Have an Open Mind, Learn Skills, Build Relationships: Darden MBA Interview

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This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Archana Rao, second-year student at UVA Darden.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?

Archana: Originally from India and being an Army Officer’s daughter I studied in 8 different schools and lived in more than 16 different states. Studied Electronics and Telecomm Engineering and pursued a course in Advertising and Public Relations to strike a balance between my quantitative and qualitative skills sets.

Accepted: What year are you at UVA Darden? 

Archana: Second Year Darden

Accepted: Why did you choose Darden? Why did you think it was the best fit for you? Has it lived up to its expectations? 

Archana: I chose Darden because I wanted to study in a college town with a rich history, wanted a small class size, and the case study method. Darden fit this exact criteria and it lives up to its expectations every single day.

Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?

Archana: I wish there was a larger focus on Technology careers. Measures are being taken to build better relations with the Bay Area.

Accepted: Which other MBA programs had you considered? Did you only consider programs in the U.S.? Why or why not?

Archana: I looked at Yale, Kellogg and Haas for particular concentrations that they specialize in. I got accepted at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, but chose to study in the US given the global exposure offered and the extensive diversity here.

Accepted: What was your pre-MBA job? Do you plan on returning to that industry after you receive your MBA?

Archana: I worked at the HSBC Bank as a project management consultant where I was also a global sustainability champion doing pro-bono consulting for non-profit partners in Education. This drove me to join the Teach for India movement where I taught English and Math in a public school.

I realized that there was lack of mentorship beyond school hours and decided to co-found a non-profit called Mentor Me India in Mumbai.

Most recently I spent the summer with the Boston Consulting Group in Houston working in Global Education strategy for the World Economic Forum and industry benchmarking for unconventional shale gas. I will continue to be in consulting full-time given the steep learning curve and opportunity to work across different industries and functional areas.

Accepted: Can you talk about the internship process at Darden? What role did they play in helping you secure your internship at BCG?

Archana: The internship process at Darden is competitive and begins almost immediately as you step on grounds in first year. Being focused, organized, and confident is the key in being successful in the process.

There are numerous support structures like the career development center and your second year coach to guide you all along the way. Your second years are the most valuable resource given that they just came back from a summer internship and have been through the whole process only a few months ago. I utilized all of the above to be well prepared to secure the internship at BCG.

Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming first year students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier?  


1. Have an open mind coming in, with a vague idea of what you might like doing for a career. Recruiting begins sooner than you think!

2. Focus on learning skills rather than just grades.

3. Build meaningful relationships with your classmates and professors. They are world-class at a top-business school.

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

Archana: Having had a variety of experiences in my career before b-school I was not sure how to communicate my short term and long term goals. But talking to people who had inspiring careers and understanding how they got there gave me a roadmap to how I could communicate those questions. It’s a very reflective process. It was very valuable for me to invest time in thinking about what I really wanted out of life and how I wanted to spend my time.

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


1. My first blog (Life is My Classroom) shares my learnings from experiences I have had at Teach for India and at Darden. It gives everyone a window into thoughts and observations that others in these institutions also experience but don’t necessarily share. I love writing and it’s a great way to de-stress when things get extremely busy at Darden as well!

2. Life on a Post-it In today’s world where people’s attention spans are shrinking, I believe that cartooning is a strong medium in communicating my thoughts, observations, and musings about life, career, education, relationships etc. on a post-it! I enjoy cartooning and post-its and this blog lets me combine the both.

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

You can read more about Archana’s journey by checking out her blog, Life is My Classroom. Thank you Archana for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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Related Resources:

• UVA Darden 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips
Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants
• How to Become a Management Consultant

Chicago Booth: A Social Experience Outside of My Comfort Zone

Click here for more Chicago Booth info & resources!This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Cheetarah1980, a student at Chicago Booth.

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

Cheetarah1980: I’m from upstate NY, born and raised. I went to Cornell for undergrad and studied Policy Analysis and Management. My favorite non-school book is probably Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of those books I can read over and over again.

Accepted: What was your most recent pre-MBA job? Do you plan on returning to that same industry after you receive your MBA or heading into a new field? What’s your plan?

Cheetarah1980: Prior to business school I worked in sales in the consumer goods industry. I’m not returning to that job. I’ve almost wrapped up an offer to be a Project Director at a prominent non-profit organization where I’ll be working on building cross sector partnerships.

Accepted: Can you talk about your experience applying for jobs? What role did Booth play in the job search process?

Cheetarah1980: Applying to jobs has been a long process because I was looking at non-traditional, niche roles in non-profit and corporate responsibility/sustainability. I received a lot of support from career services in terms of creating a target list, informational interview prep, resumes, networking emails, cover letters, etc.

Through the Booth Social Enterprise Initiative I also gained some valuable experience through a CSR fellowship as well as several great networking contacts that eventually led to job opportunities. It’s important to understand that in more niche career fields no school is really equipped to hand you jobs on a platter. Outside of the recruiting machine companies hire when they need someone. Your best bet is to be building relationships with as many companies as possible so that when opportunities do arise you have positioned yourself for an interview. Career services can help you develop approaches for creating those relationships and give suggestions for companies to target and how to get in touch with people at those organizations.

Accepted: Which other MBA programs did you consider when you were applying to b-school? Why did you choose Booth — how is it the best school for you?

Cheetarah1980: I applied to Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, and Stanford. I got into Booth, Wharton, and Kellogg. I chose Booth because I thought it would give me a social experience outside of my normal comfort zone. I also felt that I would be well supported in pursuing my career goals.

Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be? 

Cheetarah1980: The program itself is great. I do wish Booth had more diversity in terms of students of color. The Black and Latino populations are very small and have been shrinking for several years now. The school could do more to attract and engage minority applicants.

Accepted: Looking back at the MBA application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges?

Cheetarah1980: Low GPA was my greatest challenge. However, I was 9 years out of undergrad when I applied. I think that having nearly a decade between my career and my undergrad GPA helped tremendously. If other applicants are facing the same issue I recommend doing as well as possible on the GMAT, maybe taking 1-2 classes to create an alternate transcript (if you’re less than 5 years out of undergrad), writing the optional essay, and making sure everything else in your application is top notch. There are very very very very few perfect applicants. Admissions committees are often willing to overlook one flaw if everything else is on point.

Accepted: Can you share a few more admissions tips with our readers?

Cheetarah1980: Be authentic. If you really think about why you’re going to business school and what you want to get out of the experience you should be able to stand out. Use your own unique voice in your essays. And coach your recommenders!!

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 Chicago Booth check out our Chicago Booth 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips.

Thank you Cheetarah1980 for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

Learn how to get accepted to Chicago Booth!

Accepted.com: Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

Chicago Booth B-School Zone
MBA Student Interviews
School Specific MBA Application Essay Tips

Defining Her Strengths, Researching Schools and Choosing NYU Stern

Click here to read more interviews with current MBA Students!

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

This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Lenore, a student at NYU Stern.

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

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

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

Accepted: What did you do after finishing college?

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

Accepted: What made you decide to pursue an MBA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thank you Lenore for sharing your story with us!

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Related Resources:

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

Why Johnson? An Admitted Student Shares her Journey

Debra_Yoo_Cornell_Johnson_StudentThis interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a follow up interview with Debra Yoo, who was recently accepted to Johnson at Cornell University. (We first met Debra last year – you can read our first interview with her here.)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Debra for sharing your story with us!



Interview with a Future NYU Stern MBA and Forte Fellow

NYU Stern Admitted Student InterviewThis interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for an interview with Lourdes, a Forte Fellow who was recently accepted to NYU Stern.

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

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

Accepted: Why did you choose NYU Stern?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accepted: What have you been doing professionally since college?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

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

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

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for NYU Stern, check out our NYU Stern 2015 MBA Essay Tips.

Thank you Lourdes for sharing your story with us!