Why I Coach—Sierra Cook

Sierra C., an expert Leland coach and Darden MBA, outlines why she chooses to coach and what it means to her.

Posted January 10, 2024

I attended Port Townsend High School, the only high school in a dusty mill town of 8,000 people in Washington State. When the paper mill was running, the sulfur smell seemed to pervade every inch of town. Instead of returning to high school for my junior year, at age 15, I chose to take community college courses full-time instead. The courses counted for both high school and college credit.

At 17, I transferred to the University of Virginia with two years of college credits under my belt. Two years later, I graduated at 19. I had decent classroom experience, but little life experience. I was bewildered. The thing I most often heard was: “Oh, you’re book smart, but not life smart.” So I spent my early 20s trying to both make good choices and beef up my life smarts.

It wasn’t until years later that my smarts converged—during the business school application process. Applying for your MBA requires that you be both book smart (ahem, GMAT) and life smart (hello, essays and interviews). What I’d lacked in life smarts as a teenage college graduate, I made up for when I got into UVA (again) for business school.

That’s not to say it was easy. It wasn’t. It was hard. Really hard. So hard, in fact, that I had to promise myself jelly beans as a reward for finishing different parts of the application. Write an essay draft? Jelly beans. Read up on interview questions? Jelly beans. Study for the GMAT? Oh, yeah. Jelly beans. I was determined to get into business school, pants size be darned.*

Back then, of course, I didn’t know that MBA admissions coaches existed. If I had, it would have made things so much easier. I would have really benefited from someone to guide me, someone to tell me about their experience, someone to show me that there were other ways of getting through the application than stuffing my face full of jelly beans. Don’t get me wrong, it would still have been hard. But it would have been nice to go through it with someone else, instead of alone. This is why I coach: to be the guide for others that I very much needed myself. And Leland is the perfect platform for it, because it swiftly connects MBA applicants (like former me) with the perfect coach for them (current me).

People often ask me about business school. I tell them: “It was the best personal and professional decision of my life. Get into the right program, and it will crack your world right open.”

How? Well, that’s what I’m here to help with. I’ve got you, and you’ve got this.

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

*It's possible that jelly beans were harmed in the writing of this piece.

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