When looking at M7 class profiles, I noticed that there was, and still is, a good degree of homogeneity: consulting, IB, or finance professional with the likes of MBBs, the Big Four, and Goldman Sachs; economics or business undergraduate focus from a rigorous state school or Ivy League; strong quantitative skills with a 720+ GMAT; mostly white and mostly male. As a woman with a liberal arts background whose GMAT verbal was significantly stronger than quant and whose professional experience was in sales ops and strategy in the manufacturing industry, I didn’t see myself reflected in almost any facet.
I thought to myself, if I wasn’t the typical M7 MBA applicant, would the admissions committee still see value in my experience? In an effort to fit into that box, would my personal narrative be narrowed into something hollow and impersonal? And even if I did get in, would my contributions within the classroom be heard and valued if I was so different from my classmates?
In selecting which programs to apply to, I set up introductory calls with each admissions team. Most calls went the same way: “Most of our applicants come from firms that align with our school’s functional or industry specialty and brand…” or, “If you don’t have ‘x’ GMAT score for quant, you should wait to apply until you can improve it.”
My call with Chicago Booth, however, was entirely different. They stressed that while there are similar traits across their admitted students–academic curiosity, professional rigor, analytical and strategic thought processes–there is no singular “Booth student.” Instead, the admissions committee was focused on three questions: Why an MBA? Why an MBA right now? Why a Booth MBA right now? They emphasized that the application process, while inherently taxing and challenging, was meant to be a collaborative process where the Booth community and the applicant develop a rapport to determine if there is a fit on both sides. They offered resources and connections in the form of current students and alumni who coached me through how best to position my atypical experience, providing valuable direction and a safe space to communicate my authentic narrative on why I believed Booth and I would be a mutually beneficial fit. After six months of preparing and a process that felt like years of intensive therapy and self-reflection, I received my acceptance call less than 24 hours after my interview.
This is why I coach. Everyone, regardless of their background, experience, employer, industry, or education, can be a viable M7 candidate if they possess raw intelligence, dedication, and perseverance. Our individual narratives cannot, and should not, be captured and reduced to a series of checklists. I feel an enormous responsibility to pay it forward in supporting the next generation of applicants. Without the support, encouragement, and coaching I received, I may easily have decided an M7 MBA wasn’t a fit for me, or even worse, artificially contorted myself to fit into the “box” that many MBA applicants believe they must check to be a viable candidate.
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