Next up in our series of featured MBA bloggers is Selemon Asfaw, otherwise known as TheSenator2014, the author of the blog, Road to the MBA Class of 2014. Enjoy the Senator’s thoughtful answers and use them to help you make your way through the MBA admissions process.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to college and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?
TheSenator2014: Born and raised in inner city Detroit to a pair of hard-working, do-anything-for-our-children parents, at a young age I was always attracted to business, especially entrepreneurs. In my teens, my folks had enough with the rampant crime and we moved out of the city. Years later, after being isolated in high-brow suburbia, the virtues my parents had instilled in me shifted from the blue collar mentality to a “not-so-humble” value system as I entered the University of Michigan at the age of 18. After experiencing an identity crisis in college I took time off from school to recalibrate. I spent a lot of time in my father’s homeland of Ethiopia as well as working for a fledgling small business in Detroit. My mission trips to Ethiopia caused an epiphany and I took a selfless approach to life. I transferred to the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management to finish my Bachelor of Science in Business in 2009 instead of continuing on at Michigan because I wanted to pursue my passion for Entrepreneurship in an environment that I felt best supported that dream.
Accepted: When do you plan on applying to business school? Which schools will you apply to? Do you think you’ll apply to a “safety school”?
TheSenator2014: I applied to business school in the fall of 2011. Admittedly I applied to too many, including a few reaches and safety schools that in hindsight I would have ditched all together. Going through the process once has brought some key lessons though. First of all, limit your schools to four or five. I had ten and went broke on application fees and flying to interviews. Second, make sure you only apply to schools you actually want to go to, not just because they have a shiny crest and their name starts with an “H”.
Accepted: How many years of work experience do you have? Doing what?
TheSenator2014: Depending on how you look at work experience, I have three years of experience post graduation and an additional year of work experience in my last year in school when I launched a successful start-up with nine colleagues. I also currently own my own small educational consulting practice and maintain a handful of loyal clientele. In my full-time roll as Administrator, Youth Entrepreneurship and Leadership for the University of Minnesota I founded and designed an interconnected set of experiential-based programs for high school students to incubate micro-ventures and get exposure to college opportunities. I consider myself an education designer more than anything and I find my job personally fulfilling. As one of the adcoms at a school I was accepted put it, “Your background is so unusual.” That made me smile knowing that I’m miles away from being cookie cutter even in comparison to ‘non-traditional’ candidates.
Accepted: Does cost play a factor in where you’re applying? Do you plan on applying for financial aid or scholarships? Has your current job offered to pick up part or all of your b-school tab?
TheSenator2014: When I began this process, cost was at the bottom of my consideration criteria, but as time has progressed it’s loomed over me like a grey cloud. I applied for scholarships and financial aid because work is not paying for it, and I, like most, am in no position to fully finance my own education. Generally I’m pleased with the success I’ve had in receiving scholarships, however at present I’m conflicted with the choices in front of me. A month ago I was sure of where I wanted to go to school and now I’m experiencing some very serious reservations. My reasons are not driven by the desire to get the most money, rather, because of the career path I want to pursue. As an entrepreneur being hampered with student debt can severely curtail your aspirations – with a loan balance of $160,000 or more will you really have the ability to take the risks you need to in order to be successful? Right now I’m in a mental holding pattern considering my options – which range from fully funded (including expenses) to unfunded. At the end of the day the question I have to answer is: which scenario is going to get me closer to my post-MBA desire?
Accepted: What courses or experiences or people have motivated you to go to business school? How?
TheSenator2014: The LEAD Program in Business, a summer program which I attended at the Carlson School of Management in high school (hence, the choice when I transferred), was a defining moment where I solidified my desire to be an entrepreneur. When I returned to Minnesota I got the chance to launch my first business with the help of a mentor; the experience confirmed what I hoped would be true. I had a talent – I could start up just about any business and get it to a point of relative stability. My strength, however, exposed my management challenge; building a substantial organization. The latter is why I need my MBA. My pitfall is while I know I’m a good entrepreneur and leader I’m not a very good manager and I’ve come to realize getting an MBA rather than spending several years developing that skill set will bring me closer to my post-MBA goals.
Accepted: How many times did you take the GMAT? Are you happy with your score?
TheSenator2014: I took the GMAT once, scored a 700 and was not exactly happy with my score. Had I retaken it I believe I could have bumped myself solidly into the 700’s and been much more confident about my overall candidacy. Unfortunately I decided to settle because my job and my business are extremely demanding, and I felt like I could use the extra time developing stronger essays rather than burying my head in GMAT study guides.
Accepted: Why did you choose to blog about the MBA application experience?
TheSenator2014: Therapy. Inside of all of us who are applying to business school we experience episodes of schizophrenia and lunacy. I blog to check the stress and try to cure my biggest weakness, over-thinking, by beating up my keyboard now and again. My personal life intersects a lot of my blog postings and I write from the heart. I credit my wonderful fiancé for helping me open up about my life and application experience and I hope my followers find a piece of themselves in me. This has been a roller coaster and I know there are millions out there who are riding the rails with me. Someday we will retrace memory, take a sigh of relief and say, “I did it.”
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