In round one last year I had the exciting experience of getting accepted to University of Chicago Booth, MIT Sloan, Kellogg’s MMM Program, and Berkeley Haas. When I started to craft my essays over the summer I thought about using an admission consultant, but was turned off by the price and the process. I didn’t want a package, I wanted a quick sanity check on my essays, short answers, and resume. Instead of using admissions consultants and paying a steep fee I relied on my friends and colleagues and their networks. Here’s the breakdown of who I asked for help and for what:
- I started by thinking about why I was going to get an MBA, which for me was to make change in the social sector and to focus on entrepreneurship, and I then used online research as a starting point
- Here I was in luck because I worked for a company where getting an MBA is highly encouraged and even sponsors folks every year. I talked to alumni at every school and talked to current students. I had a lot of people around me who knew and understood the MBA landscape and helped me shape which schools I was going to apply to. My friends and colleagues in this step taught me to consider not just what a school is traditionally known for, but instead where they are placing investment and growing.
- A friend at Harvard Business School I met over the summer while working in Amman Jordan helped me with the resume strategy (how a resume fits into the overall application), create a format, and craft my stories.
- Two of my friends in the medical field instead of my industry of consulting helped me remove jargon and make sure my stories where impactful.
Essays and Short Answers:
- My Senior Manager and Counselor at Deloitte, who knew my motivations for going to business school and my story. She pushed me to give defined examples and craft a story that people would care about and no one else could say.
- A whole bunch of my friends who are much better at writing than me – they helped me clean up my story, use different language, and fixed my grammar. They also served as my sanity check to if my story seemed compelling, genuine, and uniquely mine. There were about six people in this brain trust.
Letters of Recommendation:
- Here again I was lucky, my prior managers had all written MBA letters of recommendation before and knew my story. I did make a venn diagram to show which projects I wanted them to talk about so they didn’t overlap with each other.
- Here I talked to the same group of friends and colleagues I used for school research to understand what to expect from the interviews and gather any tips and tricks for each of the schools.
- I practiced with friends at work, who were also applying and got interviews to the same school.
- I relied on all my friends for this from people that knew me since I was just a kid to people I had met through the process. I still feel like I owe most of them an apology for how hard this process was.
Tradeoffs Between Using Your Network and a Consultant
So now that you know the types of friends I used throughout the process and what I specifically used them for I think it’s worth mentioning some of the tradeoffs.
- By using friends you are inherently getting a bias perspective. They are your friends and love you so if your application was really bad they would soften their feedback or maybe doubt themselves in giving you highly critical feedback.
- You need to make sure you factor in lead times, give your friends more than 24 hours to review something and don’t call them at all hours of the day and night.
- Pick your circle of trust wisely, some folks will want to change your writing style, which is not what you need! You need people that understand your voice and make it better not nitpick every sentence in the essay.
- It’s not actually free because you need to thank your friends and even reward them with presents, they worked hard for you and you need to make sure they understand your gratitude, so you get to keep them as friends after what you just put them through
I wish a service like mymbacircle.com existed when I was applying to schools, because it would have provided me an outside unbiased sanity check and saved my friends from some last minute calls asking for help. I also recognize how lucky I was to come from an industry and company where the access to people in top MBA programs was easy. Talking to current students and alumni was the most informative piece of the journey because even though schools put a lot of things online, talking to students and alumni provides you real perspective and context to the things you read. I put insights I learned from current students and alumni throughout my essays and short answers and incorporated insights into the interviews. Mymbacircle provides access to MBAs mentors, who are put to work for you at a much lower price than admission consultants. You can book an appointment at https://mymbacircle.com!