This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Noelle Kelly…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Noelle: I was born and raised in Goldsboro, NC, a small town in the Eastern part of the state, and attended the same high school that my parents attended. My grandparents lived nearby, so it was great having them close as I grew up. I studied Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and graduated in 2012. I thought I would pursue a career in medical device manufacturing, but I quickly learned that I was more interested in a career in business.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school book?
Noelle: I love The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
Accepted: If you could meet any famous person – past or present – who would it be and why?
Noelle: I would love to meet Dr. Maya Angelou. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the Duke Chapel when I was an undergraduate. Her words and legacy have been so inspiring to people everywhere – particularly women of color. I would love to receive her guidance on achieving happiness and prosperity while building up the communities around me as I transition to a new phase of life.
Accepted: Where are you currently going to b-school? What year?
Noelle: I decided to return to Duke in 2015 to attend The Fuqua School of Business. I will graduate in May 2017 with a certificate in Health Sector Management.
Accepted: Why did you choose that program? How were you a good fit?
Noelle: Fuqua offered the opportunity for me to pursue my passion for healthcare through its renowned Health Sector Management Certificate program, to learn in a supportive environment anchored by our six paired principles of consequential leadership, and to develop strong relationships with a host of amazing classmates, faculty, and administration. Furthermore, I was thrilled to return to my alma mater and my home state of North Carolina. It was tough for other schools to compete.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge?
Noelle: Figuring out how to best present myself in my essays was definitely my most challenging part of the application process. I struggled with how much of my personal experience and background I should include. Ultimately, after sharing my essays with family, friends, and co-workers, I found the best balance for me to share my personal journey while also appealing to each school’s culture. Getting feedback from those who know me best was instrumental in helping me strike the right balance.
Accepted: The GMAT… How did you prepare for it? How would you advise others to focus their study time?
Noelle: I first took the GMAT the summer after graduating from Duke before I started my first job. I would HIGHLY recommend this approach to those who can take the time to do this. Finding the time to study while you’re working is possible, but it can be difficult. The score from my first attempt was pretty strong, but I wanted to try to improve it. I spent a few months studying after I started work and improved my score slightly, but not as much as I had hoped. I made the decision during the summer before I applied to stick with the score I had and to focus my efforts on the other parts of my application moving forward. My advice is to quickly identify the areas where you need additional help with the GMAT, focus on improving in those areas (including getting a tutor if you need to), and then do several practice exams under real practice settings.
Accepted: Can you share your top three tips for success for those just starting out on their MBA journey?
1. Enjoy it! Business school is a gift you have chosen to give to yourself. There will definitely be times when you are stressed, overwhelmed, and challenged beyond what you imagined. But there will also be times when you can’t believe how lucky you are to have made friends with such amazing people, to travel across the world with your classmates, and to pursue the career you have always wanted. Whenever you are feeling stressed, try to take time to remember why you made the decision to get an MBA and how incredible this opportunity truly is.
2. Spend some time thinking about how you want to spend your time in business school before you get there. Decisions about which student organizations to join, where to study abroad, and what concentration to pursue will come up quickly. You will definitely learn more when you get to campus, but having some ideas in mind before you start school can help save you some time.
3. Get out of your comfort zone! Business school is such a great time to get to know a diverse group of people and to experience things that you never thought you would encounter. This could mean taking more challenging courses in your concentration area, going on a trek to a new country, or even pursuing a new career that wasn’t even on your radar when you first got to school. You never know what may come of these amazing two years…take a chance and find out!
You can follow Noelle’s journey connecting with her on LinkedIn. Thank you Noelle for sharing your story and advice with our readers. We wish you continued success.
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