IV With an Overrepresented Minority MIT Sloan Admit!

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MIT Sloan (picture courtesy of Vitor Pamplona)

This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing our anonymous blogger, “John Thunder”…

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 current job?

John: I’m from the midwest and went to an Ivy League to study economics and mathematics. I was a former investment banker and currently work in investment management.

Accepted: Congrats on your recent acceptance! Can you tell us where you applied and where you got accepted/rejected/waitlisted?

John: I got accepted at Sloan. Waitlisted at Wharton and Booth. Rejected at Kellogg/HBS/Stanford GSB.

Accepted: And if you get more acceptances from the waitlists, how will you decide where to go?

John: I’m fortunate to receive an acceptance to one of my preferred schools. If I get off the waitlist at other schools, maybe I will reconsider.

Accepted: Can you share some admissions tips as an “overrepresented minority”? How would you advise others who are trying to stand out from the crowd?

John: This is the tough question. If I had to re-do my 2-3 year plan for MBA, I would do 1 year of international development in the “motherland” and/or get involved with organizations in those countries. I did not do anything different to standout, except I demonstrated that sure I have similar stats and background to others but coworkers ranked me as the top analyst each year out of the whole class. Instead of thinking about other “Asians,” I saw my application holistically with the applicant group.

Accepted: Do you have any other admissions advice for our applicant readers? 

John: This is a stressful process. I took my GMAT in Fall 2013 to apply for Class of 2017. Get started early and have set goals. If you are targeting HBS/Stanford only, I recommend applying to only one of those round 1 and the other round 2 and go all-out to visit and hustle. I’ve seen success from those who did that.

Accepted: What is your post-MBA plan? 

John: Finance has lost its luster. Please hire me Google.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? When and why did you start blogging? What have you gained from the experience? 

John: Kudos to the community created at GMATClub. I used it religiously to study for my GMATs. I just wanted to give back to that community. I was stressed out throughout the whole application process and it was helpful to see other applicants’ experiences. It’s important to pay-it-forward, and that’s what it’s about in business school.

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

You can read more about John Thunder’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, John Thunder MBA. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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An Indian MBA Applicant Story: Accepted to Top 3 Choices with $$$

Click here for more interviews with MBA applicants!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing Vandana…

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?

Vandana: I am originally from Hyderabad, India and that was where I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science Engineering. I moved to Bangalore around 2 years ago to work on my startup dream and fell in love with the city. I have lived here since then.

I’m a voracious reader and spend a lot of my spare time with my nose buried in a book. I especially love reading fantasy fiction. My favorite book/series is the A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones series) by George RR Martin.

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you up to so far? Where have you applied to b-school?

Vandana: I applied to 3 schools: Kellogg School of Management, UCLA Anderson and Tepper School of Business. Just last week, I received acceptances from all 3 schools. UCLA and Tepper have offered me generous scholarships as well. It’s very exciting to be accepted to all these wonderful schools, and I have a difficult decision ahead of me in the coming weeks!

Accepted: Congratulations on a triple acceptance! What was the most challenging aspect of the admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Vandana: I think the most challenging part of the admissions process for me has been managing time. I work at a fast-paced startup and I work 6 days a week. Handling work, writing essays, managing my blog, attending info-sessions by various business schools, reminding my recommenders to work on my recommendations, helping people with their GMAT strategies…while at the same time making sure I had enough time for my family and friends was very challenging. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t alienate any one part of my life to keep up with everything else. I was able to overcome this by planning each day well ahead of time.

I used a day planner to keep track of meetings and important dates, scheduled about 30 minutes a day to check up on my blog and respond to comments, set reminders to call and catch up with friends (especially during the commute to work) and I spent many a sleepless night making sure I was on schedule with my essay drafts and applications. I think this experience has been a great preview of what life at business school will be like, and has helped me prepare myself for the extremely busy (yet fun!) few years ahead.

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Accepted: A 760 on your first try – amazing! Can you share your top three GMAT tips with our readers?

Vandana: Thanks! I was expecting to hit 730+, but 760 was a surprise for me! These are some GMAT tips for future GMAT takers:

• Study from anywhere, but practice only Official GMAC questions.

 I simply cannot overstate the importance of this! I see people stressing about not scoring enough in MGMAT tests, or not getting questions from Princeton correct. I’d like to stress the fact that ultimately, GMATPrep exams (official tests found on the GMAC website) are the only tests that are true predictors of your progress and what your final score could be. I’d recommend that people study from whatever material they are comfortable with, but ultimately practice practice, practice from the official GMAT guides and any official questions they can get their hands on. I would recommend doing each of these books 2-3 times to get a handle on the different types of questions that could be asked in the actual exam. Especially in the last 3-4 weeks before your exam date, stick to past GMAT questions and official material.

• Practice in timed conditions.

 The GMAT is tough. Not just because of the questions in it, but because a lot of us GMAT-takers haven’t sat for a test in a long time. It is difficult to maintain focus for the 4-4.5 hours it takes to complete the GMAT exam, and to prepare yourself for it, in addition to taking mock tests occasionally, I would recommend people to study and practice for the exam in timed sessions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that every time you sit down to study, it should be 4 hours. When you practice focus on doing 38-40 Quant questions for 75 minutes (set a timer), then take a quick 5 minute break and immediately sit down and do a practice set of 40-45 Verbal questions in 75 minutes. It’s very helpful to do this as we automatically learn to pace ourselves accordingly and through practice, it is easy to keep your concentration and stay focused during the actual exam.

 • Maintain an Error Log.

 During the first month of preparation, I did not maintain an error log, and I really regret it the most! I found the error log on GMATClub most helpful for keeping track of my progress of OG 12, OG 13 and the GMAT Quantitative Review and GMAT Verbal Review guides. By keeping track of my progress and my mistakes, in just a few weeks, I was able to zero in on problem areas and then come up with a plan of action to tackle them!

Accepted: What is your current job? Do you plan on staying in your current industry post-MBA, or changing to a new field/career? Will you return to India?

Vandana: I currently work as a Product Manager for a global online entertainment portal. I love being a product manager, and I plan to stay in my current role post-MBA, but transition to a larger company in the technology space. I haven’t decided yet if I will return to India post-MBA. I think there are exciting opportunities available all around the world and I intend to travel a lot post-MBA to zero in on the place I’d love to settle down in. If that place is India, so be it :) – but that decision has not been made yet.

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?

Vandana: When I was studying for the GMAT and thinking about applying to business school, I learnt from people’s experiences on GMATClub and read many, many blogs online from past applicants to get an idea of the applications process. After scoring a 760 on the GMAT, I wanted to help people nail their GMAT and I started answering a lot of preparation-related questions online on GMATClub and Quora. After a certain point, I couldn’t keep up with the volume of people getting in touch with me – so I decided to start a blog that documented my GMAT journey as well as applications progress in real-time. I hoped my blog would help prospective applicants navigate the admissions process better.

Also, the blogger community is simply amazing! Soon after I started my blog, a lot of them added me to their blog roll, started following me online and encouraged me at every step of the applications process. Getting into business school is a marathon – GMAT, applications, etc. take up a lot of time; but time simply flew by since I had so many great people to share the journey with! I know I’ve made many friends in the blogger community and I’m hoping to meet them in person before joining business school.

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

You can read more about Vandana’s b-school journey by checking out her blog, My Journey to Business School. Thank you Vandana for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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MBA Applicant Interview with ProGMAT

Click here to read more MBA applicant interviews!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing our anonymous blogger, ProGMAT…

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 favourite non-school book?

ProGMAT: I am 26 years old, and was born in a small town in North India. Being a son of a Sr. Bank Manager, I moved to different cities with my family and completed my schooling. I’ve completed my under-graduation (B.Tech) in Computer Science Engineering from a city away from my home in Northern India.

As I grew watching my father, how he managed a great number of staff under him, I always wanted to be like him and always tried to get the things done with better management. My interests are more of design, creativity, innovation, management and music. At my work, I always try to get the maximum amount of management work I can get other than my duties (coding, testing, etc.).

I have not read many books but the recent one was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I really liked it. It is great classic fiction with nice vocabulary to learn.

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you up to so far? 

ProGMAT: Currently I am studying for the GMAT and writing my story side by side. I am not rushing through the application process as I have less time to study for GMAT, and my target score is 720+.

Accepted: Where and when are you planning on applying to b-school? Are you applying to any safety schools?

ProGMAT: The sooner I complete my GMAT, the better my chances are to apply this year in Round 2 process. That is why for now my complete focus is on GMAT, but I am comfortable in applying next year. After my research on schools and course types, I have a list of schools to which I would be applying including Tuck and ISB. I will also apply to 3-4 additional schools within my range for safe side.

Tuck is the best school I have known so far according to my priorities and eligibility. I dream about being a Tuckie. So in my application process, my major focus would be on the Tuck application. And for ISB, it gives me various advantages above all in terms of investment and environment (a plus point for my career and future).

Accepted: What is your current job? Do you plan on staying in the same industry post-MBA or moving to something new? Where do you hope to be in 5-10 years from now? 

ProGMAT: Currently I’m working in a Fortune 500 Company as a software developer in India. I have a total of 3+ years of experience in coding as well as management. Post MBA I would change my industry. Basically I am looking for a Consultant badge under my profile. So my short term goal is to be at a Consultant position in Big 4 firms. And my long term goal is to open my own firm. It will be related to technology for sure, but depends on the position of the market.

Accepted: In your blog you talk about your GMAT game plan — can you share a few tips with our readers about how to prep for the GMAT?

ProGMAT: GMAT is not an exam to pass and score higher. It’s all about your time management and stress management. The best thing to do while attempting a question is to get into the situation and find the best solution as fast as possible. As it is a game of time and stress,  huge dedication is needed to get through it. The best thing you can do while preparing is practice, practice and practice.

A few tips:

1.  Study the basics by going deep and learning the concepts.

2.  Study the type of questions which come frequently on GMAT.

3.  Always time your practice questions. And always try to use the official material for practice.

4.  For SC, there is limited number of rules. Learn them and apply.

5.  For CR and RC, try to read the quality material and increase your reading speed with understanding.

6.  The more you focus on the current question, the less time you take to solve it. This makes better chances of your high score.

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?

ProGMAT: When I started my GMAT circus, I thought it was just like another exam, but a few days later I realized that it’s not an exam but a game like marathon. I studied different blogs and found that most of the people were suffering with similar problems. So I decided to keep track of this important event of my life that would help me to be in line and would help others who are facing similar problems as I do.

What I gained is the timeline of my preparation as well as more focus on the mistakes that I made earlier. Additionally, I am a non-native English speaker, so writing a blog will help me gain knowledge on the writing side as well. And meeting the fellow blog writers who are going through the same situation always gives you confidence to move forward.

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

You can read more about ProGMAT’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Pro GMAT. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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Interview with MBA On My Mind: An Applicant Aiming for Kellogg

Click here for more MBA applicant interviews!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing our anonymous blogger, “MBA On My Mind”…

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any other degrees? What is your current job?

MBA On My Mind: I am a 24 year old female from India. I was born in a quaint little town in Kerala and moved around a lot for most of my childhood (Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, some nondescript town in Karnataka, etc.). I’ve had an unconventional childhood but an immensely fun one. I went to a reputed, 100 year old school in Chennai and graduated with a B.A in Economics. I also have a Post Graduate diploma in Marketing Management, that I pursued part time to feed my burgeoning passion for marketing.

After school, I had a two year stint as Marketing Manager at a start-up that marketed teas (it was at this point that my fascination with tea blossomed and I enrolled to become a professional tea taster). Tea tasting to this day remains an elixir guaranteed to bust stress! In 2013, I co-founded a social enterprise business, in the Skill Development arena and have been absorbed in it ever since!

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you? 

MBA On My Mind: I am wedged somewhere in between insanity and a frenzied need to get stuff done… It’s been a harried 6 months, but I am loving every moment. At this point, I am prepping for my GMAT exam, while working on second drafts of essays for round 2. My days are full!

Accepted: Where are you applying to b-school? Do you have a top choice? Safety school?

MBA On My Mind: I plan to apply to 6-7 schools in round 2. (Yes, I am crazy.) My school list looks something like this 1. Kellogg  2. Ross  3. Stanford  4. Yale  5. Haas.

(I will be adding 2 or 3 schools to this mix provided they fit into my tally board.) Kellogg is my top school! I really really want to go there. The school just sings to me. I don’t have any safe schools so to speak, I understand that ‘safety schools’ are categorized based on higher acceptance levels (ergo, these schools are more open to candidates whose GMAT scores that aren’t particularly in the 99th percentile, <4.0 GPAs and folks who aren’t ridiculous overachievers), so although it makes sense to cover all your bases, for me the paramount deciding factor is fit and whether the school can offer what I want. There is not a single school on my tally board that I would not love to go to. I love all of them equally….okay, I lie. I love Kellogg a smidgen more than the rest. :)

Accepted: Can you tell us about your Business School Tally Board? 

MBA On My Mind: I am someone who likes to do things in a systematic and cogent fashion. So, when the application season rolled around and the time came for me to stop being vague about the schools I wanted to go to. I sat down and listed out my short term and long term goals.

A word of advice for anyone who is on the brink of plunging into the MBA applicant pool, you will be doing yourself a HUGE favor if you introspect and freeze in on your long term and short term goals. Your school selection will be so much easier, you just have to figure out which school will provide the best and most enriching route to achieving your goals.

The Business School Tally Board is more of a qualitative take on the entire school selection process, and it is inspired by this blog post I read and fell in love with, on the Kellogg MBA Students Blog. It still isn’t complete, though. I am still researching schools, there are 2 more schools I want to add to the tally!

Accepted: What has been the most challenging aspect of the admissions process so far? What steps have you taken to overcome that challenge? How would you advise others in a similar situation?

MBA On My Mind: Start early! Stay positive! Get the GMAT out of the way!

THE biggest challenge is time, initially I wanted to get two apps in by round 1, but I was unable to because I was not satisfied with my GMAT score. So I will be working overtime to get 6-7 applications ready for round 2. Luckily for me, I produce my best work under pressure.

Accepted: Do you plan on staying in your current industry post-MBA, or changing to a new field/career?

MBA On My Mind: My immediate post MBA goal is to work with a for-profit social enterprise, particularly in marketing, while my mid-long term goal is to come back to India and expand my social enterprise’s operations.

Expansion requires aggressive/out of the box marketing, market research, liaising with government officials and seamless dissemination of our vision to the end customer. I hope to pick up these skills up at my immediate post-MBA job. So, to answer your question, yes I intend to stay in my current industry.

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?

MBA On My Mind: I remember stumbling upon a few MBA applicant bloggers in 2013, and reading their posts, more importantly the comment sections, there seemed to be a genuine camaraderie between fellow MBA applicant bloggers and the support that went around was amazing.

I knew I had to start a blog of my own to be a part of that world, besides I do love to write. Today, I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve forged close friendships with some wonderful people, through my blogging. (You know who you are!)

I can only hope that my readers find my posts helpful.

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

You can read more about MBA On My Mind’s b-school journey by checking out her blog, MBA On My Mind. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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Click here for more interviews with MBA applicants!

This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing our Jon Taves…

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?

Jon: I grew up in a tiny town in Northern Minnesota and went to undergrad at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN – a private liberal arts college near Fargo, ND. There I double-majored in economics and accounting.

Above all else, I’m a huge economics nerd. To me, nothing’s better than using economic theory to analyze and explain markets. In my freshman year at Concordia I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis and was fascinated by his subject: Billy Beane. Not so much from a baseball standpoint, but by how he exploited market inefficiencies. That led me to take Economics 201 my sophomore year, and the rest is history.

For its long-lasting influence on my life, I’d have to say Moneyball is my favorite book. (Not to mention the fact that Michael Lewis is a fantastic writer. His story-driven approach to explaining complex topics is a style I try to mirror in my own writing.)

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you up to so far?

Jon: I plan to apply in Round 2, so I’ve got a few more months to put the finishing touches on my essays and press “submit.” I probably could’ve done so in Round 1, but I want more time to coach my references and get involved in the community again – I’ve missed it while I was studying for the GMAT all spring and summer.

Accepted: What’s been your greatest admissions challenge? What steps did you take (or are you taking) to overcome that challenge?

Jon: To date, my greatest admissions challenge has been the GMAT. Prior to the GMAT, the last test I’d taken was the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. To pass one of the four parts of that exam it’s a simple equation: spend 150 hours reviewing topics and answering practice problems. Get something wrong? Study that topic. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s not a formula for success on the GMAT. More than I’ve ever experienced before, the GMAT is truly a test of how you think. I’d read about that in guides and various sources online, but it took me awhile to actually believe it. After taking the GMAT, I can honestly say that that’s the most important takeaway. (I’ll elaborate further in the next question.)

Accepted: It looks like you’ve got lots of GMAT advice on your blog. What are the three categories one should allocate their time to when studying for the GMAT?

Jon: In short, one should allocate their time between the following three categories:

1. Topical areas

2. Timing of answers

3. Identifying question patterns

To expand on what I said in question #3, the GMAT is a test of how you think. The best advice I can give is that having an above-average understanding of the topics covered is important, but having an above-average understanding of test strategy is even more important. In total, I studied about five months for the GMAT. At first glance, one might assume that 5% of their time studying should be spent on test strategy and 95% on topical areas. After all, that ratio was successful in high school and college, right? That couldn’t be farther from the truth: I would estimate that I spent 60% of my time on test strategy and 40% on topical areas. (If it focused only on topical areas, an eighth grader would be able to ace the GMAT.)

How long it takes for you to achieve that 60/40 ratio will vary. If it takes you a month to get comfortable with grammar rules and geometry, then plan for two months spent on test strategy. Test strategy is broken up into two parts: timing and patterns. The pace in which you answer questions matters. If the goal of the GMAT is to test how well you think, then it’s relevant to incorporate not only how long it takes you to answer a question, but also in what order you answer correctly/incorrectly. Think of the GMAT as a water park. You want your timing to be like a “lazy river.” Simply put, getting five questions wrong with consistent timing will equate to a higher score than answering the same amount correctly while riding the Verruckt.

With its proclivity for patterns, the GMAT is like Taco Bell. Have you ever noticed how they introduce a new product every few months – although it isn’t really “new,” it’s just some derivative of a taco or burrito? Similarly, all GMAT questions are testing the same thing: “What’s the best way to solve this problem?” Keep that in mind while you’re studying. When doing practice problems, your work isn’t done once you answer it. Make sure to ask yourself what other questions it relates to. This will make those thirty-seven quant questions look less like thirty-seven individual feats of mathematics and more like a bunch of tacos and burritos.

To close, I’d like to comment on the importance of the GMAT. Do your best, but don’t let the pressure to perform well consume you. A great GMAT score and nothing else doesn’t amount to much. Perhaps when schools preach about their “holistic” approach to admissions they’re underselling the GMAT’s importance, but that doesn’t mean it’s everything. It’s a lot easier to dominate one test than to be a well-rounded applicant that’s not only intelligent, but also a leader, collaborator, and problem solver.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Cuban. He says that “there are three types of entrepreneurs: innovators, imitators, and idiots.” To stand out to an admissions committee, you need to distinguish yourself. Everyone applying to the top schools will have fantastic GMAT scores. What’s different about you? Whether it’s an interesting initiative you led at work, an extracurricular activity, or a unique perspective on the world, remember that you’re more than a score from 200-800 in ten point increments.

Accepted: What is your current job? Do you plan on staying in that same industry post-MBA? Or moving into something new?

Jon: My first job out of college was for a public accounting firm in Minneapolis. I worked there for a little over two years until I left for Travelers last November. At both companies I’ve worked on federal tax projects for C-corporations. Accounting is a solid field and I’ve met some amazing people while working in it. Post-MBA, however, I’d like to switch careers.

In the short run, I hope to use my MBA to start working in management consulting. After that I hope to start a social enterprise. I was on the board of directors for a non-profit in Minneapolis for two years; I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to be financially sustainable. I hope to put together a business whose profits will be able to support the communities I love indefinitely – not just until the last grant dries up. I believe the credibility and connections that I’ll gain through an MBA program will allow me to make that dream a reality.

Accepted: Where and when do you plan on applying to b-school?

Jon: I’ve narrowed down my list to the University of Michigan (Ross) and the University of Minnesota (Carlson). Both schools have the characteristics I’m looking for, most notably: strong entrepreneurship programs and a plethora of experiential learning opportunities. Ross and Carlson are pioneers in the hands-on method of teaching; students are able to go out into the marketplace to solve problems, not only study cases about them in the classroom.

Where they separate from each other is with Ross’ prestige and its relationship with Detroit, MI. There’s no more fertile ground than there to do the kind of work I’m interested in. Carlson, however, can give me something Ross can’t: a built-in network. Particularly for my post-MBA plans, I understand the importance of relationships. (And my mother would be much happier if I stayed in the state of Minnesota.)

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What have you gained from the blogging experience?

Jon: A professor told me my junior year at Concordia that the best way for him to retain information – and truly understand it – was to write it down. I recalled this advice a few years ago when I wanted to find a way to remember the information I was reading in economics and finance-related books and articles. It’s been one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. Not only do I feel like I know more about the topics that interest me than ever before, but I’ve rediscovered my love of writing. (I was the guy in your college writing class that asked all of the questions and revised his essays a dozen times.)

To be honest, my audience is myself. I don’t publicize my posts on social media, but thanks to the wonder of WordPress, I’ve gained a small following of fellow GMAT takers and MBA applicants. It makes me extremely happy that I’ve been able to help others along their journey. In general, I write about whatever interests me in the economics/finance sphere. At the time, it’s business school. If my musings on those topics interest others, as well, that’s terrific. I suppose in that sense I have a Field of Dreams-esque approach to my blog: “If you build it, they will come.”

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

You can read more about Jon’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, EF ESSAYS: Essays on Economics & Finance. Thank you Jon for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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