Why I Coach—Julia Kahky

Julia K., an expert Leland coach, 99th Percentile GMAT, and full scholarship recipient, outlines why she chooses to coach and what it means to her.

Julia K.

By Julia K.

Posted January 10, 2024

As I completed my leadership development program at General Motors, I began to think about next steps in my career. I had gained significant experience in finance but wanted to explore the startup ecosystem - a drastic transition from a multi-billion, Fortune 50 company. The pandemic began right as I began my search for my next career move, and mass recruiting diminished to a trickle of job postings.

Wanting to allow myself the widest net, I researched my different MBA options, only to find that the application fees, test costs, and tuition would far exceed my savings. Unlike undergraduate applications, I realized that I would have to select schools based on my career aspirations, location, network, and affordability. Having been out of school for four years, the thought of applying again felt like a daunting task.

I blindly reached out to acquaintances from undergrad and asked how they went about the process and how they made their ultimate decisions. A large number responded that they had paid thousands of dollars for consulting services, understanding that there was no guarantee they would be admitted to any of their top choice universities. Although I had been working in finance, this risk/reward tradeoff felt out of my comfort zone.

Still, I mounted my attack on the admissions process. I attended online information sessions and took avid notes. I created an online drive of documents amassing my research efforts and narrowing down my application choices. The concept of first, second, and third round applications was new to me, and working full time, I knew that my ability to spray and pray was limited. I narrowed down my search to two schools -- U Chicago and MIT Sloan -- and started on my applications.

Applying alone was very stressful. In my essays, I’d heard the advice to be fully and honestly myself, which I was -- but I didn’t have anyone to review or edit my materials. I conducted my own proofreading, catching all of my own spelling and grammatical mistakes. I fretted endlessly over my non-traditional background, and wasn’t sure if I had the raw materials my chosen schools were looking for. Without structured guidance, I stumbled my way through -- and was fortunate enough to be admitted to both Booth and Sloan, with scholarship offers to both.

I coach on Leland because by offering my services at a reasonable rate, I can help address questions and doubts that the next generation of applicants will have, just as I had before during my own application process. I coach because I want to empower others to pick the right schools for them, and to feel confident that what they're writing is a true representation of themselves. Admissions officers really do want authentic stories, and having written my own -- albeit imperfectly, with lots of spelling and grammatical errors along the way -- I know I can help others avoid the same mistakes I made and confidently present who they are.

After receiving two acceptance letters, I had to make a difficult decision. I went back and forth, playing out multiple scenarios in my head. It would have been helpful to talk through this with someone else. This is a final reason why I coach: to be the guiding voice and sounding board that I didn’t have, and to help future applicants make the best decisions possible.

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

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