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.
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Thank you Lenore for sharing your story with us!