The UCLA Anderson MBA Program: Expectation Vs. Reality

An Anderson MBA outlines her expectations of the UCLA business school before matriculating and experiences after, providing a unique perspective for anyone considering this MBA program.

Rachel L.

By Rachel L.

Posted January 10, 2024

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Hi, I’m Rachel L., an MBA coach on Leland and a 2022 graduate of UCLA Anderson. As an admissions interviewer and club admissions ambassador, I often got asked the question of why I decided to attend Anderson. Here are the three main reasons I decided to attend, and how my experience there compared with what I heard:

1. Conversations with students

From the beginning, I was dead-set on choosing a program that was collaborative, rather than competitive. This was a key criterion when I was choosing my college list back in high school, and it was equally important to me when looking at MBA programs. I had a general sense of which schools were “collaborative” from online research but needed a way to vet this for myself.

Through speaking with current students, I felt a strong fit. They were warm, engaging, and genuinely wanted to help me, even if I did not end up attending Anderson. Plus, it was student volunteers who were running the Anderson Career Teams (ACT) and Interview Prep Teams (IPT), key components of first-year recruiting (more on these later), and I wanted to be part of a culture where paying it forward was not only welcomed, but expected.

Even though my class started our MBA program fully remote due to the pandemic, we were a community from the beginning. When I moved to Los Angeles in March of my first year, I felt incredibly welcome: a friend picked me up from the airport and we drove straight to San Diego for a quick trip with our learning team and a few additional friends. Two classmates in my section helped me move into my apartment. Another couple of friends of mine took pity on my car-free existence and brought me grocery shopping a few days later. I found my niche quickly despite tough circumstances.

2. Career prep and placement

I grew up with the mentality that it was better to remain humble than to be too forthcoming about my successes. Generally, this mentality has served me well, but it also meant that before my MBA, I often struggled with articulating my strengths during job searches. When I was applying to programs, I valued having a resource that would help me clearly describe my accomplishments both in resumes and during interviews. One of Anderson’s distinguishing features is the Parker Career Management Center, which has been ranked as a top career center in student satisfaction by the Economist, and this initially brought my attention to the program. Plus, I was targeting larger tech companies, and Anderson places about a third of its graduates into tech each year.

I was not disappointed when I arrived (virtually) on campus. Phil Han, my appointed career advisor, was instrumental in helping me refine my answers to behavioral questions like “Walk me through your resume” and to case interview questions. I also worked closely with Mef Shebi, Chrissy Ercole, and Lin Young to practice these interviews over the course of my first year. Each advisor provided valuable different perspectives on answering tough questions.

In addition to Parker, I received amazing help from fellow students and alums. My ACT and IPT coaches and mentors all went out of their way to help me succeed – my ACT coach helped me prepare for case interviews during the winter break and my alum mentor, whom I had connected with through Women’s Business Connection, ran mock cases with me every week for about a month. I met a classmate for the first time during a small group session with Phil, and we decided to practice casing together every week in the month of January. These resources were crucial for me to land an internship offer by early February, and I decided to give back by becoming an IPT coach in my second year.

3. Los Angeles

Before Anderson, I had been working in the San Francisco Bay Area and wanted to remain on the West Coast. I had never spent much time in LA and was intrigued by the chance to try living in a larger city with a diversity of people and industries.

Some things I did with classmates while living in LA:

  • Semi-regularly attended beach meetups in Santa Monica
  • Dined at a variety of restaurants, including Michelin-starred ones, as part of AnderEats
  • Went to brunch with a live drag show and then a bus tour of celebrity homes in Hollywood, followed by sitting in a friend’s rooftop hot tub, for my birthday
  • During said bus tour, spotted Brett Oppenheim from Selling Sunset walking down the street
  • Took weekend trips to Joshua Tree, Napa Valley, and Pismo Beach, where I drove an ATV for the first time
  • Fangirled at a BTS concert at SoFi Stadium

Needless to say, LA was pretty great (although the traffic definitely was not). As you’re looking at MBA programs, don’t forget to evaluate the location of each as part of your decision-making process, as it will definitely have an impact on your experience.

Final Note

It’s an understatement to say I had an amazing time at Anderson, and a lot of this comes from having done some serious school research when I was applying. My parting advice is to talk to students at your target programs! Even if you do not 100% know what you want from a school, hearing others’ stories can help you hone in on what interests you, and what doesn’t.

For one-on-one advice on anything related to the MBA research or application processes, please reach out to me! I’m very passionate about helping others reach their potential, and I’d love to work with you. To get started, book a free intro call on my profile.

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