A Nigerian's journey to the Business School for the World
Finally, after months of deliberation and research, I have made an attempt to cross the first hurdle of the B-school application by taking the GMAT. This journey actually started years ago but with just a little distance covered as each year went by. Now I have braced myself for the real journey. A few tips on where I am today.
I am proudly Nigerian, born and bred in the busy city of Lagos. That would be all about my childhood. I am 28 years old and at the point in my life where I am eager to take a hold of my destiny by pursuing what I am most passionate about. The journey so far has been a sublime experience with very steep learning curves and experiences I would not trade for anything. But here I am, and ready to offer the world what I am made of, hoping to positively impact the lives of millions in Africa.
Okay, enough of that, let’s talk about B-school. The idea of an MBA is appealing to most young people, especially the ones that are inclined to business (interested in consulting, investment banking or entrepreneurship) but the discipline to follow through on a process as arduous as applying to a top business school is lacking. A few determined folks do make it through. Now let me shed more light on how complex the B-school application can get if not approached rightly.
All business schools have their unique identities. I like to think of them as brands, with a focus on a specific type of consumer. Understanding the brand identity and DNA and tailoring your application to match this seems quite simple right? But try doing this for different schools and then you will understand how complex things could get. I attempted to apply for an Engineering MS degree some five years ago and had to apply to six different programs in the US. I received rejections from all but one of the programs and I knew why. No focus! I basically applied to programs I felt I could get into easily and never paid attention to the type of candidate they were interested in. This is one critical part of an admission process you need to fit in! This could be on the basis of the rigour of the program, research areas of concentration, and/or your interests as an individual. The correlation must be positive.
Applying to more than three (3) business schools can be daunting and quite involving (emotionally, financially and time-wise). Nevertheless, when done in the right manner, it can be a rewarding experience, save for the confusion that arises when you have to make a choice between two great programs (Maybe HBS & Stanford or INSEAD & LBS). As I did my research for B-school, I was focused on two things. Firstly, I wanted a 1-year MBA with a rigorous schedule, and outstanding faculty. In addition to that, I was only going to apply to the best fit- not me trying to fit the ideal kind of candidate the school wanted, but a relationship akin to love at first sight! I also planned to narrow my options down to two (2) programs unlike most MBA consultants advise.
And that was how I met INSEAD! It was love at first sight. Everything about the MBA program at INSEAD matched all I wanted from an MBA- diversity of student body, 1-year curriculum with internship option, top 3 non-US MBA program in the world, and amazing people. I remember my first conversation with an INSEAD alumnus- “ecstatic” is the word. I had once visited a business school in San Francisco to inquire about their MBA program. From that day, I was sent numerous emails and received numerous calls to turn in my application. This totally pissed me off as I did not expect marketing an MBA program to be as aggressive as marketing a retail product (I work in Sales). Such a buzz-kill. The reputation of a B-school is built by its student-body, alumni and faculty. Marketing an MBA program is not a sure way to build an educational brand name.
Well, here I am-taken my GMAT, scored a not so impressive score (expectations differ) but determined to give my application my best as I strongly believe there are other aspects that stand out. Everyone does have a story, but not every story is a great tale.
I have started my journey to INSEAD and I hope one day I will be writing from campus in Fonty or Singy, inspiring others to take this path, just as I would have…