Next up in our series of featured MBA bloggers is Night Owl, author of the blog, “Night Owl’s Revenge.” Please enjoy Night Owl’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, when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?
Night Owl: I grew up in West Philadelphia, attended Drexel University and graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 2002. I know that there are a lot of candidates worried about being “too old” for business school, so I hope my story encourages others to pursue their dreams. When I graduated from Drexel and started looking at business schools in 2004 I was told that I needed more “real world” experience before I could apply, so I went out and worked. Somewhere along the way MBA programs started to trend younger, and I thought I had missed an opportunity to further my education and advance my career. Thankfully, Kellogg is an “older” school and I appreciate that my classmates have had a few years of experience behind them. I feel like that additional maturity adds to learning in courses like strategy or leadership, where you often call on your past to relate to cases or class discussions.
Accepted: Why did you decide to go to business school? What were some of the factors that motivated you?
Night Owl: I always knew that I wanted to go to business school, but the timing never worked out early in my career. After I graduated from Drexel I got into biotech. The work was fascinating, and I enjoyed learning everything I could about the industry and the healthcare system in the United States. Over the years I worked in clinical operations at a few companies in LA and the Bay Area, and even though the research was interesting, my particular function got repetitive. I started to question some of the business decisions that were made by my former companies (e.g., outsourcing clinical research) and wondered how I could impact healthcare on a larger scale. I started talking to some of my senior-level co-workers and one of them said that I should seriously consider going to business school and explained how the training helped her in her career. I started the application process soon after that conversation.
Accepted: How did you decide on Kellogg as the school you’d attend?
Night Owl: It really was the best fit for me. Students here get a good foundation in quantitative decision making, but the culture of the school also encourages creative thinking and problem solving. Since I consider myself to be a creative person, I needed to find a school that valued that skill. When I got to campus over the summer and saw the new “Think Bravely” campaign for Kellogg, I knew I was home.
Coincidentally, Kellogg was also one of the schools that I didn’t visit (another common question I see on the forums). Most of my target schools were on the east coast, and traveling from California got expensive. I had to do a lot of my research through coffee chats with current students, alums, and events Kellogg hosted in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nothing beats visiting a campus and getting a “feel” for a school, but I really enjoyed my conversations with students, staff and alumni from Kellogg. Everyone here is very smart and driven, but grounded, and that was one of my “must-haves” for business school. I was waitlisted, and eventually accepted in July, so to anyone who finds themselves in a similar position in the upcoming rounds please don’t lose hope!
Accepted: Is b-school anything like what you’d expected?
Night Owl: I’m having a great time and my classmates are amazing, but I haven’t experienced levels of exhaustion like this since I was an undergrad! It’s a constant reminder that I’m not as young as I used to be! LOL!
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Night Owl: There’s too many to choose! I feel like I won a lottery because I’m enjoying ALL of my professors. My accounting professor, Craig Chapman, manages to make a dull subject interesting, and I really learned a lot in my leadership class (MORS) with Prof. Adam Galinsky. Marketing with Prof. Kent Grayson is fantastic, even though I’ve had to pull a few all-nighters struggling with his assignments! Strategy with Prof. Craig Garthwaite pulls all the subjects together, and when we are analyzing a case and discussing the decisions made by the senior leadership of a particular company I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in such a short time.
Accepted: Looking back, is there anything you’d do different in the MBA application process?
Night Owl: I worried about a lot of things when I was applying. Of course they all seemed important a year ago, but in retrospect I can see that all my fears were quite silly: Was I too old, I don’t have a GMAT score in the 99.99999999 percentile, I didn’t work at Goldman or McKinsey, is round 1 better than round 2, my current boss didn’t write my letter of recommendation, etc…
Push all of those fears and questions out of your head and concentrate on submitting the very best application that you can. Pay particular attention to your essays. What makes a class like strategy interesting is that every student brings his/her own personal and work experiences to class and offers their unique perspective. No one learns anything if you are just offering what you think the professor wants to hear. The same thing can be said for your essays: Be yourself and present your unique goals and aspirations to the admissions committee, and things will work out.
Accepted: Did you do anything before starting b-school that made the transition back to student like easier?
Night Owl: The transition back to student life is hard, and my classmates and I struggled with it the first few weeks. I took an accounting class at a local community college to support my application since I thought I’d be re-applying this year. Thankfully I was accepted from the waitlist, but taking that class was one of the best decisions I made, since I wasn’t familiar with accounting or business vocabulary in general.
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