Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Todd King.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees? Where do you currently live?
Todd: I grew up mostly in Virginia, but have lived many places as an adult: Georgia, Utah, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, even China for five years. These days I’m in the Boston area, but I’m frequently in Virginia to visit my octogenarian parents and in Beijing to visit my wife’s parents.
I served in the Army to save up for college. In my Military Intelligence role I did a lot of work involving computers and graphics, and truly enjoyed it; so after the Army I attended one of the best computer graphics college programs, at the University of Utah. I graduated with honors despite holding down a job throughout school to support myself, and that helped me land a job with IBM, despite graduating during a recession. A short time later I found work that was more truly graphics-related, at Walt Disney Feature Animation.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your work with Disney?
Todd: Lots of people ask if I was an animator; no, I was one of the people who kept the process moving. Even at that time, during Lion King days, technology played a huge role in the making of animated films and there was much for a technologist to do. I did a bit of everything: front-line support for the animators, system administration to keep movie data backed up, software programming, project leading, maintaining aspects of the system across multiple sites in multiple countries, and more. Every frame of film for six Disney animated features went through my hands at some point, and knowing that my work has helped to make many millions of children happy is something that will always bring me a great sense of satisfaction.
Accepted: How did your experience with the US Army, as well as your Disney experience (and any other jobs), pave your path to business school?
Todd: My work in the Army led to my study at college, but it was my work at Disney that led to my study at business school. My time in the Army no doubt served to make me a more attractive business school candidate, since military people tend to have held significant responsibility, but it also served to make me older than the traditional candidate, since my military career came before college.
My Disney experience led me to business school in an unusual way. Before Disney, I had a strong interest in China, and that grew greatly during the making of Mulan. Making that movie got me thinking about making animation for a Chinese audience, something no one seemed to be doing at the time, despite China’s rapid growth. I wanted to combine my Disney experience with my passion for China to explore the possibility of creating an animation business there. I had no knowledge of business fundamentals though, so I truly needed an MBA to pursue such a venture, and as we wrapped up work on Mulan I started looking at business schools.
Accepted: How was MIT Sloan the best MBA program for you? What are some of your fondest Sloan memories?
Todd: Sloan was right for me for a number of reasons. Animation relies heavily on cutting-edge technology, and no school was better at teaching the management of technology than Sloan.
Business in China is unique, and Sloan was one of the very few programs then with significant knowledge of China. A studio in China would likely involve entrepreneurship, and that was another Sloan strength. It all made the school a great fit for my needs; visiting the school and seeing its many smart but laid-back students reinforced that feeling of a good fit. Other business schools could have been a good fit as well – UCLA and NYU in particular – but I needed to be in the Boston area at that time, so I focused on getting into Sloan.
This may sound strange, but my fondest memories of Sloan involve the times that I was not there: I spent around six months of my Sloan tenure in China, an opportunity I never would have had without the school. I interned for Sloan’s international MBA program in China, assisted a venture in China partially funded by a professor at Sloan, and finally got to explore the animation scene in China, which turned out to have many significant issues. I spent spring and winter breaks in China as well. All of that led to my work after graduation as a consultant for a Chinese firm that also had Sloan connections.
Accepted: When and why did you become an admissions consultant for Accepted?
Todd: My Chinese firm was hit hard by the dot-com bust a year after I joined, and it laid off all its consultants. I contacted many former classmates then, but they were in similar situations, so my prospects for new employment were few. Around the same time, I was helping friends and acquaintances with their business school applications, and discovering that I had a knack for it; I enjoyed advising them and they kept getting accepted. So, when an opportunity arose to join a professional admissions consultancy, I took it. I meant for it to be temporary, so I’m shocked when I think that nearly fifteen years have passed since then, the past three of them at Accepted. It shows how much I enjoy admissions consulting.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Todd: Professionally, my favorite thing about consulting is that thrilling moment when a truly deserving person I have guided over the past six months gets accepted to a top school. It’s particularly satisfying if that person was rejected the previous year, not only because of their sheer relief, but also because they can see the value of my guidance very clearly. Getting someone accepted is not quite the same as seeing for the first time the completed version of a Disney movie I worked on for years, but it’s close.
Personally, my favorite thing about consulting is the flexibility it gives me. I’m not tied down by geography, so I can consult whether I’m in China or in the US. I’m also not tied down by schedule, so I can spend a great amount of time with my family, something that proved particularly beneficial when my wife needed to spend a lot of time in China during our daughter’s high school years in the US. Consulting allowed me all the time I needed to raise her, and though she’s off at college now, we’re still very close.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
First: When writing an essay, answer the question. If you give your essay draft to someone to read and they can correctly guess the question you’re answering, that’s a good sign. You’d be surprised by how rarely that happens, though.
Second: When writing about why you want to attend a school, write about your needs, not just about the school’s offerings. Admissions committee members already know their school’s offerings; what they don’t know is what you need in order for you to reach your goals. So tell them; they’ll see a fit if it’s there.
Third: Be sincere. Admissions committees ask their questions in different ways not to trick applicants, but simply to find ways to get applicants to reveal who they really are. You’d be surprised by how far sincerity will carry you with an admissions committee. I give all this advice freely, because it’s far easier said than done; guiding applicants to do these things is how I spend much of my time as a consultant.