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 follow up interview with James Huntington, who was recently accepted to UCLA Anderson. (We first met James last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)
Accepted: It’s nice to have you back! Can you tell us a little about how you’ve spent your last year?
James: Thanks! I am excited for the opportunity to share a little bit more about my experience. I never imagined how much time, energy, and effort would go into applying to b-school. It definitely consumes you. Other than applications, interviews, etc., I have tried to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids (we are expecting another boy here in a couple weeks). We did a couple family surf trips, one to Washington and one to Mexico…Mexico was a little bit warmer. I have also spent the past couple months brushing up on some math/Excel skills, as well as taking a few computer science and coding classes to help prep me for my goal to transition into the tech industry.
Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to UCLA Anderson! In our last interview, you had said that you were applying to Tuck, Haas, Kellogg, MIT, and Yale – but no mention of Anderson! When did you add Anderson to the list? Did you apply to any others not on your original list?
James: Thank you so much! Anderson was on my shortlist of schools I wanted to apply to, but I decided I didn’t want to tackle more than five applications in round one, even though I got a very early start being a reapplicant. After being dinged or waitlisted by the schools I applied to in round one, I decided to apply to Darden, Tepper, and Fuqua, in addition to UCLA Anderson.
Accepted: Where else were you accepted to? What tipped the scales to favor Anderson?
James: I ended up getting into Darden and Tepper as well. At first, I was having a very difficult time deciding where to go. There were aspects of each program that I really liked and I knew I could be successful at each one. However, as I talked to more students/alumni, reflected on my personal/professional goals, etc., Anderson was clearly the right choice for me. This is not to say that Darden or Tepper lacked in any of these areas, but there were a few things that really stood out to me about Anderson:
Throughout this whole process, I have found that Anderson students have been some of the most, if not the most responsive, friendly, genuine, and helpful students I have talked to. Of the students I contacted or was introduced to, 100% of them responded and took time to talk with me. The only other school that came remotely close to that was Tuck. All the students I spoke with at Anderson were down to earth and very friendly. A few even offered me a place to stay while I look for housing. I appreciated the fact that after I was accepted I was assigned a buddy by the admission office. I was also contacted by an alumni and spoke with him about his experience at Anderson. Another thing that really impressed me compared to some of the other programs was the amount of help/advice Anderson students gave me in terms of preparing for school and a career transition.
One factor I didn’t think would be too important to me while I was researching programs, but became increasingly so, was the location of the school. For my career goals, to transition into tech, aside from perhaps the Bay Area, I couldn’t have picked a better location. Plus, having grown up in California, I am looking forward to returning to my home state and enjoying the great weather! No more snow 2014!!!
In relation to location, one thing I really like about Anderson is they offer academic internships. With the relatively strong tech start-up scene in the Los Angeles area, this will give me the opportunity to further gain and develop the needed skills and experience while in school to land a job in tech post-MBA.
Along the lines of location and career, another big plus for Anderson was the strength of their tech club, the High-Tech Business Association, and the amount of different offerings for students interested in tech. With nearly a quarter of the students from Anderson going into the tech industry, the school has put a lot of resources into developing this area of their program. With some of the other schools, I felt like I would have to put a lot of personal effort into being able to get anywhere near the experience I would at Anderson. Another big draw to the program was that Anderson’s Career Management Center, Parker CMC, has consistently be ranked one of the top MBA career management centers. From all my conversations with Anderson students, the strength of the Parker CMC is one thing that came up in almost every conversation.
Although there are a ton of other reasons I chose Anderson, the last one I will talk about is the community. I mentioned this earlier, but all of the students and fellow admits that I have spoken to have been very down to earth, friendly, and receptive. I initially really wanted to be in a small town to make sure I got the tighter-knit, community feel from the program I attended. However, after the experience I have had thus far with Anderson, I am confident I will get the tight-knit community feel while being in one of the most vibrant cities in the world!
Sorry to go on and on, but as you can tell, I am really excited about Anderson!
Accepted: Can you talk about your different interview experiences (this year and last year when you applied the first time)? And can you share a few tips with our readers on interviewing?
James: Absolutely! Of the entire application process, I enjoyed the interview the most. I felt like I was able to paint the best picture of myself while interviewing, as long as I was prepared. The difference between my first interview last year and my last interview this year was like night and day. I think some of it had to do with just gaining experience interviewing, but it was mostly due to my level of preparation and understanding my story.
Of all of the interviews I did, my favorite was by far my interview with Darden. The interviewer came in completely blind, she didn’t even have my resume, and she asked me to tell her my story. She wanted to know about my personal life, my professional life, and my goals. She would interject from time to time with questions, but overall, she let me direct the conversation. Because I wasn’t restricted to answering specific questions, I felt like I was able to express who I am and who I want to be much better than in other interviews. I think that question would have been overwhelming if I hadn’t prepared and didn’t know that Darden was known for the “Tell me your story” interview style, but thanks to the various forums and interview reports, I was, and it made the experience very enjoyable.
For those that will be interview soon, make sure you prepare! Don’t just prep for general interview questions, but look up interview reports for each school, the interview formats can be very different. The better prepared you are, the smoother the interview will go.
Also, know your story inside and out. Own it! Know what you want to do, how you are going to do it, and how the school you are interviewing with is going to help you. When asked, “Why our school?” don’t respond with general comments like, “Collaborative culture,” “Tight-knit community,” etc. Be specific! If those things are important to you, tell them how their school exhibits those characteristics. Be genuinely specific about classes, clubs, conferences, and activities that are going to help you achieve your goals. Again, be specific about how you will contribute to you class and the program. In order to do that, you will need to prepare, research, and talk to students/professors.
Accepted: What are you most looking forward to in starting b-school in the fall?
James: I have always enjoyed going to school. I am really looking forward to stepping away from work for a while and devoting all that time and energy into school. I believe that an MBA is a great opportunity to better yourself personally and professionally, and I am looking forward to doing that with some great classmates. I have already had the chance to connect with a few members of my future class and I have been impressed by all the different backgrounds and things they have accomplished. I am really excited to get to know them better and to meet more great people. Outside of school, I am looking forward to going surfing, and my kids are pumped to be so close to Disneyland!
Accepted: Do you still blog? How do you think your blog will evolve now that you’ve been accepted?
James: I am still definitely blogging. So many of the other prospective students’ blogs and current students’ blogs helped me throughout this process, I want to give back in some way if possible. Hopefully some of the things I write about will help those that are just beginning the process, and maybe inspire some reapplicants to keep working hard and going after their dreams.
My blog has definitely evolved since I started it. When I first started writing, it was mainly for myself. It was an outlet for all the pent up thoughts/anxiety brought on by the application process. I feel like it has become more of a place for me to share my experiences and information I have come across to help benefit others who are going through the process now. My hope is that it will become a resource for those individuals. I plan to blog while I am in school as well, although it might not be at the same rate, and offer insight into life at b-school, specifically UCLA Anderson.
You can read more about this blogger’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, MBA Reapplicant! Thank you James for sharing your story with us!