As the sole member of the Yale SOM admissions committee who is an alumna of the MBA program, I like to think I have special insight into what many of our applicants experience, from starting to think about business school, to drawing up a shortlist of target schools, to making a decision about which school to attend.
Since we ask you to share your path to business school in painstaking detail when you apply to our program, I think it’s only fair for me to doff my admissions hat and share my own journey to SOM with you, with the hope that this might be helpful at whatever stage you are at in the application (pre-, peri-, or post-) process.
As I entered my senior year at Wellesley in the fall of 1998, I started compiling English graduate program applications from universities around the world. I was returning from a junior year abroad at Oxford University, where I was steeped in intensive post-colonial theory tutorials, and planned to spend the rest of my life in libraries, pondering questions like “can the subaltern speak?” and waxing eloquent on hybridization. I fancied myself the scholarly heir to Edward Said, and pitied my poor classmates who were about to spend their youth toiling away in soulless corporate America.
When I announced my plans to my parents, they gently suggested I take a year after graduation to evaluate my options before plunging in. After all, I disliked writing long research papers – would I really enjoy the scholarly life? I had previously flirted with law school and the Peace Corps with similar ardor that dissipated after a couple of months. Based on these experiences, my parents advised me to work for a year, earn some money, and evaluate my options. I was fairly sure I would pursue the post-colonial theorist path, but decided they were at least right about earning some money for a year. I decided to apply to a few postings via the on-campus recruiting process.
I was lucky enough to overcome my total lack of preparation for the job search, and ended up working in Washington, DC for a healthcare consultancy. Despite my previous reservations, I actually enjoyed working in a corporate environment. My colleagues and peers were incredibly hardworking and interesting people, and inspired me to excel at my work in ways that I never anticipated. While I knew I would produce strong written communications, due to my academic background, I was nervous about doing anything remotely quantitative or analytical, as I had shied away from using these skills in college. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed constructing complex quantitative models and analyzing the results. I enjoyed working with teams and collectively pursuing solutions, and I found that I could often influence my team members toward particularly effective solutions.
Having realized that I enjoyed management consulting, I decided to move on to a global strategy and operations firm in New York, where I gained exposure to a broader set of clients and their business issues. While I performed assigned tasks well, I realized I was missing a foundation in management education, and lacked the ability to understand business problems from an elevated perspective. I wanted to identify problems and propose solutions to my clients, rather than simply respond to assignments. I decided to apply to business school, and sought out programs that offered a rigorous academic program, as well as a smaller, intimate community so I could forge strong relationships with my fellow classmates, faculty and staff. I was lucky enough to find both at Yale SOM, and experienced two of the best years of my life while I was here.
Since graduating from business school, I’ve had the opportunity to return to management consulting, work in finance and strategic planning, and recently return to Yale in an admissions role, in which I pursue my passion for talent management, mentoring and coaching on a daily basis. As an Admissions Officer, I am asked every day what path applicants should pursue so they can get into their dream program. I reflect on my own story and tell them that they should be open to new experiences, and be unafraid to take on roles that may seem daunting at first. If I had not heeded my parents’ advice, and taken the time to try something outside of my comfort zone, I would not have landed on the path that I enjoy today. In my senior year of college, dreaming of becoming the next great post-structuralist thinker, I never would have thought about pursuing a MBA. Now, I can’t imagine having done anything else.