Warning: This post is full of so many endorsements that you’d think we paid the person. We didn’t! We never do. 😀 We’re always grateful for the words of appreciation that come back when you guys are admitted and we are also always super impressed by the success stories. This is another one of you who mostly went it alone, with just some nudges and gentle guidance along the way – this former BSer tackled essays completely independently (well, with the help of an essay guide or two). Congratulations!! Here’s the story.
Like many applicants, my business school process began when I was still in undergrad. A lot of my instructors at the [Service] Academy were active duty officers and newly-minted MBAs who had nothing but great things to say about being a sponsored military student at HBS, Darden, and Columbia. I didn’t know what business school was all about yet, but I knew I wanted to go. And so, I started researching everything about the MBA degree – starting, of course, with which schools were “the best” along with what they were known for.
Fast forward two years later and I was still trolling the GMATClub and BeattheGMAT forums, with particular attention to profiles and admissions decisions. I wasn’t concerned about the GMAT itself, but with which school I’d choose once I had multiple acceptance letters in hand. So, with very minimal studying, I registered to take the GMAT a few weeks later. I didn’t need to study hard like the rest of these guys, because since I was obviously so smart, I was guaranteed to get at least a 680, right?
Nothing like a good reality check to set you straight. Seeing a 550 on the screen after finishing a 3-hour test was pretty demoralizing, but it gave me the humility I needed to realize that getting into b-school wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I’m not proud to say when I got home that evening I wallowed in self-defeat and beer, and came to the conclusion that I’d never get into a top 20, or even a top 30 school. However, when I got up the next morning, I dusted myself off and began researching GMAT preparation programs to find one that would work with my schedule. Since I work on a ship, meeting with an instructor on a regular basis would be impossible, and it seemed that most companies focused on face-to-face instruction. In the end, Knewton offered the best program for me since it was all online and on demand. I’m definitely not saying everyone needs to use Knewton or that it’s even the best; I’m just saying that it was the best for ME.
And, man, did it pay off. A few months after signing up with Knewton and I was ready to sit for the GMAT again. I was definitely nervous, and as I approached the testing center, I associated everything from the roads to the buildings with my past failure. The test was just as difficult as I’d remembered it the first time, so I wasn’t the most confident person when it came time to click on the final button to see my score. When a 700 popped up, I nearly lost it. I didn’t have time to study and retest again, and, as a military applicant seeking sponsorship, I needed to apply this season or I’d be forced to wait another four years to complete another tour of duty. I’ve never felt a mixture of relief and accomplishment as I did on that test day, and I don’t know if I ever will again.
Sponsorship and Applications
Military sponsorship for graduate school is an interesting program. Each branch does it a little differently, and in mine, a solicitation is released each year asking officers to apply. Once the deadline has passed for applications, a panel of senior officers is convened to review every file, and their selectees are notified a few weeks later. I knew from the get-go that the panel wouldn’t release its decision until after Round 1 deadlines for most schools had passed, but I made the decision to apply to schools early anyway.
Then came the question that every applicant invariably asks him/herself: should I use an admissions consultant? After a few “free profile evaluations” of varying quality, I felt more confused than before I’d started. Then I stumbled upon EssaySnark. *DISCLAIMER: The next few sentences are going to seem like a shameless plug for EssaySnark’s services. That is not the case – just writing an honest account here.* If you’re reading this blog and haven’t taken advantage of the Comprehensive Profile Review, do yourself a favor and DO IT. It is packed full of insight and isn’t just a marketing tool for the rest of their services. The 13-page write-up helped me realistically select schools and narrow down my strengths and weaknesses, and offered advice on how to maximize the good and mitigate the not-so-good. [Remember, the Comprehensive Profile Review is offered pro bono to military candidates; see our Military MBA microsite for details. -EssaySnark] Between the Profile Review, a couple of Essay Guides, and a set of Recommendation Instruction (very underrated, very valuable), I had all the tools I needed to put together a solid application without essay editing services. The EssaySnark team also continued to follow up with me via email and frequently dished out strategy advice about which round to submit, the pros and cons of early action, and more, which was very helpful.
Visiting schools was by far the most eye-opening part of the application process. My original list consisted of, in order, Wharton, Kellogg, Duke, UVA, and Cornell; but after visiting Duke, all bets were off. I knew that was where I wanted to be. The phrase “Team Fuqua” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s absolutely the culture at the school, and it seemed to manifest itself in every facet of life there. I took the advice of Duke and EssaySnark and visited/interviewed during the open interview period. The interview itself was fairly typical in terms of questions – if you Google the Fuqua interview, most lists are spot on – but the atmosphere was laid back and it was apparent that the second-year student was evaluating my personality for fit. In the end, I applied Early Action to Duke and Round 1 to UVA, which I also really enjoyed visiting.
Nothing produces a helpless feeling of anxiety like the period between application submission and decision notification. I was doubly anxious because I was waiting on both my service’s decision on whether to send me to school and Duke’s admission decision. My advice? Find a good book. Start playing board games again. Go for runs. Do SOMETHING other than sit around driving yourself insane by going over admissions scenarios in your head. Fortunately, there was good news at the end of both of my wait periods and this guy (thumbs pointed in) will be at Fuqua next fall!