers and more women, entrepreneurs, military personnel, environmentalists and not-for-profit managers in future classes. In fact, only 12%-14% of the admitted students at Harvard and Wharton in 2011 had investment banking backgrounds.

Even the average age of incoming MBA students is changing! The typical incoming Harvard Business School student is now 27, up from 26 a year ago.

Wharton is also working to diversify its student body. Ankur Kumar, deputy director of admissions at Wharton, explains, “This has been a focal point for the past few years. We wanted to dispel some of the stereotypes and misconceptions [about MBA programs].” Wharton has gone so far as to reach out to high school students and teach them about the importance of a business education.

Stanford has even developed its own approach to incorporating diversity into its program. The school has ensured that one in six accepted MBA students is studying for another degree alongside their MBA.
Although American schools still need to incorporate more international students into their student body (Wharton is only 36% international and Harvard is only 34%), the MBA programs have made enormous strides towards accepting more women, applicants in a wider age range, and out-of-the-professional-box MBA candidates. This openness to diversity, if not commitment to wider definition of diversity, allows future applicants to think more creatively about how to market themselves to business schools.  Getting into MBA programs no longer requires fitting into the investment banking mold, but is more about breaking the mold altogether.

I have seen several articles about the increasing diversity of accepted MBA applicants and we have seen less emphasis on the classic professions with our clients as well. I recently spoke, however, to one admissions director who told me that this openness is driven as much by a change in the applicant pool as by the increased openness touted in this article.

Since the financial crisis and the subsequent layoffs of a few years ago, there are fewer investment bankers, and there are fewer investment bankers applying to MBA programs. There were also fewer college grads hired into investment banking in 2008 and 2009. But over the next few years members of those college classes will apply in increasing numbers. It will be very interesting to see if the trend discussed in this article represents a real increased commitment to professional diversity in MBA admissions, or simply a response to necessity combined with spin.

If the latter, investment bankers will once again have the inside track, and we’ll read that an MBA is a typical stop on the investment banking career track; if the former, professional diversity will continue to reign.


Linda AbrahamBy , President and Founder of

Photo credit: lju photo

The MBA Job Market: A Whole New Ballgame


Much has been written lately on the MBA hiring market, but most articles have been more concerned with how many people are being hired and not whose doing the hiring. Businessweek’s article, “MBA Jobs: Post-Crisis, A Brave New World,” looks at how finding MBA jobs post the financial crisis is a whole new ballgame.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed they dropped the ball on new hires, along with many of the other top MBA hiring companies such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.  However, a new group of players were ready to pick the ball up and run with it. Companies such as Apple, IBM, and Amazon, which had not recruited many MBAs in the past, began hiring them in large numbers.

Not only have MBA graduates started playing for another team, but some of the largest firms have also begun to hire more bachelor’s degree holders and placed their MBA graduates in different departments. For instance, Goldman Sachs’ securities division has hired more Bachelor’s degree holders than previously, and Goldman has placed more of its MBA hires in private wealth management offices spread throughout the US.

Meanwhile, some MBA candidates are being enticed by jobs in other fields, such as education and even working for the FBI. One of the new leading MBA employers is IBM, which has even been added to Wharton’s top employer list for the first time in ten years, hiring more than Citigroup, Bank of America, and Merrill Lynch.

How should you, as a potential MBA applicant, respond to this change in the job market? Broaden your thinking. While yes, finance and consulting still are major recruiters for MBA grads, there are other major players. Don’t feel that you have to say you want to go into consulting or investment banking to make a case for your MBA.  Those options may not be as safe as they seemed three years ago, and events have proven them not so safe. Your sincerely desired, less trodden path to the future, if it requires an MBA, may be much more compelling, perhaps even a home run. ~ Helping You Write Your Best

The Times They Are a’ Changin’


Bob Dylan’s song lyrics capture the meaning behind the statistics Harvard Business School just released in the class profile for its entering class of 2013. It appears Harvard has decided to include fewer finance types in its MBA program, more women and more people from scientific/technical and manufacturing backgrounds.

While Harvard provided the profile on its website, Poets & Quants analyzes the numbers in “Harvard Down on Finance Types”:  

  • Individuals accepted from private equity and venture capital firms fell from 18% to 13%, and those from investment banking and investment management fields went from 14% to 12%.
  • 39% of accepted applicants were women, up 3% from the last two years and the highest percentage of women EVER in a Harvard Business School class.
  • The median GMAT score has hit a new high –a record 730.  Last year’s median was 724, and that score was a record last year.

While these statistics are striking, Harvard’s director of admissions and financial aid, Deirdre Leopold, sent an even more surprising e-mail to round 1 interviewed applicants a day before decisions were released.  This e-mail explained, “that the diversity of Harvard’s class was more important than the quality of the candidates in the admission process. ” Hmmm. Retrospectively, it’s clear Leopold was hinting that, “the times, they are a’ changing.”

Other observations in comparing the class of 2013 vs 2012:

  • Applications to HBS declined approximately 4%. Every little bit helps, but it’s not a big deal when Harvard’s acceptance rate is 11-12%. See next point.
  • Harvard’s yield increased 1% to an eye-popping 90%.
  • The average age edged up from 26 to 27. My take on this stat and HBS’ announcement that it will not admit anyone straight from college and without full-time work experience: Harvard’s infatuation with the “early career candidate” is cooling. I predict other schools will follow suit.

MBA Action Plan

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of

MBA Admissions: Cornell Johnson and Investment Banking


This post about Cornell Johnson and investment banking is part of a series of interviews of top MBA programs called “MBA Career Goals and the B-Schools that Support Them.” Please subscribe to our blog to ensure that you receive all the interviews exploring the elements at each school that support career goals in finance, consulting, general management, entrepreneurship, marketing and more.

Here is the interview with the Career Management Center team at Cornell Johnson.

What kind of background and skills do you like to see in applicants expressing interest in a career in investment banking?

Investment banks are open to considering a wide variety of backgrounds, from Military to Engineering; this helps them expand their perspectives on the clients they serve. With that said, banks are much quicker about getting to yes on a candidate if they have some experience with financial modeling, valuation or accounting.

What aspects of your curriculum do you feel are best suited to students who want to eventually pursue a career in investment banking?

Johnson has perhaps the best pre-banking curriculums in the country. Our investment banking immersion, taught by a former Merrill Lynch Managing Director, is designed to put first-year students in real Associate-level scenarios and prepare them for summer internships. We also require future bankers to take Valuation, Accounting, Finance and additional modeling seminars.

Which school clubs and extra-curricular events are most relevant to people interested in investment banking?

Our Old Ezra Finance Club is the primary club concerned with investment banking. In their weekly meetings, OE focuses on the soft skills and tactical plans to secure an investment banking position.

Since “investment banking” is a very broad term, can you break down some of the some of the sub-categories in the field that your school excels in?

Investment banking is typically thought of as M&A and Corporate Finance advisory at most firms. Although, the banks often provide sales & trading services, private wealth management and asset management services as well. Johnson’s Capital Markets and Asset Management Immersion helps students focus on those careers.

Which investment banking firms recruit at Cornell Johnson? How many graduates of your 2010 class received offers from each of these firms?

Over the past few years, every major Wall Street firm hired Johnson students in investment banking, as well as a number of boutique, specialty and regional firms. In 2010, a down year for banking, roughly 20 students at Johnson accepted full time positions. This compares to approximately 40 in 2008 and 40 internships in 2011.

Download Accepted’s new special report, MBA Action Plan, for practical tips on what you can do now to increase your chances of getting in to a top business school next year. (P.S. It’s free!)

Columbia 2012 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips.

 Our 2013 Columbia MBA Application Essay Tips are Now Online! Click Here to Check Them Out!

This Columbia MBA Application tip post is one of a series of posts providing MBA application and essay advice for applicants to top MBA programs around the world. Check out the entire 2012 MBA Application Tips series for more valuable MBA essay advice. 

Columbia’s instructions and question are in black below; my comments and tips are in blue:?

Columbia Business School

Columbia 2012 MBA Essay Questions

In addition to learning about your professional aspirations, the Admissions Committee hopes to gain an understanding of your interests, values and motivations through these essays. How you answer these essays is at your discretion, there are no right or wrong answers and we encourage you to answer each question thoughtfully.

Dual Degree applicants: Please address the following questions within your response to Essay 1: How will the Dual Degree enhance your post-MBA and long-term professional goals?

Reapplicants: If you have applied to Columbia Business School within the past year, you are required to answer the “What is your post-MBA professional goal? ” question and submit the reapplication essay. If your last application was more than one year ago, you must answer Essays 1, 2 and 3.

Short Question

What is your post-MBA professional goal? (200 Characters)

Note the character limit. This response must be short and sweet. What do you want to do professionally in which industry? You may want to provide a geographic location if you have one and it is important to your MBA goal.

Warning: This question is not asking about intended area of study while in business school or a non-professional goal.

Essay 1

Considering your post-MBA and long term professional goals, why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your career? Additionally, why is Columbia Business School a good fit for you? (Maximum 750 words)

This question is slightly different from last year’s #1, which was “What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals?” Since you will have stated your post-MBA professional goal in the previous answer, you can use this question to explain why you want to pursue the degree now. What experiences convinced you that you need the education provided at Columbia?

CBS is looking for fit and thought here. How will Columbia’s program — not its reputation or ranking — help you achieve your goals? Which of Columbia’s strengths and assets are necessary for you to achieve your goals and fill in the gaps that motivate you to pursue an MBA now?

Essay 2

Describe a life experience that has shaped you. The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally. (Maximum 500 words)

Do you have any defining moments? What was a seminal experience in your development and maturation? What happened? What was the impact upon you? What do you do differently as a result? This is an excellent place to provide a glimpse into the non-professional side of you.

Essay 3 (Select and answer one of the below) 

Option A: The annual A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition is a student initiative managed and run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO). The competition encourages Columbia MBA students to explore creative entrepreneurial ideas that are sufficiently ambitious in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand what goes into the development and presentation of a solid business proposal.

Develop your own “outrageous” business idea. In essay form, compose your “elevator pitch.” (Maximum 250 words)

Option B: Columbia deeply values its vibrant student community, the building of which begins at orientation when admitted students are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 fellow students who take most of the first-year core classes together. During the first weeks of school, each cluster selects a Cluster Chair. Further strengthening the student community are the nearly 100 active student organizations at Columbia Business School, ranging from cultural to professional to community service-oriented. Leadership positions within the cluster and/or clubs offer hands-on management and networking opportunities for students as they interact with fellow students, administrators, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners.

You are running for either Cluster Chair or a club leadership position of your choosing. Compose your campaign speech. (Maximum 250 words) 

Option C: Founded nearly three decades ago, the Executives in Residence Program at Columbia Business School integrates senior executives into the life of the School. Current executives in residence include more than a dozen experts in areas ranging from media and investment banking to private equity and management. A hallmark of the program is one-on-one counseling sessions in which executives advise students about their prospective career choices.

Select one of the current executives in residence with whom you would like to meet during your time at Columbia. Explain your selection and tell us how you would best utilize your half hour one-on-one session. (Maximum 250 words)

Choose the option that will be easiest for you to answer and that will add the most value and insight to what you have already written. It will probably be related to your goal. Columbia wants to again see that you have given real thought to what you will do and how you will use the opportunities at Columbia Business School. What will you contribute?

And be succinct. These essays have 250-word limits.

Optional Essay

Is there any further information that you wish to provide to the Admissions Committee? Please use this space to provide an explanation of any areas of concern in your academic record or your personal history.  (Maximum 500 words)

Clearly you can use this optional essay question to address a weakness in your profile or qualifications, but in my mind, this question is also open-ended enough to allow you to discuss a diversity element in your personal background or simply some unique area of interest. Also, tucking a weakness explanation somewhere else would allow you to end the application with a strength and not a flaw.

Don’t use this essay as a grand finale or wrap up. And definitely don’t use it to rehash your reasons for wanting to attend Columbia; they should be perfectly clear from the required essays. If you decide to respond to this essay, use it to educate the reader about another talent, interest, or commitment of yours. As always try to show leadership and impact. In short, give them more reasons to admit you.

Reapplicant Essay

How have you enhanced your candidacy since your previous application? Please detail your progress since you last applied and reiterate your short-term and long-term goals. Explain how the tools of the Columbia MBA will help you to meet your goals and how you plan to participate in the Columbia community. (Maximum of 750 words.) This essay should be inserted into the text box designated “Essay 1.”

This question gives clear instructions as to what Columbia is interested in. Your answer, like all MBA reapplicant essays, should focus on how you have improved yourself since you last applied. Why are you a better candidate this year than last year?  And don’t forget to answer the Columbia community part of the question.

If you would like professional guidance with your Columbia  MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our Columbia Business School MBA Packages.  

Columbia September 2012 MBA Deadlines

August 2012 Entry:

Early Decision: October 5, 2011

Merit Fellowship Consideration: January 4, 2012

Regular Decision: April 11, 2012

January 2012 Entry:

October 5, 2011

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of

Current Full-Time Duke Fuqua MBA Student 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.

Here are some excerpts from an interview with a current full-time Duke Fuqua MBA student who is a career switcher –- from case study writing to investment banking.

How did you manage this career transition?  It’s been a tough couple of years on the job market.

 My goal was New York.  Recruiters really want to get to know you — and the beauty of Fuqua is that it’s only an hour-long flight from New York.  I would fly up every Thursday night for a semester and spend Fridays going to women’s events sponsored by the banks. Other people who couldn’t go up as often as I did would take off a week from school and schedule back-to-back informational interviews. 

Now, you would think that people that were closer, like Columbia or Wharton, would have a bit of an advantage.  But I found out that because they were so close, recruiters expected them to be around all the time. Senior level bankers would cancel interviews on them frequently because they were so close.  We may have been there less often, but because we came from farther away, our time was more respected. 

Wow. You put in a huge effort to get your face out there.  Did you get any support from the school in your job hunt?

Yes – the alums were amazing.  Fuqua is a 30-year-old business school, so we don’t have decades and decades worth of alums out there yet.  But they really want to build the brand so they are amazingly supportive. The career development office – they’re ok – but it’s really the alums who are very supportive. Team Fuqua does transcend the two years.

What stood out for you about Fuqua as you were doing your MBA research?

A lot of schools are “pigeonholed” as strong in one particular area, like marketing or finance. I wanted a well-rounded program because I was interested in finance, but I wasn’t quite sure.  If I ended up doing something like consulting, recruiters might wonder why I chose Wharton.  In my opinion, Fuqua is strong in every area, not just one area.

What was the ‘x’ factor that made you say yes to Fuqua?

There’s a phrase you hear all the time –- Team Fuqua. People really look out for each other here. For example, during internship recruiting season, people who wanted investment banking jobs came back before second semester started and we spent a week prepping each other for interviews.  We were going to compete against each other for the same jobs – but that sense of teamwork is so strong that there was no question we’d help each other out so that we could all perform our best.

What was your best day at Fuqua?

I’d gotten the “rep” as someone who was really involved in Duke’s entrepreneurial push. I was asked by the provost to address the board of trustees and implore them for direct funding toward entrepreneurship. The board included some pretty remarkable people. I found out they were really inspired by my story and it sounds like they are really onboard.

Worst day?

It was during first term –- finals week. I had forgotten what it was like to be a student and I was completely overwhelmed. I was flying up to New York every weekend, getting about 3 to 4 hours of sleep during the week. I was just exhausted.  I didn’t know how I was going to handle all the work I had to do.  But I met a 2nd year in the hallway who said, ‘This is literally the worst it will be.’

So I’m a glutton for punishment.  B-school is going to be intense, but I still want to go! Any tips on Fuqua’s application process?

The interview is huge.  Current students conduct them. As teamwork is so important here, you should have a good story about how you motivated a group, how you held them accountable, and how you dealt with any conflict that came up.  This is CLUTCH.  Also, Fuqua, for both good and bad, is largely student run. They’ll want to know you’re going to make a positive impact –- but don’t overreach.  Have a couple of really solid ideas that you’re super passionate about, rather than a laundry list. They know the workload, and they’ll know the difference between sincerity and bluster.

Who were your favorite professors?

- Bill Mayhew – Accounting

- Shane Dikoli – Managerial accounting

- David Robinson – Entrepreneurial finance

- John Graham – Corporate restructuring

Across the board the teaching style is mostly case study – except for certain classes, like statistics.

Are there any innovative programs starting up right now?

There is a major push for entrepreneurship across the entire Duke campus. One of its new goals is to become a center for entrepreneurship — much like MIT and Stanford. P4E (Program for Entrepreneurs) is a second year program that allows you to bring your idea to school, find teammates, and earn up to 25 percent of your credit focusing on a start up.

There’s also the Health Sector Management program –- it’s the top health-related business program in the country. 

What about international exposure?

Duke is extremely focused on becoming an international school. Fuqua has opened satellite schools in Shanghai and Dubai to really make Fuqua a global brand.

There’s also the GATE (Global Academic Travel Experience) program. You take a class on the region you’re going to and then you travel there at the end of the term.  You spend half the time doing cultural activities and then you meet with high-level business executives.  I went to Istanbul and Dubai – two Muslim cities that are incredibly different and provided amazing perspective.

Finally, the class itself is extremely diverse – 36% of the students are international.  There’s a strong Indian presence as well as a strong South American presence.

Any last words of advice?

Go where you feel comfortable – the interview process clinched the decision for me.  The Team Fuqua spirit is real – people really do watch out for each other here.

Interview conducted by Michelle Stockman, who worked in the Columbia Business School admissions office, has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, and has assisted clients applying to top business schools since 2007.  She is happy to help you with your application. ~ Helping You Write Your Best

MBA Admissions: UC Berkeley Haas and Finance


This post about Haas and finance is part of a series of interviews of top MBA programs called “MBA Career Goals and the B-Schools that Support Them.” Please subscribe to our blog to ensure that you receive all the interviews exploring the elements at each school that support career goals in finance, consulting, general management, entrepreneurship, marketing and more.

  1. What kind of background and skills do you like to see in applicants expressing interest in a career in finance?The Berkeley MBA Program is delivered from a general management perspective, and thus attracts applicants with a diverse range of backgrounds and interests. We seek candidates who have solid professional experience and leadership potential, and who possess the Berkeley values of confidence without attitude and a willingness to look beyond the status quo.

    Candidates who wish to pursue a post-MBA career in finance should demonstrate at least one of the following pursuits through their application: previous work experience in a finance function or industry, extracurricular involvement in finance with a leadership role, or comprehensive research into specific positions or organizations for post-MBA employment. Candidates who are making a career-switch into finance should also be able to clearly articulate how they intend to leverage their skill set and work experience to date to successfully make this transition.

    Learn more about the Finance Program at Berkeley-Haas or read up on general admission criteria.

  2. What aspects of your curriculum do you feel are best suited to students who want to eventually pursue a career in finance?Elective courses comprise over 60% of the curriculum, and students begin to customize their own course of study in the first year of the program. Students have access to numerous elective courses in finance, accounting and economic analysis, designed to prepare them for the rigors of a career in the field.

    Students can choose from a range of finance electives specific to their area of interest:

    In addition, student-initiated courses bring finance leaders and practitioners to the classroom for first hand insights. These courses have included The Private Equity Speaker Series, Investment Speaker Series, Microfinance and Real Estate Speaker Series. Each year students initiate new finance speaker series to reflect the interests of their classmates and current economic environment.

    Haas’ general management curriculum teaches students fundamental business concepts – from accounting and finance to marketing and strategy. Through core and elective courses, experiential learning and a global focus, the Berkeley MBA Program helps students develop skills to become innovative leaders.

  3. Which school clubs and extra-curricular events are most relevant to people interested in finance? Providing students with hands-on exposure to real-world business situations is a key strength of the Berkeley MBA Program. Experiential activities are required for graduation, and numerous out-of-the-classroom initiatives give students the opportunity to build on their business skill set.

    Finance courses are integrated with successful practitioners in financial firms. Students have the opportunity to develop skills outside the classroom through:

    • Clubs: Most students take a leadership role in the industry club that aligns with their career interests, such as the Haas Finance Club, Haas Investment Club and Haas Private Equity Club. In recent years, the clubs have organized career treks to Wall Street and Hong Kong, as well as an annual trip to meet Warren Buffett. Treks also explore career opportunities in the Bay Area and Southern California.
    • Conferences: The Berkeley Finance Conference is an annual event featuring top financial industry executives and academics, as well as students from the Haas MBA program. It is the only student-run finance conference on the West Coast.
    • Business Competitions: Case competitions challenge students to apply classroom learnings to real-life business problems. Berkeley-Haas students have participated in many nationwide competitions, such as the Wells Fargo Finance Case Competition (1st place), the Wharton Buyout Case Competition (3rd Place) and the UNC Kenan-Flager Alpha Challenge (3rd Place).
    • Haas@Work: This experiential learning course gives students an opportunity to develop innovative recommendations to address a competitive challenge posed by the sponsor company. The strongest recommendations are then added to the client’s business roadmap for implementation. Haas@Work projects often have a finance component, and sponsor companies have included Visa, Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab.
    • Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund: The Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund (HSRIF) is the first and only student-led investment fund of its scale ($1M+) with a leading business school focused on both social and financial returns. HSRIF Principals are MBA and MFE students interested in finance and corporate responsibility. Through the Fund they have the opportunity to test the investment and corporate responsibility principles they’ve learned in the classroom, and to experience the complexities, challenges, and rewards of the investing world.
    • Industry Leaders at Haas: Each year distinguished leaders are brought to campus to share their real-world experiences and insights. Recent speakers with a finance bent include Janet Yellen, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Nils Tcheyan, Director for Strategy and Operations, World Bank, and Laura Tyson, Member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Haas faculty member.
    • Career Management: The Berkeley-Haas Career Management Office was ranked #4 nationwide by recruiters in a 2008 BusinessWeek survey. Career Management plans workshops, panels, networking events, job fairs, company visits and receptions specific to all phases of the finance job search. For finance students, it has also facilitated outside programs such as Training the Street, Bloomberg and Factset.

    Learn about other extracurricular activities directly from Haas students on the Berkeley MBA Student Blog. Browse the blog library or find finance specific posts using relevant keywords.

  4. Since “finance” is a very broad term, can you break down some of the sub-categories in the field that your school excels in?The Berkeley-Haas Finance Program covers several sub-categories, including corporate finance and investment management. Classroom learning and experiential opportunities prepare students for careers in:
    • Investment banking (including industry coverage, for example technology or healthcare/biotech clients)
    • Investment management, including hedge funds
    • Corporate finance departments
    • Private equity
    • Venture capital
    • Economic development
    • Management consulting firms
  5. Which financial services firms recruit at Haas? How many graduates of your 2010 class received offers from each of these firms? Berkeley-Haas remains one of the world’s leading centers for the study of finance. Approximately 15-25% of students gain full-time employment in a finance function after graduation.

    In 2010, dozens of firms recruited on campus for finance jobs in investment banking, corporate finance, asset management, financial services, and private equity. A selection of firms includes Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citi, Barclays, Dodge & Cox, Franklin Templeton, Parnassus Investments, Scharf Investments and numerous others.

    Learn more about the finance career paths post-MBA from upcoming graduates:

    Students can also apply for the Haas Investment Banking Fellowship, awarded to a select number of students who are pursuing careers in investment banking. As a fellow, students receive a partial tuition credit, get paired with an industry mentor, and receive priority for finance courses and career treks.

    Learn more about careers post-MBA, view an employment snapshot of recent graduates or see a list of firms that recently recruited on campus.

By Morgan Eckles, Assistant Director, Haas Full-Time MBA Admissions.