Essential Advice From Three Top MBA Gatekeepers

As the final MBA admission decisions get made, from applicants who pulled off the waitlist

As the final MBA admission decisions get made, from applicants who pulled off the waitlist in the last minutes before fall classes to the final granting or rejection of deferral requests, everyone can agree it’s been a remarkably uncertain and stressful time.

After test centers closed, it took weeks for the online version of the GRE and then the GMAT to be taken at home. Many business schools extended their application deadlines and provided candidates with greater flexibility over tests and recommenders. And scores of admitted international applicants found it difficult, if not impossible, to get student visas in time to come to the U.S. for the start of their MBA programs.

At the third annual MBA Summit, sponsored by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, the chief MBA gatekeepers of three highly selective schools met to discuss MBA admissions during the pandemic and beyond. How competitive do they think the next admissions round will be at the top schools? How does an applicant know when they are ‘MBA ready?’ What’s the best way for a candidate to determine ‘fit’ with a school? And if there was one thing you could change about MBA admissions, what would it be?

The candid answers to those questions and more are provided by Soojin Kwon, managing director of Full-time MBA Admissions and Program at Ross, Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions at Yale School of Management, and Michael Robinson, Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Columbia Business School. The conversation, fueled by questions unearthed via social listening, was moderated by Poets&Quants.com Founder & Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne.

John A. Byrne: On everyone’s mind right now is the impact COVID-19 is having on higher education. Some MBA programs have announced that they will go online this fall. Most have announced a more blended format where they’re asking people to come to campus but be prepared to take only some in-person classes mixed with virtual class sessions. Given all these changes and with the global recession looming, is it worth it to apply right to business school right now? Soojin, what do you think?

Soojin Kwon: That’s a big question, and I don’t have a really succinct answer, but I can give you what I think is a thorough answer. It’s definitely true that things, at least this fall, are going to look a little different, and answering the question about whether the MBA is worth it is really a personal decision that each candidate needs to weigh for themselves. I’d go back to my consulting roots and make a decision matrix that maps out the potential scenarios for fall 2021 and two years after that.

Here’s what the matrix would look like. Across the top are two scenarios for the pandemic. It will either be ongoing, or it will be managed. Down the side are the two choices you have to make. You’re either going to continue to work or go to business school. Then, you fill in the boxes underneath. If the pandemic continues and a vaccine isn’t widely available, chances are if your organization weathers the storm, you may still be working remotely. Underneath that, if you were to go to business school, the program could start hybrid as many of us are planning for now, but on the right-hand side, if the pandemic is under control, you’re still going to be working in the same job probably that you’re working in now. Underneath that in the business school scenario, you’re going to be learning and gaining new skills.

Now, let’s think about what happens two years later. Across the top is the economy. By 2023, it could be sputtering or it could recover. If you’d stayed at work in 2021, your career options and earning potential in 2023 would be more limited than if you had gone to business school because you’re going to get three things from a two-year MBA program that you won’t get if you stay at work. One, you’ll meet with and learn from hundreds of smart, ambitious, interesting people you wouldn’t have met if you didn’t go to business school.

Two, you’re going to learn how to network and interview for jobs in an industry or function that you’re interested in going into, and most, if not all MBA recruiters this year are planning to do virtual recruiting. So, you’re going to learn how to recruit and interview in the format in which recruiters are going to be recruiting you.

Then, third, you’re going to gain access to a network of tens of thousands of business school alumni and hundreds of thousands of alumni in the broader university community. You could absolutely find another job through LinkedIn, but it’s no secret that you’re more likely to get a response if you have some kind of connection, and an MBA from a top school with support of alumni provides that invaluable connection for life.

Byrne: Spoken like a true consultant. I love your matrix. Love it. Michael, do you anticipate any changes in this upcoming admission cycle and beyond at Columbia Business School due to the pandemic?

Columbia Business School’s Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson: Well, I don’t have a matrix-like Soo Jin, but I’ll still answer, right? I think that the what of our application process is pretty constant, and by that, what I mean is identifying, recruiting, and yielding a class of emerging leaders. That’s a constant. I think going forward though, the how will change in terms of how to recruit, how to yield, and how to engage with the applicant population in mostly virtual environments. I think that that’s the key thing that we’re dealing with. As long as there’s a lack of clarity from a public health perspective in terms of the lack of therapeutics or the lack of a vaccine, there is going to be real tension on the part of the applicant pool. Will most or part of my instruction and recruiting experience be virtual? Should I get some sort of tuition discount or accommodation for online instruction? So, if you’re in our shoes and you’re talking about the program, it’s important for us to acknowledge that kind of stress against the long-term value of the degree. We may have future pandemics within the next five or 10 years going forward, so I think there’s a skillset to working virtually that I think will benefit everyone going forward.

Byrne: Once this is over, I don’t want to hear about a future pandemic, okay? Now, there are a lot of people who think this next admission cycle is going to be among the most competitive ever. In the past, when people lose their jobs and they see the opportunities in front of them diminish, more of them go back to school. Bruce, are you expecting this to be a very competitive season, and do you expect a big boom in MBA applications?

Yale School of Management admissions chief Bruce DelMonico

Bruce DelMonico: Yeah, that’s another big question. I think we’re hitting all the big topics now. On the fly, I’m trying to create a two by two to keep up with Soojin, but I don’t know if I could do that. You’re right to cite the counter cyclicality of the MBA admissions process relative to the economy more generally. Actually, I’m thinking back to the Great Recession, the last most analogous example we have. Obviously, when you’re in the middle of these situations, it’s tough to pull yourself out and take a bigger perspective. But when we were in the middle of the Great Recession, you couldn’t see the 10 years of economic growth that followed the downturn and the long-term value of the MBA.

I would use that example to say that there’s a lot that we don’t know and can’t predict. MBA applications are countercyclical, but I remember that in the Great Recession actually it wasn’t countercyclical. There wasn’t a spike. There was maybe a little bit of a one-year uptick. And we all have this extended round this year, which I think might have created some of an uptick or a little bit of a surge. But I remember that there wasn’t the increase that we were anticipating because people were so nervous about their jobs. They just wanted to stay in the jobs they had, and so it’s tough to predict.

The other piece of it, too, is what happens with people who are admitted to start this fall who defer to next year? Will those seats be taken? Will the classes already be full? That’s tough. I know that a number of schools, us included, are working through the deferral process and working through people who don’t want to start this fall but want to start next fall. It’s tough to now know what those numbers will look like. So I’m not sure it’s going to be the most competitive season. I’m not sure that we’re going to see the same spike that you would anticipate. I think the Great Recession could be a model. We saw some increases, but we didn’t see the dramatic increase that people were predicting, so I think it’s up in the air right now.

As a piece of advice for candidates, I wouldn’t take yourself out of the game. I wouldn’t use the fear of this potential spike to cause you not to apply. The overall competitiveness number is not your chances of getting admitted. These averages are across the board, but strong candidates always have a good chance, and so if you’re a strong candidate, there’s never a reason not to apply.

Robinson: This is my 18th year in admissions, and I expect to see a double-digit increase next year. But going back to what Bruce said, I’m not sure it’s going to be like a 10% increase in strong competitive applications. We might see a surge in rushed applications where people who didn’t do their research and due diligence hurry to get an application in. So you’ll see more candidates. From a stats perspective, however, it may look more competitive, but it may not be as competitive as you think just based on a rushed application.

Kwon: What we’re going to see this year most likely is that most programs will shrink in size. What we may see next year is that programs rebound, that we have bigger incoming classes than we will this year, so the competition also depends on what the numerator is going to be and not just the denominator. So, don’t take yourself out. All of us are interested in having full classes, and hopefully, the market will rebound next year.

Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Byrne: Indeed. We have a really good question from an audience member. I’ll give it to you, Soojin.
What’s a good way to know if a candidate is MBA ready or not? Put another way, what questions or criteria should a candidate ask him or herself to see if they’re ready to pursue an MBA?

Kwon: I think it boils down to two questions. It’s what do you want to do, and what will you bring to the table? So, specifically, you should ask yourself the question, do I have a career goal for which the knowledge, skills, and network I’d gain from an MBA would be valuable? If, for example, you want to continue being a musician or an engineer, you probably don’t need an MBA, but if you want to leverage those or other careers into something more or switch careers altogether, then an MBA does make sense. The second question more specifically is, do I have academic professional and personal experiences that would contribute to my classmates’ learning? So, unlike in an undergraduate college experience, getting an MBA is not a passive endeavor. You’re going to be expected to actively engage in class discussions, team projects, and co-curricular activities. Professors and classmates are going to look to you to have something to contribute. So, if your answer to the career goal and contributions questions are yes, then you’re in a good position to apply to business school now.

Byrne: Michael. Let’s say you determined that you are in fact ready. What’s the best way to determine fit with a school, its culture, its programs, and its geography?

Robinson: So, I believe that fit really matters, and I think it’s important to be thoughtful, to be introspective and reflective, and look inward before you look outward. So, by that, I mean like thinking about your ideal learning environment. Do you prefer big cities versus small cities and so on? Does the method of instruction matter to you? Those kind of things are important. You need to ask yourself, what is the best environment for me to succeed in this space? Then, you have to start looking outward in terms of, how do I engage with people from this community?

We would say talk with current students and alumni. Watch as many online classes as you can, but the key thing is really thoughtful engagement with members from that community. Before, we’re saying visit, visit, visit. Now, we’re saying watch, watch, watch, but the same is true. The cool thing is that with Zoom it’s easier to put these things together. So, before, for example, when you actually went to campus to visit a class, we would limit a visit to like five to 10 spots. Now, we can open that up so it’s easier to engage with folks, and you don’t have to do all the travel. So, that part is good, but the keyword is to engage, engage, engage with members of that community.

Byrne: That’s really good advice, particularly now in lieu of a campus visit because today at this time during the pandemic you can’t go and share a coffee with a student or sit in a class. So it is to watch, watch, watch and talk, talk, talk. Bruce, how would you describe the culture of your school? This is another audience question as well.

DelMonico: Sure. To build on Michael’s point, I think the silver lining of the current situation is that these online events definitely democratize the process. It’s not just about who’s able to get to campus. We’re able to reach more people and engage with more people, and hopefully, through that process, you do get a sense of what our culture and community is like.

I will say you should think about points of equivalence and points of differentiation. I think we all have communities that are collaborative and collegial. I think it’s probably the rare program that says we’re cutthroat, and everyone’s out to get the other person. I don’t think that’s really how we present ourselves. I don’t think that’s how we are, so I think you want to think about the next level beyond that and what aspects of the culture maybe are a little bit different. We are a very mission-oriented place. Our mission is to educate leaders for business and society. That was our founding mission. It’s very broad. I think it brings in people who I think are broad-minded and curious.

When people think of Yale, they think that we are very collaborative, but it doesn’t mean we’re not competitive. I think one student put it well, saying that we’re constructively competitive at Yale. We think that everybody can be successful. It’s not if I succeed, it’s at the expense of my classmates or others. The one word I would point to is there’s a real sense of optimism at Yale SOM, and I think that we have optimistic students. That kind of idea permeates the culture.

Byrne: Soojin, what is the culture like at Michigan Ross?

Kwon: Like Bruce said, none of us are going to say that we’re not collaborative, that we’re cutthroat and competitive. We’re very similar in how we describe our cultures, so you really need to get the words, the feelings, the stories from students. But if I had to boil it down to a few words, it would probably be supportive and inspirational. In business school, you’re going to be challenged in ways that you never have been before. It could be by classes you haven’t taken before or by the intense preparation you’re going to need to do for recruiting for a completely new and unfamiliar industry or by the real-life projects and investments or people you’re going to be tasked with managing. But you’re going to be inspired to do that because you’re going to see your classmates doing that. Through it all, you’re going to be supported by your classmates more than you could have imagined in a business school setting. Everyone thinks business is very competitive, and everyone’s out for themselves, but it’s not like that at most schools.

One of the things that is really special about our community is how much students are motivating each other to do things that are really hard, to step outside of their comfort zones, so that they can grow. Then, they reflect on it together and by the end of two years, they’re amazed at who they’ve become not just because of the opportunities that were available but also because of how much they’ve been inspired by seeing their classmates take risks, put themselves out so that they can learn and grow, too. They’re willing to meet with failure, to take on risks so that they can become this transformational leader by the end of the two years.

Byrne: Michael, I imagine that New York City figures prominently in the culture of Columbia Business School.

Robinson: Yes, it does. When Bruce and Soojin were speaking, I was like check, check, check, check in terms of collaboration and being supportive at the same time. The people that we admit have been used to being successful. They’re driven, but their success does not depend on making someone else fail. Now, we are in COVID, but New York definitely is a part of the culture so the people in our program like to be in a very dynamic, fast-paced environment. They’re interested in juggling lots of balls at the same time.

There is something that I heard a student say many years ago, which I think is still kind of applicable. She said that a Columbia student is the kind of person who will work with you on a problem set or a case until 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and say, ‘Okay, well. Let’s go out and get a beer,’ and there’s a place open to actually get a beer in New York at that time as opposed to going into your fridge. So there’s that kind of energy that I’ve always loved.

Then, the last thing I will say is that we are in a time where there is lots of social unrest. Diversity Inclusion and equity are big issues on our campuses, and students are really driving that conversation in terms of how do we get better at cultural competency? So, it’s not just a conversation about race or gender, but how do you have that conversation from a global perspective, so the person from South Korea still has context as to why black lives matter? Students are driving those conversations. So, I continue to be hopeful, and I continue to be inspired by our young people.

Byrne: Great point. Now, here is a perennial question, but nonetheless, one thing about the MBA admissions field is that every 18 months, the whole thing turns over, so you have a bunch of new people who really don’t know what the previous group learned. The question is, do you prefer the GMAT or the GR

Kwon: The short answer is no. There is no preference. Most U.S. schools now accept both the GMAT and the GRE. We wouldn’t accept it if we didn’t think it was a useful indicator of a candidate’s academic potential. That said, here’s what I would do if I hadn’t already taken one of them or even if I had. I’d take a practice test of both the GMAT and the GRE and see which one I do better on, and then invest all of my time in preparing for that one test. That’s the same advice I gave to my sons in deciding between the SAT and the ACT for college because you want to put your best foot forward, so invest your time in the one that you think you will do better on.

Byrne: Exactly. Michael, here’s another one of those perennial questions: What are the biggest mistakes that applicants make?

Robinson: I think just being inauthentic or just not doing enough due diligence. So, there’s a difference between a strong applicant and a strong application. Sometimes, I see folks who, ‘Well, I have great test scores. I have a great GPA. I work for this great company. This means I’m automatic for school X, Y or Z,’ and then, they almost like phone it in. What you may see is a bunch of very generic essays that can apply to any school. They haven’t done any research so they don’t have a sense of how do you maximize your experience at a specific school over two years.

They haven’t really asked themselves how can I contribute to the people who are going to be my classmates? They don’t really have an answer for that. So they’re strong on paper, but they’re not a strong applicant. I’ve actually written this in notes: ‘Lazy application. Great person but the person kind of phoned it in.’ Put the work in. For most people who are 27 or 28 which is a typical age for the applicant pool, this is a $200,000 investment, which is the biggest investment for most people of that age. So, take it seriously. Put the work in. Put the time in.

Byrne: Really good advice, and you’re right. I think if you have numbers above the class averages, there may be the sense that ‘Okay, I’m pretty solid. I don’t have to worry as much.’ But you’re absolutely right. Here’s one of my favorite questions, and it’s from an audience member. Let’s give it to Bruce. If there’s one thing you can change about MBA admissions, what would it be?

DelMonico: I’m getting all the softballs here. Just one thing? I would point to maybe the applicant facing part of the process. Obviously, there are things that happen behind the scenes, process improvements or other evaluative tools that we’re experimenting with that we would love to be able to put into place. We’re all competing for talent. We all want great students at each of our schools, So I think we each have our own processes, but at the same time, I think we’re all, just to a good degree, advocates for graduate management education. Obviously, I want great people at Yale, but if they’re not going to be in Yale, I want them in Michigan or in Columbia and elsewhere. I think it goes the same in the other direction.

So, as we compete for talent, we’re talking about things like the culture of our communities and what kind of students we have at our schools. I would love for the process to be focused on that. It’s sometimes frustrating to me that things like timing of enrollment deposits or timing of applications causes people to make decisionsbased on things that seem less substantive. So I would love it if the process could be coordinated more so that people didn’t have to say, ‘I would have loved to have been at Yale, at Michigan, but I couldn’t go to Michigan because the time of the enrollment deposits didn’t line up, and I had these other things I was thinking about. Or the decision wasn’t released at the right time.’

Obviously, we all have admitted student weekends, for example, and they can’t all be on the same weekend, but if there are ways to streamline the process so that applicants are filling out the same information for each of our applications, if there’s a way to only have to do that once and to make it even more candidate friendly that I think would be beneficial to everybody involved. I do feel like there are inefficiencies in the process that could be eliminated that would allow us to streamline things and allow people to focus on the things that matter as opposed to making decisions based on some ancillary considerations.

Byrne: I think applicants would love that answer.

Robinson: Can I add something? This is more like a pipeline and a conversation, so if you look at a number of the leading liberal arts colleges, there are more schools that are becoming test-optional. So, they’re deemphasizing the importance of standardized testing in the context of the admissions process. I’m actually watching that with lots of curiosity, and then just add one more data point. I’ve led the recruiting efforts in Africa for over a decade at Columbia. There are some very, very big cities. So, let’s say Lagos, Nigeria, that has over 20 million people. There’s one test center. There’s very little in the way of test prep resources and so on, so a 700 in Lagos is not the same thing as a 700 in New York City, just in terms of access to resources, but the way we’re kind of judging is the same.

So, for us in admissions, it’s not that we want to basically admit people with the highest test average. It’s more about whether this person can succeed academically in that class. There are ways to get the right answer to that question without a GRE or GMAT or executive assessment. So I’m really curious to see what’s happening there. We’ll see how that looks like.

Yale School of Management

Byrne: Now, Soojin, sometimes when an applicant goes to a website and reads what everyone requires, they may get the sense that you have to walk on water to get into your school. But very few applicants have a perfect application. So, what can they do to still prove that they’re really strong academically if something like your GPA or your standardized test score failed to hit the class averages?

Kwon: All of us have what we call a holistic evaluation process, which means that we’re not just looking at one component of the application. There are a lot of other indicators of your academic potential in your application besides your GPA. One of the things that we’ll consider from your undergrad experience is not just the number but also what kind of classes you took, what was your major, what school did you go to, how much did you challenge yourself. You can’t change any of that, so that’s already done. You can study for the GMAT or the GRE and try to get the best score possible, and then your work experience can also be an indicator of your potential to be able to do the kind of work that you’re going to do in business school. And it doesn’t have to be in business per se. It can be in the government. It could be a non-profit. It could even be in the military. Some of those things are going to give you experiences and skills that will be helpful for business school. So, the GPA is just one component of the broader picture that we’re looking at.

Byrne: Right. Michael, what distinguishes a good MBA candidate from a great one?

Robinson: This is actually a very tough question for me. It’s something I’ve thought about and something that I really struggle with. So, when you think about the people on this panel, we serve as gatekeepers to very elite spaces. So, what does that mean? The majority of the young people in our program are people who are kind of sure their backgrounds are going to allow them to thrive in elite spaces. But there are people who are just as talented who never had that kind of access. So, does that make them less great? This is very personal for me because when I was a young man, I spent the ’90s working with hip-hop artists, and I met some of the most driven people in my life, but they did not have the profile to ‘be competitive’ in a school like ours.

Then, we’re in an age where there is lots of economic inequality, and there’s lots of tension on the streets. So how will our institutions become more responsive to broaden access to opportunity? So, going back to the question about a good versus a great candidate, I would ask is someone who’s a great candidate someone who just had access to resources where they hired a consultant? Some of the tutors for the GMAT sometimes charge $200 an hour, and then you take like a 10-session minimum.

Sometimes, a person who looks great on paper is just a function of access to resources. That’s why I struggle with this because we’re rated and judged in our own league tables based on unequal access to stuff. How do you get better around that? I struggle with that because if you do something to correct for it and then drop in the rankings, alums are like, ‘What’s going on and so on?’ What is the right balance? What is the right balance?

Byrne: That’s really true, and it’s a real challenge in elite admissions. Another perennial question as well is about recommendation letters. Bruce, is there an ideal person who should fill out that recommendation form for a candidate? Should it be a more senior person in your firm who may know you less? Should it be the person who knows you well and knows your work, day in and day out?

DelMonico: That’s a great question. I would, just as a prelude to that, echo what Soojin and Michael were saying about the holistic process and understanding context. I think we sometimes feel unhealthy pressures in terms of testing and understanding the context. It’s often hard to get beyond those numbers, and understand the applicant in a deeper and I think more productive way.

Recommendations are one aspect of that. For that reason, I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of all of us. This is one area where I think we would all say you want to have someone who knows you well, someone you work with more closely. Don’t go for the more senior person just for the sake of the title. That’s not going to be productive. I think in terms of the actual recommendation letter itself, in terms of how we use them, we want someone who works more closely with you because we want more substantive advice, more substantive insight into you as a candidate.

It’s not helpful for us to hear that this candidate is collaborative and a good team player, and he’s smart, and whatever qualities you want to insert. We don’t want just that conclusory language. We want examples. We want concrete examples of behaviors that you as a professional have displayed. You can only get that from someone you work with closely, and so that’s why we care about that.

Byrne: Totally. So Soojin, there’s a lot of worry about the career prospects of MBAs given COVID. Do you have any thoughts about that? Should it be a concern for students entering this fall?

Kwon: So, here’s the thing. You shouldn’t decide whether to get an MBA based on what the economy looks like right now. You’ll be graduating actually three years from now if you apply for next year, and who knows what the economy will look like by then? Back in 2017, no one predicted that a pandemic would take down the global economy in 2020. Economists now are predicting anywhere from a V-shaped recovery to a W to an L to a U. It’s alphabet soup in terms of predictions for the economy.

By pursuing an MBA, what you’re betting on is that your career options and earning potential will be better than they would be without an MBA. It’s a pretty safe bet. In every economic scenario in the past, an MBA has given people more options and higher salary potential than they would have had without an MBA. Then, there’s a compound impact of that over time. So, regardless of what the economy looks like now or even three years from now, as I said in my answer to the first question, you’re going to be better off with the MBA.

John Byrne: No doubt about it. Here’s a great question. I love this idea. We’ll start with Michael. Tell me about a candidate that you took a bet on, maybe even some of your colleagues in the admissions committee said, ‘Michael, I’m not so sure.’ But you went ahead and admitted the person and that bet became a big success.

Robinson: I won’t mention any names for privacy reasons, but when you think about the range of people within our program, some may have questionable academics and yet are the most amazing people in the program. If you’re going to turn down four or five or six people that have 740s and 760 GMATs to bring in this person with a test score that is 100 points lower with questionable math skills, that person has to have a very powerful why.

I’m thinking about this woman who just radiated confidence. You just felt that there was something special about her.
She already had this great potential but struggled in the first year quant classes. We kind of knew that because the GMAT predicted it, but the thing that I loved about her was that she still took more quant classes than many of her classmates because she had this really strong intellectual curiosity. She was taking coding classes. She’s a marketing person and is now going on to a great job at Tik Tok and so on. When she led professional panel discussions, you could see that all her classmates respected her. So, she belonged. I do expect her to be a leader with a national profile going forward, but the key thing is that people like the grind. They hustle. You can’t outwork them.

Byrne: Bruce, do you have a favorite?

DelMonico: Yeah. I mean, lots of favorites. The one that came to mind more immediately is someone who was a risk in the sense that the testing numbers were not what might see otherwise. It was someone who, for a time, actually lived with her mom in her car, was homeless and just would not give up, just persevered. As I said before, you’ll understand the context of someone’s background and how far they’ve come from where they were. The resilience to just do what it takes to succeed makes you believe that that would translate to the academics. This person became a real leader on campus and has gone on to be incredibly successful afterward. Knowing and understanding the context in which someone presents himself and the hardships that they’ve had to overcome says a lot, and I think that’s a challenge for us in admissions.

Byrne: Soojin, I know you have favorites.

Kwon: I do. I can’t pick just one just like with my kids, but I think there are a lot of candidates out there who worry that maybe business school isn’t right for them because they’re non-traditional. So, I have a story about a woman who just graduated this past April. She was non-traditional by many opinions. She majored in environmental studies and philosophy. She took the GRE and had no business experience. In fact, she worked for three years as a bee pollinator coordinator at a nonprofit that promotes organic and sustainable agriculture. She didn’t know anyone with an MBA and had said that she was scared, that she wasn’t good enough to get into an MBA program and that her weird background would hold her back.

She couldn’t have been more wrong. At Ross, she became a member of the Consulting Club, the Community Consulting Club. She did a MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Project) project with AT&T. She participated in five national case competitions, placing first and second in two of them, and then she went on to pursue a dual degree with our School of Environment and Sustainability, and because of that, she was able to do two internships, one with the Environmental Defense Fund and the other with McKinsey. That’s where she’ll be working full-time. So she went from a bee pollinator to a McKinsey consultant. She’ll tell you that business school transformed her into a more critical thinker, a better leader, and a more confident problem solver. That’s what an MBA can do for you.

Byrne: Three great stories. I bet you, there are people in our audience who may not fit these profiles exactly. They may not be pollinating bees or sleeping in cars or whatever, but I think what you get out of those stories is a sense that you’re looking for people who can be special and who want to fulfill the potential that’s inside them. What they’ve done before may not always line up to make them perfect candidates, but the fact that you’re open to look at these very different people and bring them into a class so they can share their insights make the MBA experience more meaningful for everyone. I cannot believe that our time is over, but Soojin, thank you so much. Michael, thank you. Bruce, always a pleasure.

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