Client Success Stories
“The MBA application process is tough! People don't realize how invaluable Career Protocol is.”
Alissa Admitted to 2 Top Business Schools
with Full Ride Scholarships.
Career-switcher Pulled in Many Directions Admitted to 5/7 Schools with Over $260,000 in Scholarships
Stats: American woman, Tech, 3.5 years' work experience, 3.62 GPA non-ivy, 730 GMAT
Schools Applied: HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Tuck, UCLA, Haas, Columbia
Schools interviewed: All of the above
Result: Admitted to HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Tuck, and UCLA with a total of $260,000 in scholarships
It’s always fun to see how many of our students come full circle with their career dreams. When I work with people who are seeking to transition in their career, I’m interested in the origin story of their vision. It’s not uncommon that somewhere, long ago, they planted a seed that was itching to grow.
This is how it was with Carly. She started out following her ambition to have a life in finance and while in university, interned in some of the industry’s most hallowed halls in NYC. But something pulled her in another direction, and she chose a different path as a project manager for one of the world’s most influential tech companies. However, she loved all things related to heath care. Even in her project management role, she gravitated to projects that had a healthcare focus, and she realized that she felt deeply fulfilled dedicating her talents to advancing work in that field.
Understanding our whys is a critical part of the process – they are often driven by our values and in her case, she loved healthcare projects because she got to see how her work moved the needle for the beneficiaries of her projects.
But I was curious about how that value came to be. We had long talks about her childhood and her family and those moments in her high school years that, unbeknownst to her at the time, shaped her path. She shared her experience of a family member becoming ill and what it meant to her to watch them succumb to their illness, then later, volunteering for a healthcare-related charity and having some big wins for families who had similar experiences to hers. One of the things that I love about Carly is that service is one of her mainstays – she is formidably determined and clever and is deeply caring and I wanted those jewels in her to emerge in technicolor in her essays and interviews. They clearly did; she gained five admissions, including three M7 and $260K in scholarships.
Young Employee Who Couldn’t Tell Her Job She Was Leaving to Pursue an MBA Ends Up Being Admitted to 4 Schools: Columbia, Yale, Tuck, & Darden – Including Her Top Choice
Stats: American woman, Engineer, 2 years' work experience, 3.76 GPA non-ivy, initial 680 GMAT.
Schools Applied: Columbia, MIT, Yale, Tuck, Duke, Cornell, Darden
Schools interviewed: All 7!
Result: Columbia, Yale, Tuck, Darden
As an engineer, storytelling and writing wasn’t Beth’s greatest strength. At first it was difficult for her to remember things from her life that might make for an interesting MBA essay. Our brainstorming calls were pretty intense.
I asked probing questions about different areas of her life and her feelings about those experiences. I often felt like I was a lawyer questioning a witness on the stand! Luckily, and to her great credit, she was a most willing and helpful witness.
And once we keyed into a few good stories, Beth further struggled to put them on the page in an interesting and engaging way. She wrote like an engineer—a lot of explaining, often in a dry, technical manner. I coached her on using different storytelling techniques to show the reader, rather than just telling, her emotional journey through the major character-forming events in her life.
Another challenge was that she was such a superstar at work that she couldn’t let anyone there know that she might be leaving in the Fall to pursue an MBA. Everyone at her firm wanted her to stay and looked down upon MBA-folk. This was a problem because she couldn’t approach her direct supervisor for a recommendation without letting the cat of the bag and potentially having coworkers discourage her from the MBA path. I worked with her to identify and reach out to other recommenders who are enthusiastic, supportive, and more than willing to help her succeed in getting into her dream schools.
A third challenge was that Beth was pretty green professionally, with only two years of full-time experience and no work promotions yet. To draw attention away from her youth, we highlighted her strong passion for Environmentalism and her strong leadership roles in that field outside of work. We also highlighted how her background in Engineering set her apart and would allow her to contribute a different perspective and approach to the classroom. I also encouraged her to retake the GMAT because raising her score would help offset the youth factor. She ended up raising her score by 30 points, which certainly helped advance her applications to the interview stage.
Speaking of interviews, I’m so happy to say that Beth received interviews at all 7 schools she applied to and was admitted to 4, including her top choice M7 school! What a win!!! Or 4!
Strong Career Background Translated into Inspiring Application Stories and a $100K Scholarship
Stats: American woman, Consultant, 7 years' work experience at second tier and obscure firms, 3.78 GPA non-ivy, 168V 165Q GRE
Schools Applied: Tuck, Booth, Sloan, Kellogg, Stanford
Schools interviewed: All but Stanford
Result: Accepted at Tuck, accepted at Booth (first with 95K scholarship which we coached her to bump to 100K), accepted at Kellogg (40K scholarship); waitlisted at Sloan.
Jennifer was the ideal client – highly competent, highly intelligent, highly efficient, eminently coachable. She had a very specific focus and a deep and abiding passion for reinventing HR.
She was incredibly organized, well prepared, highly motivated – at times, almost to a fault – her original personal statement contained footnotes and we had to work on making her style less formal and stilted.
HR is not the sexiest of pre- or post-MBA careers, so our challenge was to showcase her vision and leadership potential in the most inspiring way possible. In Jennifer’s case, that meant emphasizing her future as the manifestation of her values and character, rather than drawing from past experiences, which for most clients is the best choice. We worked to develop a career plan that was a highly detailed, and highly inspirational – showcasing her career manifesto – which she tailored to each school through extensive research and networking to deliver a compelling application. She spoke about the individual resources and specific culture of each school – a typical sentence in her application would read along these lines – this insight from this professor in this paper will help me at this school and will help me at this company when working with this client at this stage in my career.
Jennifer’s ultimate plan was to reinvent HR as a major strategic initiative, and through that we crafted the gold standard career plan with highly actionable goals for short, medium, and long-term. In the short term she would work for HR at a major consulting firm, then in the medium term would work for a private equity / growth fund on hiring and HR decisions at their portfolio companies, finally culminating in the long term as the chief people officer of a global tech organization.
Although Jennifer’s success relied primarily on the clarity and inspiration of her career goals, rather than drawing heavily on her personal stories, a key element of success for Jennifer’s essays was separating her career from her personal passions, values, and choices. Her personal statement for the Booth 2 essay was a powerful exposition of her love for art.
Jennifer was accepted at three schools, two of which offered her scholarships – 40K at Kellogg (a dual degree at the Design school), and 100K at Booth (which, with the help of coaching, she increased from the initial offer of 95K).
Why do folks want to work with us?
Start with this video that kinda explains it all or read all about the Amazing Authentic MBA Application Package.
Why do folks want to work with us?
First-Gen College Student Initially Aimed Too Low, Eventually Admitted to Booth, Wharton, & Tuck
Stats: American woman, Consultant at unknown small firms, 4 years' work experience, 4.0 GPA non-ivy, 730 GMAT.
Schools Applied: Booth, Haas, Wharton, Darden, Tuck
Schools interviewed: Booth, Haas, Wharton, Darden, Tuck
Results: Admitted to Booth, Wharton, Tuck
Kristin was a first-generation college student and came to us because there was no one in her circle who she felt could help and guide her through the process. At first, she was aiming way too low – top 20 instead of top 5 where we felt she belonged.
Our first job was to convince her to aim higher. She wasn’t sure if her experiences were unique or interesting enough for B-school (they were!), or how to tackle the process.
She was from an American rural farm community and in diving into her life, it was apparent that she was driven by insatiable curiosity about the world and her place in it. A true explorer, she challenged herself by taking classes in subjects that interested her, but she wasn’t sure she would excel in. She did brilliantly.
Her biggest issue was that she lacked the confidence to tell her story – she thought it was pretty vanilla. Ha! Far from it! Back to her curiosity – it led her to amazing international study abroad experiences that later played a big role in an exciting work adventure. She’d never before connected those dots. We explored her insatiable love for discovery and adventure and how she was driven by a deep care for people. That also later materialized in a program she initiated at work (in the finance field) to support women, which developed into a national outreach program.
This pay it forward ethos showed up throughout her life – she had benefited from another person’s pay it forward attitude, which is what gave her a leg up earlier in life (in addition to her tenacity!) and she’s always loved this value. We wove these stories together – her internationalism, her care for others and her vision.
In the process of working through her stories, I asked her a lot of probing questions to reveal rich details that she’d never before considered important. But these were her diamonds that showed us what she was made of. And it was so much fun to see her win and gain admissions into amazing schools that she never thought possible.
Low GMAT with Limited Experience Totally Transformed Her Self-Confidence and Got into Booth and Kellogg
Stats: American woman, Industrial Goods, 7 years' work experience, none managerial, 3.9 GPA non-ivy, 640 GMAT
Schools Applied: Booth and Kellogg Part-time
Schools interviewed: Both
Hallie was one of those rare clients who had already had a strong sense of her life’s work – a specific cause and community about which she cared deeply – the working-class communities in the Midwest left behind by globalization and automation.
Having experienced this directly in her hometown of Rockford, IL, she already had a plan immediately after graduation, to work in consulting with a focus on manufacturing and service businesses operating in the Midwest and rust belt areas.
Despite a low GMAT score, relatively short work experience, and lack of confidence in her executive and leadership skills, Hallie had many things going for her – she was a merit scholar with a strong GPA, had lived and worked in Germany, and was highly intelligent, coachable, and mature.
My primary challenges were then two-fold: first, getting past her Teutonic reserve and convincing her to tell her story in an open, vulnerable, and empathetic manner, highlighting how her choices illustrated her commitment to blue-collar workers in the Midwest; and second, helping her expand her large vision of how she could create economic change and make these communities more resilient in a very practical way. Introducing her to new corporate business models and structures such as public-private partnerships or entrepreneurship at larger companies gave Hallie the confidence that she was uniquely positioned to bring her networks, ideas, technology, and capital to these communities in need.
In her application we reframed Hallie’s work at a large industrial parts provider to focus on how she enabled the growth of small businesses and communities by maintaining relationships with mom-and-pop companies as integral suppliers to McMaster-Carr. Hallie made a powerful case demonstrating how she was perfectly positioned to bring value to an otherwise overlooked part of the country immediately post-MBA. In the longer run, Hallie envisions building incubators in the Midwest for these businesses.
Hallie was eminently coachable and amenable to feedback; after applying to Booth and Kellogg under a very tight timeline she received an acceptance to both schools.
Asian Workaholic in the Finance Sector with No “Wow Factor” Turns it Around with Offers from Harvard, INSEAD, and Kellogg
Stats: Chinese woman, Accountant, 6 years' work experience, 3.53 GPA non-ivy, 730 GMAT.
Schools Applied: INSEAD, LBS, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, Haas
Schools interviewed: INSEAD, LBS, Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg
Result: Harvard, INSEAD, and Kellogg
Claire was the average female applicant from China, who had studied and worked in the US for several years in the financial services industry. She had strong standardized test scores, decent GPA with academic honors, and solid professional experience with three promotions in six years.
Stats-wise, she was within range of the average class profile for the top schools. But with her commonplace profile, other consultants had suggested she aim for top 15 instead of top 5. We always encourage our clients to aim high while also protecting their downside with our 3+3 School package, and in Claire’s case, I am so glad we did!! Read on!
While brainstorming essays, she was worried about not having a “wow factor.” And her concerns were partially true—there were no extraordinary distinguishing factors in her experience to set herself apart from the rest of similarly situated strong Asian female candidates working Finance. She was a workaholic with 70-80-hour weeks with little time for anything else. The only passion she pursued consistently outside the her normal academic and work responsibilities was leading Diversity & Inclusion initiatives as an undergraduate and in the workplace. Although, still technically work-related, this was something she was extremely passionate about. So, we decided to use Diversity and Inclusion as the thematic backbone for her MBA essays and set off to mine her experience for anecdotes and vivid details that would best highlight the evolution of this passion.
We had several brainstorming sessions and walked through several life events and anecdotes she could use. We also discussed many different ways she could frame her story and present it. But week after week, she still wasn’t able to put those ideas into writing. After three months of brainstorming (and working on other things like her resume and recommendations in the interim), I was starting to get really nervous about her making the application deadlines in time. Part of the challenge was for schools like HBS, Stanford, and Booth, she felt like she needed a large block of time to sit down and write such open-ended essays. Time was the one thing she didn’t have during the hectic work week. Instead of stressing about the lack of visible progress on the page, I encouraged her to switch gears to focus on essays for another school that had shorter word limits and asked more direct questions. I hoped that by switching to the schools with shorter essays, she might be able to make progress on those in short bursts during the week.
Luckily, this strategy worked! Having lifted the pressure of telling an epic personal story with “wow factor,” she was able to dedicate the limited time she had to answering the shorter essays. Since these essays were more direct and targeted (with questions like career game plan, a challenging situation, teamwork, strengths, weaknesses, and major influences), she found it much easier to put words on the page without thinking too much about it. During the process of drafting these shorter essays, she was able to complete parts of her epic story for HBS, Stanford, and Booth, in pieces and segments without even realizing it. So, when it came time to revisit these school essays, all I had to do was show her that most of the work was already done. She just had to do was arrange the segments together into an essay skeleton and then use the anecdotes that we discussed in our previous brainstorming sessions to flesh out the details.
At this point, it was Christmas and luckily, she had vacation between Christmas and New Year to dedicate her time fully to HBS and Stanford. After eight drafts for each school in under a week, those essays felt almost ready and all we had left to do was to put the final polish on it during the first week of January before the deadline.
It turns out that all that time we spent brainstorming in the initial part of the process never really went to waste. Sometimes for mega MBA essays like HBS, Stanford, and Booth, you need let the ideas breath and percolate on the back burner for a bit until you get that burst of inspiration to sit down and write your story. So, if you find yourself struggling with those, perhaps switch gears to schools with shorter, more direct essays and see if working on those helps you create the bones for the more epic essays.
In the end, Claire was invited to interview at HBS, Booth, Kellogg, LBS, and INSEAD. Her HBS interviewer even complimented her on one of the anecdotes she used in her essays. This feels like a great sign that she was able to create an emotional connection with the adcom by being authentic in her essay about a small challenge in her life, even if that detail of the story wasn’t particularly a “wowzer” or an a seemingly insurmountable odd that she impressively overcame.
Again, she didn’t have a “wow factor.” But by being open, honest, and authentic about a small life moment and inviting the reader into her emotional world, that mundane encounter became a strong point of connection and that connection from her essay set up a friendly tone for her interview later on.
We were ecstatic when Claire was admitted to HBS, INSEAD, and Kellogg, proving that strong character and genuine commitment to values differentiates even candidates who seem commonplace on paper.
Authentic MBA Application Journey
EMBA Admitted to an M7 School with $20K Scholarship
Stats: Latin American woman, Retail, 9 years' work experience, 3.4 GPA non-ivy, GMAT waived
Schools Applied: Two M7 EMBA Programs
Schools interviewed: One M7 EMBA
Result: Admitted to one M7 EMBA with $20K scholarship, nearly unheard of for Executive MBAs.
It was such a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of Delia’s journey. She immigrated to the US when she was a teenager and she encountered many challenges along the way.
Although she was always incredibly bright, the school authorities at her new school in the US didn’t believe that she could have earned the grades that she had in her home country. To hear her tell the story simultaneously made my blood boil and my respect for her overflow.
She handled the situation with so much grace, personal dignity and resolve. She told the truth in the face of racism and stereotyping and in the end, with persistence and heart, she was able to take her rightful place in advanced classes, where she flourished. That story was one of many that demonstrated her courage. She is soft-spoken, but it makes her listeners want to lean in and hear her stories.
That was exciting to bring out, as were her values of kindness and compassion. She is whip smart and those up her vertical love her – I connected with both of her recommenders and was blown away by their commitment to helping her advance in the process – that’s how she inspires people. Having said that, she revealed that she was apprehensive about breaking the news that she would undertake study to one of her senior managers. I love coaching my students on high stakes communications, especially at work. She went with a plan and after some discussion got the critical blessing she needed and deserved.
I knew that if we could demonstrate her passion, heart, determination and pure competence in her stories, she would crush it. And she did – gaining admission into her target program with a scholarship. So proud of her – she will inspire and open doors for so many as she takes her place as a senior leader in her organization.
Inexperienced MBA Candidate Admitted to Notre Dame & Indiana
Stats: American woman, Contract worker at Education nonprofit, 3 years' work experience at second tier and obscure firms, 3.5 GPA non-ivy, 590 GMAT
Schools Applied: Notre Dame, Michigan, Indiana, Kellogg, Booth
Schools interviewed: Notre Dame, Indiana, Kellogg
Result: Notre Dame and Indiana
At first glance, Miranda didn’t seem like the strongest MBA candidate – she was young, early in her career with no leadership experience, hadn’t scored well on the GMAT despite multiple attempts, and struggled to connect her past work experience with her longer-term career goals.
But she had a realistic and coachable view of her prospects, a clear sense of her geographic preferences, and was a genuinely kind, affable person who came across beautifully in person and interviews.
Miranda’s career vision entailed working in brand consulting or general management for consumer-packaged goods (CPG) companies in the Midwest. It was immediately apparent that there was a natural, organic connection between CPG, marketing, and the school selection in her area. But the challenge was that she had no germane experience in the area – no executive experience at all, had no brand, marketing, or strategy experience. As a result, she felt insecure about her ability to excel in a leadership position.
I helped Miranda reframe her work at her education nonprofit as managing programs and becoming an industry expert on educational experiences – identifying that as a transferrable skill that she could bring to both development of new brands and creative repositioning of existing brands. Another hook was to double down on her natural and genuine affinity for consumer-packaged goods because she liked tangible things that one uses every day. We made her desire for the MBA about market strategy with a focus on CPG. Combined with her undergraduate degree in psychology, we built a credible basis for her application.
The personal statement was a key element of success for Miranda. Her goal statement was thorough, compelling, well-researched (I coached her through many informational interviews with folks doing the jobs she said she wanted to have) and very well-connected to her target schools and their offerings. But her applications soared because we were able to use a wonderful story about how her grandmother was a strong role model in her life and a powerful example of confident humility. For the story essays, she took the approach of Ode on a Grecian Urn – understanding the grandeur of the universe in the small things. Miranda’s lively character and winning personality shone through all aspects of her application, enabling her to overcome her weak stats and gain admission to her top choice school.
MBA Hopeful was Unemployed Due To COVID After Recently Switching Careers – Becomes Tuck Admit with $30K Forte Fellowship
Stats: Asian woman, Finance, 5 years' work experience but currently unemployed, 3.75 GPA non-ivy, 320 GRE
Schools Applied: Tuck, HBS, Duke
Schools interviewed: Tuck, Duke
Result: Tuck with Forte Fellowship $30K; waitlisted at Duke
Shireen came to Career Protocol at a real low point in her life. She had recently pivoted to another industry after 5 years in Finance. Unfortunately, she had just been laid off after less than 9 months in her new role. She hadn’t been able to land another job for a couple months due to the pandemic.
And to add salt to the wound, she had also been rejected from a top MBA program during a last-minute Round 3 application she cobbled together on her own. With the recent lay off and MBA rejection, her confidence was at a new-time low and she felt absolutely gut-punched.
What came out of the Discovery Process was a realization that for most of her life, her sense of self-worth derived from academic and professional success. She had grown up in a country that still treats women as second-class citizens and where middle-class families like hers often favored sons over daughters, who tend to get married off young. She had always fought against the expectation of others and worked hard to prove that she was “good enough, smart enough, worthy enough.”
She lacked mentors and a supportive family, but became highly accomplished, both academically and professionally, entirely on her own effort. Strong-willed, determined, and independent by nature, she still craved for a mentor and supportive voice. This unfulfilled desire in her personal life actually fueled her passion to establish an educational non-profit that sponsors the education of children in her home country. She raised money to not only pay for their school fees and books, but also to provide mentorship and soft-skill building workshops.
Through the writing process, she ultimately came to realize that she became the most important thing she never got as a young woman–mentor and supporter—to dozens of other children (and the number is still growing)! Something in her shifted and she came to really appreciate the profound impact she had on the world by touching those children’s lives, who in turn will use the tools and support she gives them to make their own difference in the world. Whereas before Shireen’s default mindset was to impress people to prove her worth, by rewriting her narrative to focus on helping others, she came to embrace a much richer sense of meaning and self-worth. By empowering others, she ended up empowering herself as well.
We used this shift in how she now saw herself and her impact on the world in her application essays. The most surprising part wasn’t just that she got into her dream school with a partial scholarship; it was all the other positive changes that seems to be happening like magic in her life. She got a new dream job, which allowed her to move to her favorite city. She received a promotion after only three months in her new job. Plus, she even got engaged to the man of her dreams who supports her professional ambitions! It was almost as if shifting her mindset and choosing a more empowering story for herself cleared the way for other things she wanted in life to come across her path.
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Foreign Student Nearly Loses Business – Becomes International Success
Stats: Chinese woman, Consultant, 3 years' work experience, 3.7 GPA non-ivy, 690 GMAT
Schools Applied: INSEAD, Stanford, Yale
Schools interviewed: INSEAD, Yale
Result: Admitted to INSEAD and Yale
The first thing that struck me about Serena were her character traits of goodness and courage – which stand out in technicolor.
She boarded a plane to the US at 18 to study and had no idea what life would be like as an international student or in a foreign country. When she arrived, she wanted to have as broad an experience as possible. Like many international students, it’s easy to become lonely and lost at first, and then find comfort in a group with members from our home countries – there’s a term for it in international organizational behavior – the Golden Ghetto. Lots of people gravitate to that safety, but not her. Although she had an adjustment period, she worked through it with determination, which included taking loads of risks and putting her hand up and her head above the parapet, all of which eventually landed her in an amazing community of fellow globally-minded students.
She ended up leading that community.
She had a strong sense of confident humility – there was a period, where, not through any fault of hers, she inherited a problem and her organization nearly shuttered. She was so clear about where she lacked the experience to turn things around, but equally, she could totally own what she could do. So often, we don’t realize that we demonstrated superpowers until well after the event, and sometimes, we never realize it.
That’s why I LOVED doing the Discovery with her – it was so much fun to see that gorgeous lightbulb flash when she truly saw what she brought to a very challenging situation and how she leveraged the talents of others, after inspiring and motivating them, to pick up the rope and pull. It made for an amazing crown jewel in her stories. She went on to gain international work experience and with a vision to becoming a truly borderless human, she again gave up a safe and sure path to take yet another international leap. This time to INSEAD, where she’s going to OWN it!
Incoherent Career Path to Date with Big Dreams Admitted to University of Toronto
Stats: Lebanese woman, 3 different industries in 3 years' work experience, 3.74 GPA non-ivy, 320 GRE
Schools Applied: University of Toronto
Schools interviewed: University of Toronto
Result: University of Toronto
Eva’s personal statement for Rotman is the single most successful essay it has been my honor to create with a client.
It moves me to tears and touches me deeply every time I read it. It is a true hero’s journey of the challenges she faced and her extraordinary personal growth, all the more impressive given the world she came from and the cultural impositions placed upon her.
Eva initially had big dreams of reinventing the UN World Food Programme, where she had served as an intern for 6 months. After a series of short stints at companies varying from Johnson & Johnson to Henkle to Twitter, there wasn’t a coherent career story line. But throughout all these work experiences, there was a unifying thread: her desire to work with children, and for children’s issues, manifested by her numerous volunteer trips abroad to help children in need.
We used Eva’s various volunteer experiences with children to demonstrate children and education as her life goal; focusing not on the job descriptions of the work she had before but the various volunteering and leadership initiatives she had in her various roles, as it related to children and social work. I also convinced her to double down on her love of cartoons and art to build a cogent and powerful narrative for how she was going to build the Arabic cartoon network for the Middle East – Arabic language, educational, culturally appropriate cartoons for the massively underserved market.
In the process of researching schools with her and exploring school fit in the context of her personal circumstances, we realized that the US was not feasible, and she wanted to focus on Canadian schools and so focused on Rotman – University of Toronto as her top choice. School selection and fit was very important in this case, as Eva instantly homed in on Rotman’s strong media and entertainment presence. She was immediately interviewed and was accepted within days of being interviewed.
Mediocre GPA and Terrible GMAT Admitted to Harvard, Wharton, & Booth (with an $80K Scholarship)
Stats: Latin American Woman, Consultant, 4 years’ work experience, 3.5 GPA non-ivy, 160Q 163V GRE
Schools Applied: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Booth
Schools interviewed: All but Stanford
Result: HBS, Wharton, Booth (80K scholarship), Withdrew MIT
A sponsored McKinsey consultant, Laura was a career rock star, but she had some major academic issues to address in her application – one or two very, very bad semesters, an overall mediocre GPA, and a terrible GMAT.
The first thing I did was get her to switch to the GRE. It took some convincing, but she was able to do much better on this test because it was more intuitive for her. She still applied with a score well below the school’s average, but it was much stronger than her GMAT.
Once the test was done, her biggest challenge was standing out among all the other amazing Management Consulting applicants top schools see every year. Yes, working at Bain, BCG, or McKinsey is a plus in your application, but it also defines your competitive set. And what a talented group of competitors they are!!
What I’m proudest of in my work with Laura, apart from being a calm and committed partner when she faced major road blocks with her test scores, brutal hours at work, and a major COVID-19 scare, was that I was able to help her define her life’s purpose and tell a story that revealed how even from the age of 5, she had been pursuing it.
Her HBS essay ended up approaching 3,000 words because the story of how she had become the amazing person she is today was so riveting. Weaving together poignant details from her personal life, she showed how her commitment to shape the economy of her country has been forged through unexpected hardships (losing a parent), multiple unconventional choices (study abroad, turning down sexy job offers), persistent obsessions (the banking system and mentoring youth) and bold career moves (leaving McKinsey for tech and then coming back again).
If I could show you her essay, I promise you wouldn’t be able to put it down and then you would want to immediately pick up the phone to call and give her a job offer in your organization.
That’s always our goal when we tell your Epic Story in your MBA applications: to connect with the reader’s mind AND heart, making them feel genuinely connected to you so that they want to bring you into their fold and play a role in your long-term success.
In Laura’s case, it worked! She got into Harvard, Wharton, and Booth with a hefty scholarship.
Veteran With Weak Academics (and large gap in education) Admitted to Tuck, Duke, & Darden
Stats: American man, Military, 4 years' work experience, 3.0 GPA non-ivy, 710 GMAT
Schools Applied: Tuck, Duke, Darden, MIT, Wharton
Schools interviewed: Tuck, Duke, Darden
Result: Tuck, Darden admits with Military scholarships, Duke Waitlist
Transition is huge, whether it’s jumping industries or cities there are a lot of moving pieces – and a lot of unknowns. I love helping people navigate through these unknowns – especially our vets!
I loved working with Tom because for him, those unknowns were his next great adventure.
He was so much fun to work with. Deadly competent with a wicked sense of humor, he had so many attributes that helped him excel.
As a former adcom member, one of the things that was top of mind in admissions was our mission of crafting a class. When considering each candidate, it wasn’t just about stats or jobs, but we thought about how a candidate would help shape a class. We considered their unique gifts and talents that would help members of their cohort grow. My mission with all of my students is to showcase that. With Tom, there was a lot of material but his academics were weak, and it had been a while since graduating from university so it wasn’t an automatic home run for him.
First, we laid out his stories and I looked for the common threads – his value drivers – that ran through them. There were three things that became clear about him: he is a champion of others, his leadership centers around developing and bringing out the best in others and he has a strong sense of confident humility, one of my favorite leadership characteristics.
I loved the way that he claimed his learning curves, which is why I think he’s destined for success. I knew that if an adcom could see these qualities, they would love him too. We leveraged the mighty MBA military network, which gave him tons of support, and we set in earnest to craft a resume and essays that demonstrated his qualities, his impact and his key differentiators. We also used the optional essays to make a great argument for his academic abilities. He’s now at the B-school of his choice in a leadership position, supporting other incoming vets and positioned to carry on his dreams with admission into yet another globally prestigious program for a dual degree program.
Significantly Older Candidate with Meandering Career Path Admitted to Duke on a Full Ride
Stats: American woman, 18 years' work experience at 5 companies, 3.8 GPA non-ivy, 610 GMAT
Schools Applied: Yale, Emory, Duke, Georgetown, Indiana
Schools interviewed: All 5!
Result: Admitted to Duke (full ride scholarship), Emory and Indiana. Waitlisted at Yale and Georgetown.
On paper, Darla had a highly unconventional – even problematic – application. At 37, she had taken over a decade to complete her undergrad degree, and had a meandering and nonlinear career path, mostly in administrative jobs in fields such as real estate, unrelated to her professional goals.
She also had a terrible GMAT score, which was partly the result of a medical condition requiring special accommodation which she did not get due to online testing resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Darla decided to work with me because I was able to a) convince her of her value as a professional with serious goals in healthcare operations; and b) give her the confidence to apply to top schools despite her unconventional background.
Darla had certain extraordinary positive attributes – she had risen out of rural poverty, had powerful fundraising and administrative experience in neglected tropical diseases and healthcare delivery in poor countries, working for the likes of the Gates Foundation and Vulcan Inc. Both as a function of her age and life experience, she had compelling extracurriculars, such as co-running a woman’s financial health network; she was also a mature and excellent interviewee, proficient in researching and engaging with schools and programs.
The core breakthrough of our work came in building a compelling, inspirational, and focused career plan. Darla had a broad range of interests, from operations at massive companies like Amazon and Coca-cola, so her initial career goals were all over the place. But after getting her to focus first on her genuine passion for health, then specifically on last mile and logistical issues within healthcare delivery, we built a powerful narrative.
We crafted a career plan starting with operational roles in big pharma, then moving to last mile delivery focused on neglected tropical diseases, then in the longer run, either rising to be an operational leader within big pharma or moving back to the nonprofit sector. Key to this process were informational interviews. I connected Darla with friends in impact investing, PhDs in public health, who both challenged and pressure tested her various theses.
She also applied to some dual degree programs with an MPH such as at Yale, and in this speaking to a PhD in public health was instrumental, as working on the MPH application also strengthened the goals of her MBA application.
I am so proud that despite her age and questionable statistics, Darla’s top choice school could see her inspiring nature and commitment to be of service in her career, admitting her and bestowing on her one of their most prestigious scholarships, which included full tuition plus stipend.
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