The Money will Sort Itself Out: IV with a Future INSEAD Student

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

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?

Hasmita: I’m a South African and was born in a small coastal town called Port Elizabeth. I later moved to a bigger city, Johannesburg, and studied Actuarial Science at the University of Witwatersrand. After that, I worked at Procter and Gamble as a financial analyst, then moved to Nedbank Capital where I worked in Market Risk, and for the past 4 years I’ve been at Anglo American in Treasury.

I love reading; my favourite book is probably A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Accepted: Congratulations on your acceptance to INSEAD! Why do you think this is the best program for you? What are you most looking forward to?

Hasmita: There were a few things that attracted me to INSEAD. First, the global appeal of the school. I loved that I could study in both Singapore and France. I also liked the fact that it is a relatively short MBA. Because I am self funded, the U.S. MBAs of 2 years+ were not really an option for me.

Accepted: Can you talk about how you raised your tuition money? 

Hasmita: I got a partial scholarship from INSEAD, and also got a loan from Prodigy for a portion. For the rest, I used money generated from the sale of my apartment and my car. As a last resort, I was going to cash out my pension but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

Accepted: Can you share a few tips for our applicants who may also be struggling with how to finance their MBAs?

Hasmita: I think that if you can get into a world class MBA, the money will sort itself out. Money is really not a reason not to apply if you believe you have the potential. There are so many scholarships out there, and student loans are always an option too. I like to think that my salary post MBA will make it worth being in all this debt now.

Accepted: Do you plan on returning to that industry after you graduate, or entering a new field? 

Hasmita: My hobby is freelance journalism, I write for a few magazines and a national newspaper, focusing on food and travel. I would love to merge my passion for writing with finance somehow. Perhaps strategy for a large travel company? I’m keeping my options open right now.

Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the b-school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Hasmita: Because the deadlines were all at similar times, and I applied to 8 schools, the application process was all consuming for a period of time. The application essays were grueling, and it took a lot of time and energy. Applying was also expensive; I just paced myself and took it one step at a time. I also project managed my referees, because asking them to complete 8x referrals was an equally grueling request. I made them aware of what needed to be done long in advance and all went smoothly.

Accepted: Can you tell us more about your blog? When did you start blogging? What have you gained from the experience? Do you plan on continuing to blog over the course of your studies?

Hasmita: My blog, Jozilicious, started as a way for me to express myself creatively. I’ve always been passionate about food and travel, and found myself giving recommendations to people a lot, so I thought that I’d be better off posting all my favourite spots online. About a year and a half ago, I was offered my own page in a national newspaper, and after that my freelance journalism career took off. It’s been great to have such a fulfilling hobby, but it does get difficult managing my time. I am definitely planning to blog while I’m in Singapore and France. I think my readers will be interested to see what I’ve been up to.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for INSEAD, check out our INSEAD 2014 MBA Essay Tips

You can read more about Hasmita’s b-school journey by checking out her blog, Jozilicious. Thank you Hasmita for sharing your story with us!

Navigating the MBA Maze

Interview with an Admitted UCLA Anderson [Re]Applicant

Click here to read more MBA student interviews!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. And now for a follow up interview with James Huntington, who was recently accepted to UCLA Anderson. (We first met James last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: It’s nice to have you back! Can you tell us a little about how you’ve spent your last year?

James: Thanks! I am excited for the opportunity to share a little bit more about my experience. I never imagined how much time, energy, and effort would go into applying to b-school. It definitely consumes you. Other than applications, interviews, etc., I have tried to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids (we are expecting another boy here in a couple weeks). We did a couple family surf trips, one to Washington and one to Mexico…Mexico was a little bit warmer. I have also spent the past couple months brushing up on some math/Excel skills, as well as taking a few computer science and coding classes to help prep me for my goal to transition into the tech industry.

Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to UCLA Anderson! In our last interview, you had said that you were applying to Tuck, Haas, Kellogg, MIT, and Yale – but no mention of Anderson! When did you add Anderson to the list? Did you apply to any others not on your original list?

James: Thank you so much! Anderson was on my shortlist of schools I wanted to apply to, but I decided I didn’t want to tackle more than five applications in round one, even though I got a very early start being a reapplicant. After being dinged or waitlisted by the schools I applied to in round one, I decided to apply to Darden, Tepper, and Fuqua, in addition to UCLA Anderson.

Accepted: Where else were you accepted to? What tipped the scales to favor Anderson? 

James: I ended up getting into Darden and Tepper as well. At first, I was having a very difficult time deciding where to go. There were aspects of each program that I really liked and I knew I could be successful at each one. However, as I talked to more students/alumni, reflected on my personal/professional goals, etc., Anderson was clearly the right choice for me. This is not to say that Darden or Tepper lacked in any of these areas, but there were a few things that really stood out to me about Anderson:


Throughout this whole process, I have found that Anderson students have been some of the most, if not the most responsive, friendly, genuine, and helpful students I have talked to. Of the students I contacted or was introduced to, 100% of them responded and took time to talk with me. The only other school that came remotely close to that was Tuck. All the students I spoke with at Anderson were down to earth and very friendly. A few even offered me a place to stay while I look for housing. I appreciated the fact that after I was accepted I was assigned a buddy by the admission office. I was also contacted by an alumni and spoke with him about his experience at Anderson. Another thing that really impressed me compared to some of the other programs was the amount of help/advice Anderson students gave me in terms of preparing for school and a career transition.


One factor I didn’t think would be too important to me while I was researching programs, but became increasingly so, was the location of the school. For my career goals, to transition into tech, aside from perhaps the Bay Area, I couldn’t have picked a better location. Plus, having grown up in California, I am looking forward to returning to my home state and enjoying the great weather! No more snow 2014!!!

In relation to location, one thing I really like about Anderson is they offer academic internships. With the relatively strong tech start-up scene in the Los Angeles area, this will give me the opportunity to further gain and develop the needed skills and experience while in school to land a job in tech post-MBA.


Along the lines of location and career, another big plus for Anderson was the strength of their tech club, the High-Tech Business Association, and the amount of different offerings for students interested in tech. With nearly a quarter of the students from Anderson going into the tech industry, the school has put a lot of resources into developing this area of their program. With some of the other schools, I felt like I would have to put a lot of personal effort into being able to get anywhere near the experience I would at Anderson. Another big draw to the program was that Anderson’s Career Management Center, Parker CMC, has consistently be ranked one of the top MBA career management centers. From all my conversations with Anderson students, the strength of the Parker CMC is one thing that came up in almost every conversation.


Although there are a ton of other reasons I chose Anderson, the last one I will talk about is the community. I mentioned this earlier, but all of the students and fellow admits that I have spoken to have been very down to earth, friendly, and receptive. I initially really wanted to be in a small town to make sure I got the tighter-knit, community feel from the program I attended. However, after the experience I have had thus far with Anderson, I am confident I will get the tight-knit community feel while being in one of the most vibrant cities in the world!

Sorry to go on and on, but as you can tell, I am really excited about Anderson!

Accepted: Can you talk about your different interview experiences (this year and last year when you applied the first time)? And can you share a few tips with our readers on interviewing?

James: Absolutely! Of the entire application process, I enjoyed the interview the most. I felt like I was able to paint the best picture of myself while interviewing, as long as I was prepared. The difference between my first interview last year and my last interview this year was like night and day. I think some of it had to do with just gaining experience interviewing, but it was mostly due to my level of preparation and understanding my story.

Of all of the interviews I did, my favorite was by far my interview with Darden. The interviewer came in completely blind, she didn’t even have my resume, and she asked me to tell her my story. She wanted to know about my personal life, my professional life, and my goals. She would interject from time to time with questions, but overall, she let me direct the conversation. Because I wasn’t restricted to answering specific questions, I felt like I was able to express who I am and who I want to be much better than in other interviews. I think that question would have been overwhelming if I hadn’t prepared and didn’t know that Darden was known for the “Tell me your story” interview style, but thanks to the various forums and interview reports, I was, and it made the experience very enjoyable.

For those that will be interview soon, make sure you prepare! Don’t just prep for general interview questions, but look up interview reports for each school, the interview formats can be very different. The better prepared you are, the smoother the interview will go.

Also, know your story inside and out. Own it! Know what you want to do, how you are going to do it, and how the school you are interviewing with is going to help you. When asked, “Why our school?” don’t respond with general comments like, “Collaborative culture,” “Tight-knit community,” etc. Be specific! If those things are important to you, tell them how their school exhibits those characteristics. Be genuinely specific about classes, clubs, conferences, and activities that are going to help you achieve your goals. Again, be specific about how you will contribute to you class and the program. In order to do that, you will need to prepare, research, and talk to students/professors.

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

James: I have always enjoyed going to school. I am really looking forward to stepping away from work for a while and devoting all that time and energy into school. I believe that an MBA is a great opportunity to better yourself personally and professionally, and I am looking forward to doing that with some great classmates. I have already had the chance to connect with a few members of my future class and I have been impressed by all the different backgrounds and things they have accomplished. I am really excited to get to know them better and to meet more great people. Outside of school, I am looking forward to going surfing, and my kids are pumped to be so close to Disneyland!

Accepted: Do you still blog? How do you think your blog will evolve now that you’ve been accepted? 

James: I am still definitely blogging. So many of the other prospective students’ blogs and current students’ blogs helped me throughout this process, I want to give back in some way if possible. Hopefully some of the things I write about will help those that are just beginning the process, and maybe inspire some reapplicants to keep working hard and going after their dreams.

My blog has definitely evolved since I started it. When I first started writing, it was mainly for myself. It was an outlet for all the pent up thoughts/anxiety brought on by the application process. I feel like it has become more of a place for me to share my experiences and information I have come across to help benefit others who are going through the process now. My hope is that it will become a resource for those individuals. I plan to blog while I am in school as well, although it might not be at the same rate, and offer insight into life at b-school, specifically UCLA Anderson.

You can read more about this blogger’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, MBA Reapplicant! Thank you James for sharing your story with us!

Tips to help you ace those MBA interviews!

MBA Re-Applicant Interview with “Grant Me Admission!”

Check out more MBA applicant blogger interviews!This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing an anonymous blogger from the blog, “Grant Me Admission!”

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?

Grant Me Admission: Originally from sunny California, I graduated with a BS in Accounting from a state school on a full-ride merit scholarship and accepted a job in a finance rotational leadership program in a Fortune 50 manufacturing company. After working for a couple of years, I transferred to the East Coast in hopes of touring schools and networking (which has paid off in my opinion).

Accepted: Can you tell us about your MBA application experience so far?

Grant Me Admission: Last year I only applied to Tuck at Dartmouth in the EA Round (highly recommended to always apply early rounds). I was lucky enough to be waitlisted and then transferred to a reduced waitlist. Because Tuck is at capacity, I am currently ramping up my application efforts for this year. I have selected 6 schools (Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Yale, & Duke), and I’m currently planning out my steps for the rest of the year. Some major steps will be retaking the GMAT in August/September to increase my initial 710 (making my profile a little more competitive) and applying to EA/R1 to all my schools (it’ll be a busy fall for sure). In fact, I have already started to take initial stabs at Harvard’s and Tuck’s essays.

Accepted: What will you do differently during this next admissions round?

Grant Me Admission: Besides trying to increase my GMAT, I will be writing my essays MUCH earlier and also be getting alumni/professional feedback. I plan on starting and “completing” my applications far in advance, so I can continually get feedback and refine, and I have already approached some of my recommendation candidates. In addition to these key steps, I’m also debating on hiring a consultant (this is still very much in the air). Perhaps the most exciting difference this year is my blog, where I am documenting my experience, keeping myself accountable/motivated and helping others along the way.

Accepted: Looks like you did great on your GMAT on your first shot (710). Can you talk about your decision to retake the exam?

Grant Me Admission: Thanks for the compliment! 710 is a great score, but my verbal could have been better (Q49, V38). Last year when I applied to Tuck I was satisfied, but not elated, with my score. If my score was above the average (~720), my profile would have been more competitive for admissions and fellowships. My decision to take the GMAT was solidified when I received my waitlist feedback from Tuck which was focused on my GMAT. While I know the GMAT is not the only area that I could improve on, it is something that I do have control of, and improving it will allow my profile to have one more differentiated data point.

Accepted: B-school’s not cheap – what are your thoughts on investing in an MBA?

Grant Me Admission: No joke! Even though b-school has a 6 digit price tag, it’s worth it to me. I have lofty dreams and getting a top MBA will definitely connect me to the right networks and opportunities to help me achieve them. Also, after crunching the numbers, the long term earning power definitely solidifies my decision to invest in an MBA.

Accepted: Do you plan on staying in the same industry as you’re currently in? Or switching to a new field? In other words, why do you need an MBA?

Grant Me Admission: After my MBA I hope to go into one of the Big Three Consulting firms (MBB or McKinsey, BCG, Bain) to do strategy/management consulting. I am currently gaining valuable experience in the manufacturing industry, and I’m excited at the aspect of using my experience to contribute to the success of many companies through consulting. Getting an MBA and then transitioning from industry to consulting is common, and I’m excited to pursue this goal.

Accepted: When and why did you start blogging? What have you gained from the experience so far?

Grant Me Admission: I started mid-May (not long at all!) mostly to keep myself motivated/accountable. Another benefit of blogging is that I will have a record of my thoughts and decisions, and also have the opportunity to help others along the way. The MBA application process was really overwhelming for me last year, and I went through countless resources to find the best information to help me. I wished countless times last year that there was a central resource with links and references for a newbie such as myself. This year, I have built that resource for myself (and anyone else that needs it). Meeting others on a common journey is always empowering. Finally, I am excited to reveal have almost 1,000 views after just over a week!

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

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

You can read more about this blogger’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Grant Me Admission!  Thank you for sharing your story with us!

Why ESADE? Interview with an Admitted Student

Check out our free copy of Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right OneThis interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current and future MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now, introducing Manuel Alvarado Amado……

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?

Manuel: Thank you for having me, it’s a great opportunity to share my admissions experience. I’m from Maracaibo, Venezuela. I studied Civil Engineering as my undergraduate major at a local university called Universidad Rafael Urdaneta, one of the few universities in Venezuela that teaches Civil Engineering.

As a civil engineer and deputy project manager for four years at the Puente Nigale project, I have helped the company successfully plan and initiate operations of a three-billion USD fixed link spanning over 51 kilometers of highways and bridges, coordinating teams of workers and consultants from different areas around the world.

Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to ESADE! Why did you choose ESADE — what were some of the things that drew you to the program?

Manuel: Thank you! ESADE was one of my top choices based on the criteria I followed for deciding where to apply: Location, international recognition, teaching method and networking opportunities. I felt ESADE embodied all of the characteristics I was looking for as one of my top three choices and decided to apply first, then stopped all other applications once I got in.

One of the most appealing features was ESADE’s focus on leadership within a teamwork frame, which I believe is a characteristic that can set ESADE MBA candidates apart from others when entering the corporate field.

Finally, while applying I noticed the admissions committee’s attitude towards applicants was really warm and forthcoming in every step of the application, striving to help and prepare those who were interested in knowing anything about the school, something I must say was a huge advantage over their closest competition.

Accepted: Do you plan on staying in your current industry after you receive your MBA or heading into a new field? What’s your post-MBA plan?

Manuel: My long-term career vision is to found and lead a geoenvironmental consultancy firm to operate on a global level providing services for international construction players like Odebrecht or ACS.

In the short-to-mid-term, I plan to support my long-term goal by obtaining a business development position on one of the top established global geotechnical-environmental firms, bringing forward the name of ESADE as a highly reputed business school to the biggest players in the geoenvironmental business such as Fugro or GEO, establishing contacts and increasing management skills and responsibilities, to grab a firm hold on the nuances of the industry worldwide, while fine-tuning the business plan that will enable me to start my own firm.

Accepted: What do you most look forward to in living in Barcelona?

Manuel: Barcelona is an amazing, vibrant environment to study, work and live. It’s a diverse, multicultural wonder full of great places to enjoy and people to meet. I believe being in one of Europe’s main cultural hubs will enrich my international view and experiences. Oh, and I’m a huge FC Barcelona fan, so that’s always a plus. :)

Accepted: Did you only consider European b-schools? Which other programs did you consider?

Manuel: I did, for a number of reasons. Having intermittently lived in the US while I was a child and having visited Europe since, I felt more identified with the European culture and way of life. Another reason was the lengthy visa requirements and admissions procedures top business schools in the US apply.

Because of work obligations, I felt more at ease with the rolling admissions or multiple-stage process most European schools apply, I also considered London Business School, IESE and SDA Bocconi, though having a stronger background and interest in entrepreneurship finally drove me to choose ESADE.

Accepted: What do you believe are the advantages of attending a one-year program like ESADE compared to the two-year programs that you find in the States?

Manuel: I believe one-year programs are better for professionals who are interested in quickly rejoining the job market without sacrificing an education of the highest quality. The great thing about ESADE is that it allows you to study a 12, 15 or 18 month program and get the most out of each, including a student exchange with many top universities around the world, including some of the best from the US, and an internship for the 15 and 18 month programs.

Accepted: Can you share your top three admissions tips with our readers?

Manuel: Definitely! I think the most important piece of advice someone can give you is to prepare your story through. Write down ten accomplishments or experiences that make you unique, in order of importance. Those will be the foundation with which you’ll work to impress the AdCom. Remember, we all have a great story to tell, just find yours.

Another suggestion would be, if you’re having a tough time, to get in touch with admissions consultants who can and will help you shape up your profile. Linda at Accepted, among others, has been amazing in helping me pinpoint the details for preparing a successful application.

Finally, INVESTIGATE. Besides the fact that there is a lot of amazing information that’s free on the Internet for you to prepare, you must always know exactly where you’re applying and why. Identify with your future Alma Mater. As someone once told me, you must not apply to the best school. You must apply to the school that’s best for you.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for ESADE see: 2013 Virtual Panel: Exploring European B-Schools with IMD, HEC Paris and ESADE.

Thank you Manuel for sharing your story with us! You can stay current with Manuel’s MBA adventure by following him on Twitter – @manualvarado.

Download our report that will help you navigate the MBA Maze

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 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.

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