Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Live and You Learn (Quickly)

Congratulations on making that decision and taking the first step towards more opportunities! Now comes the hard part(s): devote time and effort to the GMAT, perform self-assessments, research and visit schools, talk to students, faculty, staff and alumni, and more. The “to do’s” may sound overwhelming, but it will all seem like a breeze upon looking back once you’ve begun your MBA program!

When I was in your position over a year ago, I asked my friends and colleagues who had undergone MBA programs at various schools for guidance. The words of wisdom I received from each of them all resonated similar messages that I took to heart and recalled throughout my journey to date. I now share with you the points I believe to be the most valuable based upon advice given to me and my personal experiences.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

In order to be successful on the GMAT, a certain level of preparation is essential. The GMAT exists for a reason, so use it as your competitive advantage. Familiarize yourself with the format and content of the GMAT. Enroll in a course and pay attention to receive the maximum benefit. Practice problems are a must, so use your free time (even if it is only 20-30 minutes) to go through as many questions as possible. Practice makes (closer towards) perfect!

2. Block Out the Noise
No one knows you better than yourself. Take some time to think about your motivations (i.e. what makes you tick) and your goals. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and then talk to your family, friends and co-workers to gain perspective on these areas. Sometimes the strengths and weaknesses may be in line with one another, while other times you’ll surprisingly learn about yourself. However, at the end of the day, remember that this is about YOU and no one else. Do not let others influence you and your decisions; stay true to yourself.

3. Go With Your Gut

Researching a school through websites and brochures can give you a good understanding of what your experience at that school may be like. Many people immediately target the top business schools without giving second thought to what will suit them best. Be honest with yourself when determining what kind of experience you want during those two years through, because it will go by too quickly. Visiting a school allows your gut to make judgments of the school that you will not find in print anywhere. Your interactions with the schools (including current students, alumni, admissions, etc.) will provide a glimpse into your future. Keep in mind this will differ for each individual, but when you know, you know.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me ( with any questions or anything else you’d like to discuss in further detail. Remember, every step is one step closer to that “pot of gold”!

Justina Lee, Forté Fellow
Class of 2013, CMU Tepper School of Business

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