Why I Coach—Drake Pooley

Drake P., an expert Leland coach and Stanford MBA/Co-Class President, outlines why he chooses to coach and what it means to him.

By Drake Pooley

August 22, 2022

It was August 1, 2012—the hot, Texas summer before my senior year of high school. After two hours of typing away at my computer, I submitted my one and only college application: Auburn University in Alabama. I started a few more, dreaming of schools like UT (Austin), Baylor, Vanderbilt—even Harvard.

Despite those dreams, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish any other applications. There were too many “cants”—can’t afford it, can’t get in, can’t, can’t can’t. So I went to Auburn.

I had a great experience at Auburn—I earned a valuable education, and have so many fond memories. A few years after graduating, though, I checked Harvard’s financial aid calculator. It would have been cheaper for me to attend Harvard than Auburn. I had shut myself off of what was possible because of incorrect assumptions I’d made. This made me think: if my assumption about affordability was wrong, what other assumptions had been wrong?

Not long after, I decided to go back to school—this time for my MBA. And this time, I wanted to challenge my assumptions head on. One by one, I brought my assumptions to mind: You didn’t go to the right undergrad. You don’t work at the right firm. There are a thousand other people like you applying this year. And one by one, by digging a little deeper, I discarded every one of them. I wasn’t going to shut myself out of applying to business school, the way I’d done when entering college.

Once I’d cleared those hurdles, of course, I had to actually tackle the application process. That meant I had to dig deep. What was my story? What was my why? How did everything fit together? I journaled. I reviewed. I scribbled ideas down on pieces of notepaper. I sent myself voice memos. I may have even shed some tears at a coffee shop, when trying to relive some of the most private moments of my life. (I was at the Joe & the Juice in Soho. I’m not sorry about it.) It was incredibly difficult work, but when I finally came out the other side, it was beyond satisfying.

That is, until I sent it to friends, coworkers, and current MBAs, who told me it wasn’t the best it could be. This stung, but more often than not, I knew they were right—so I went back to the drawing board. I’d come this far; I wasn’t going to be deterred. And eventually, I made it. I’d gone from doubting I could get into schools in Texas to earning a spot at my dream school: Stanford’s GSB.

Applying to business school? Yeah, It’s hard. Piecing together your life story and articulating it on a few measly pages, so someone in a conference room far, far away can judge your candidacy? That’s nearly impossible. That’s why we could all use someone to help us: to tell us to throw away our assumptions, to tell us when our essays aren’t the best they can be, to push and challenge and support us on the journey. I had that kind of help on my path. That’s why I coach now—for the people who are on the path themselves, and who need that kind of help as they try and make their way through the world.

Interested in working together on your MBA application? Click here for my Leland coaching profile.