Leaning In While Pursuing Your MBA: The MBA Mama Story

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Nicole Ponton and Divinity Matovu

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 for a chat with Nicole Ponton and Divinity Matovu…

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?

Nicole Ponton: Born and raised in Pasadena, CA. I studied International Relations and Religion at the University of Southern California, Class of 2010. If I had to pick one book, it would be 100 Years of Solitude.

Divinity Matovu: I’m from a small town in Wisconsin, and I’m a first-generation college graduate. I studied Political Science at the University of Southern California, Class of 2008. I am a fiery entrepreneur and independent thinker who will begin my MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in Fall 2015 with a focus on finance and entrepreneurship. I’ve launched four start-ups: a fashion company in Los Angeles, a youth development non-profit in Uganda, a consulting firm with clients in Africa and the US, and now my latest venture, MBA Mama. I am a mother to two wonderful children, Nyah and Shafiq. I’ve lived and worked in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and pride myself on being a global citizen and an advocate for women. I am passionate about start-ups, technology, women’s empowerment and African affairs. Interestingly enough, I did not know Nicole during undergrad. We are both 2015 Social Innovation Fellows with StartingBloc. We had instant chemistry when we met in February at SB’s Los Angeles Institute. My favorite non-school book is “The Alchemist.” I’ve read it at least once a year since 2009.

Accepted: Can you tell us a bit about your MBA application process? How did your experience inspire you to develop your new venture, MBAMama.com? And where do you see MBAMama going in the future?

NP: I actually went through the application process twice, back to back, with only the support of friends. It has been a character building experience, to say the least, and when I heard about Divinity’s concept, I knew that I had to help other women going through that process. I know that this platform has amazing potential and it has received an excellent response and support from people of all walks of life. I envision MBA Mama growing into a powerful network, becoming the go-to website for women balancing family planning and career advancement, and becoming the host of an exceptional annual conference.

DM: My MBA application process began Fall 2013 when I applied, and was admitted, to Forte Foundation’s MBA Launch Program and Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s (MLT) MBA Prep Program. Completing both programs in 2014 kept me focused, helped me be strategic, and held me accountable for advancing towards my goal of matriculating to a top-tier MBA program in 2015. I struggled for months with the GMAT, taking the exam 3 times before I received a score I felt confident with. After the recommendation of my amazingly supportive MLT coach, Kendra Crook, I took supplemental courses in Statistics and Calculus to boost my quantitative profile.

While researching MBA programs, I often had to dig deep within school websites to find common-sense information applicable to me as a pre-MBA mama. In my experience, the images many schools project of “students with families” are predominantly male students whose wives are stay-at-home mothers. I know taking care of children is a full-time job, so I certainly respect stay-at-home mothers; however, it was frustrating to not see images of women MBAs who had children. At some moments, I doubted whether my goals were attainable. I reached out to some programs specifically requesting to be put in contact with an MBA mom who could talk to me about childcare options in the area, and I’d be connected with a woman whose retired parents lived in the same city and cared for the child full-time– thereby eliminating childcare concerns. While we certainly both had children, our situations and needs were completely different.

I had my “aha moment” for MBA Mama after receiving a text message from Derek, one of my MLT MBA Prep colleagues. Derek texted me saying he admired my perseverance, and my ability to balance Forte, MLT, GMAT prep, running my own business and being a single mother. I was extremely touched by Derek’s text. As an entrepreneur, I immediately started to think about how I could impact more people like I’d impacted Derek. The concept for MBA Mama was born within 1 week of Derek’s text.

MBA Mama is a dynamic blog featuring exclusive, inspirational content that provides Millennial Mamas with tools and resources to pursue a graduate business degree. As Nicole mentioned, the goal for MBA Mama is to evolve as the premier website for young women balancing family planning and career advancement. While pitching this idea over the past few months, I’ve received overwhelming support from Millennial women – like Nicole – who do not have children yet. Nonetheless, the message that an MBA, career advancement and children are not mutually exclusive resonates with them.

Accepted:  How have you been able to integrate your commitment to social justice into your career?

NP: In addition to running Communications for MBA Mama, I currently work full time for a social justice nonprofit called Life In Abundance, International. We are an African-founded and African-led organization that carries out sustainable community development in urban and rural impoverished areas, empowering the most vulnerable families to become self-sustaining and help others to do the same. It has been an incredible experience to work for this organization and witness the transformation that takes place throughout the 10 countries we work with, and I am fortunate that social justice is a part of my day-to-day life. I also continue to give back to programs in my hometown that promote education initiatives and gang prevention which I volunteered with during my time in California.

DM: As a social entrepreneur, I am always thinking about social impact within the context of my career. Ultimately, I plan to monetize MBA Mama and build equity in this brand. It is a win-win scenario if I can build a revenue model that works, and simultaneously inspire women by sharing stories of MBA mamas, and giving them actionable steps they can take to pursue their MBAs and career goals relentlessly while balancing family commitments. I want to see women’s enrollment in business school on par with men’s enrollment within the next 5-10 years. Admissions officers are missing out big time if they are not targeting, recruiting, and supporting talented women with children to their MBA programs.

Accepted: Can you talk about your experience so far with the Forte Foundation? Would you recommend that other women interested in business check them out?

DM: I recommend Forte Foundation’s MBA Launch Program to any woman who is interested in the MBA. Last Fall, I published a full blog post about my experience on Forte’s Business360 blog titled: ROI on MBA Launch Program Has Had Exponential Benefits.

NP: Though I am not a Forte Fellow (yet) like Divinity, the Forte Foundation has provided me with access to excellent resources and advice during my application process and transition preparation. I highly recommend that other women interested in business check out the site and everything they have to offer.

Accepted: Is there anything else you think we should know about you and your work?

DM: MBA Mama’s blog officially launches April 15, 2015. We’d love Accepted’s network to visit the site, www.mbamama.com – engage with us on social media @MBAMamaDotCom and sign up for our newsletter. We’d also love for your readers to support our ThunderClap campaign which runs through April 15:  Anyone interested in learning more about MBA Mama can contact me at divinity@mbamama.com.

Thank you Divinity and Nicole for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of success!

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs
Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• Why MBA?
Wharton 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• Forte Helps Women in Business Thrive: Interview with Elissa Sangster

A Wharton Grad Rids the World of Bank Fees

Listen to the recording!BankMobile is bank with a vision, ATMs everywhere, no fees, and no branches.

Want to know more, right?

For the full scoop, listen to the entire recording of our conversation with Luvleen Sidhu, Wharton alum and Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at the mobile-only, fee-free bank for Millennials.

00:01:40 – Introducing Luvleen Sidhu and the many benefits of BankMobile.

00:07:05 – BankMobile is planning to become the “Uber of banking.” True or False?

00:09:09 – Up and coming at BankMobile: The “Can I Buy” feature.

00:10:58 – How BankMobile came to be.

00:13:40 – Did you really learn anything in b-school?

00:17:55 – What Luvleen wishes she knew before b-school: The application process doesn’t end after you are admitted!

00:20:19 – The best and worst about Wharton.

00:26:41 – Advice for Wharton applicants and future entrepreneurs.

Click here to listen to the show!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com

Related Links:

• Bankmobile
• BankMobile Aims to Become the Uber of Banking
• Wharton 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips
Get Accepted to The Wharton School

Related Shows:

• CommonBond: How Two Wharton Grads Revolutionized Student Loans
• The Wharton Executive MBA Program: An Insider’s View
• Entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB: Carlypso Drives Down the Startup St.
• Making International Student Loans a Prime Investment
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Get Accepted to Wharton

U.S. News 2016 Best Graduate Business Schools

U.S. News released its graduate school rankings today. Let’s see how our top b-schools fared…

Top 20 U.S. B-Schools – 2016

Visit our b-school zone page for info on the top business schools.1. Stanford GSB (1)
2. Harvard Business School (1)
3. UPenn Wharton (1)
4. Chicago Booth (4)
5. MIT Sloan (5)
6. Northwestern Kellogg (6)
7. UC Berkeley Haas (7)
8. Columbia Business School (8)
9. Dartmouth Tuck (9)
10. UVA Darden (11)
11. NYU Stern (10)
11. Michigan Ross (11)
13. Duke Fuqua (14)
13. Yale SOM (13)
15. UCLA Anderson (16)
16. Cornell Johnson (17)
17. Texas McCombs (15)
18. UNC Kenan-Flagler (19)
19. Washington Olin (22)
20. CMU Tepper (18)

25% of US News rankings is made up of survey responses from business school deans and directors; 15% is based on recruiters’ survey responses. The remaining 60% is based on statistical data reflecting program selectivity and placement success. (For details, read up on U.S. News methodology.)

Here are some highlights from the Poets & Quants article on the rankings:

• Last year’s three-way Stanford/Harvard/Wharton tie was broken this year with each school taking one of the first three spots (Stanford in first, HBS in second, and Wharton in third).

• The P&Q article states that Wharton’s slip to third is due to lower peer assessment and corporate recruiter survey scores.

• Wharton also reported an acceptance rate of 20.7%, up from last year’s 18.7% — this is another metric used by U.S. News in their methodology.

• Another factor contributing to Wharton’s position this year is its position regarding salary and bonus. Last year it took top slot at $141,243, while this year it slipped to fourth place at $142,574 – yes, higher than last year, but this year, Harvard, MIT, and Stanford reported even higher salaries/bonuses (HBS took the cake at $144,936 this year).

• Stanford’s top stats this year: average GMAT – 732; average GPA – 3.74; acceptance rate – 7.1%.

• In the top 20, there weren’t significant changes beyond a given school moving up or down a couple places. But further down in the rankings there were some big shifts. Texas A&M jumped 10 places to 27th place (tied with Carlson); Wake Forest jumped 13 places to 45th place; and Louisville moved up at least 31 places to 71st place – it was previously unranked.

• Big drops include Missouri Trulaske which fell 21 places from 58th to 79th place; Pepperdine Graziadio which fell at least 25 places, from last year’s 76th place to its unranked position this year.

Wondering how much rankings should play a roll in determining where you apply? Watch the video below for Linda Abraham’s answer:

Are You Misusing the B-School Rankings?

Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy

Related Resources:

• Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2015
• What’s an MBA Really Worth?
• PayScale: How Much Can You Earn, and How to Earn It?

How to Ace Your Team Based Interview [4 Tips for the Big Day]

Learn more about Team Based Interviews!

The key to a good TBD is balancing what to say, how much to say and when to say it.

Last week we shared our tips for preparing for Team Based Interviews. Today we’re going to move forward and offer 4 tips for acing the interview itself:

1. Don’t be confrontational. This is not a debate in which you’re trying to score points. It’s not Crossfire. It’s not a verbal battle. It’s a simulation of what you may encounter in a b-school classroom or group project, and so it’s that vibe and model that you’ll want to emulate. Interviewees should build on one another’s points, contributing to the conversation; they shouldn’t cut each other down with rude or judgmental remarks. Of course you’re allowed to disagree, and you should be persuasive and enthusiastic about your positions, but do so with respect and grace.

2. Think quality, not quantity. Participants are judged on the quality – and not the quantity – of their comments. You should add to the conversation, but certainly not dominate it. Refrain from speaking for the sake of being heard. Thoughtful and succinct comments are appreciated; chatter is not.

Don’t let this tip backfire on you! Qualitative comments are a must, so don’t hold back from speaking because you’re worried that your contributions won’t hit the mark. You need to find a balance – don’t blab on incessantly, but don’t be too shy to open your mouth either. You’re there to contribute; make sure you do!

3. Keep it real. While many of the topics or prompts given may lead you to a world of theoretical thought, you need to work to push through the theory to arrive at concrete points that are supported with evidence from your own firsthand experiences. Business schools are interested in students who have paid attention to their life stories and who are able to draw deep understanding and practical results from them.

4. Keep notes to a minimum. Just as a treatise of pre-interview notes will distract you from the interview action (as we mentioned in last week’s article), so will scribbling notes furiously during the interview. You definitely want to have a pen and clipboard or a tablet available if you need to quickly jot something down, but remember – this is a group discussion and you want to keep the flow of the conversation natural. Taking notes and then reading your monologue will certainly disrupt that flow.

Good luck!

Have a TBD Coming Up? Practice with the pros before your big day! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR A MOCK WHARTON TBD!
Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• Get Ready, Get Set, and ACE that Team Interview Challenge!
• Four Tips for the Wharton Interview
Wharton B-Scool Zone

4 Tips for Team Interviews

Click here for more TBD tips

Win an Academy Award for your interview performance

Since so much of b-school life and learning includes team discussions, the adcom needed a tool for assessing how applicants will fit in the team-based discussion culture of their programs. Thus, the Team-Based Discussion (TBD) was born.

In team-based interviews, applicants need to use a different set of skills than they use during traditional, individual interviews. Personal interviews require one-on-one presentation, interpersonal skills, and self-awareness, while team interviews require critical thinking, listening, persuasion, and leadership.

Here are four to-do’s to help you win an Academy Award for your performance in an interview:

1. Review school material. This includes the specific materials that the school provides prior to the interview, as well as all other material about the program. As with an individual interview, you need to know the school well – its mission, curriculum, teaching style, etc. Review the school’s website and speak with current students and recent grads so you get a clear picture of what it’s like to be a student at B-School X.

2. Read Case in Point. This is an excellent book by Marc Consentino that will teach you how to state your position during team-based interviews, and then clearly and succinctly support your position.

3. Role-play. Use family, friends, colleagues, and consultants at Accepted.com to role-play with you. The more in-the-know your mock interviewer and peers are, the better idea you’ll get of how the interview will run on the big day.

4. Take notes. You are allowed to bring notes to the interview, and while you don’t want to read off a piece of paper or even refer to it frequently, it may help you feel more confident knowing that some of your key points are written down in case you need them. You never know how performance anxiety may set in, and if your brain freezes and you completely forget your plan, you’ll be glad you jotted some ideas down beforehand.

TIP: Don’t bring a 400-page stack of papers! You don’t want to spend the whole time shuffling through your notes, making noise and ignoring your co-interviewees while they speak. Paperless notes on a tablet may reduce the shuffle, but they won’t reduce the distraction – keep paperless notes to a minimum as well.

Coming up next: 4 Tips for the Interview Itself  

Have a TBD Coming Up? Practice with the pros before your big day! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR A MOCK WHARTON TBD!
Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

How to Ace Your MBA Interviews
7 Tips for MBA Interview Prep
The 10 Commandments of MBA Interviews