No Harvard or Goldman?

No Harvard or Goldman’s?

Well unfortunately, those institutions are prerequisites to top business and law schools. You see how crazy that sounds? The only person who cares that you didn’t work/attend at the aforementioned is you. Why then are top business and law schools filled with students who are alum of either or both? Well top business and law schools are very risk averse. As a result, they pursue actions that are likely to yield a class that can do well academically and compete professionally. Goldman and Harvard, function simply as “signals”, meaning you have the ability to distinguish yourself in an applicant pool, succeed in academic and professional environments, in addition to manage and exceed expectations. Since Goldman and Harvard have invested heavily in developing screening processes to filter out undesirable candidates, it would be remiss if these bougie graduate programs didn’t leverage them. Right? If you have been previously filtered out of these organizations before, don’t dwell on the past and prepare for the future.

And my intent is not to be insensitive, especially because I despise when people say no or place obstacles before us. But, I just want to adjust your focus less so on the signals you missed, and more so on the signals you have to gain. Trust, if you have the LSAT/GMAT score, essays, letters of recommendation, and present yourself well on a resume, those same organizations that filtered you out, will now be checking for you. I believe it was the once relevant Mike Jones who said, “Back then hoes didn’t want me, now I’m hot, hoes all on me.” Focus right now on upping your “hot” quotient and less on the brand equity of your undergrad institution and your employer. Instead, allocate time reflecting on the value you’ve added during your tenure in the workplace and undergrad. What impact have you had on your team? What challenges and obstacles have you overcome? What were those instances you’ve showed initiative? That’s what your resume and narrative should convey. I promise you an application that can convey those elements relative to a resume with Bain at the top that can’t convey them will always prevail.

Please don’t self select yourself out of institutions because you believe your candidacy is lacking “brand equity”. Cautious optimism is always best but you certainly won’t get into your dream school if you don’t apply.

Now for those of you who do have those signals present on the resume, I applaud your labor thus far. And Lord knows we are more than underrepresented at those Fortune 100 organizations. Your fight also has just begun. Your signals are not an 800-thread count security blanket—meaning a poorly wrapped application can easily mean being left out in the cold during the admit season. You have a set of challenges to triumph over as well. I characterize it as demonstrating your preparedness (more so in terms of illustrating maturity by being able to communicate effectively how the MBA is necessary to transform an already thriving career) for graduate school. It may almost be more difficult for you applying because you have to differentiate yourself from your 3.5 UGPA Ivy peers who was an analyst at Morgan Stanley or paralegal at SullCrom and your application will thus have to be even more fleeky. Your narrative has to be that much more engaging and compelling. Your time may be best spent taking a professional risk and don’t weigh prestige as much as responsibility, impact, and the extent to which it interests you in your 2nd or 3rd professional endeavor.  The more engaged you are with your work, the more likely it will reflect on your statements of purpose.

For everyone…

One critical component everyone must consider (Black, White, Goldmans, non Goldmans, Harvards, non-Harvards) is why now? (more so for MBAs than JDs). I repeat, think critically about why you need the MBA now? I do think this is an area applicants fail to convey and if you can’t make a compelling argument to matriculate to the MBA now, an admission committee (adcom) will have much difficulty granting you admission (aka you will get dinged). Reasons for seeking the MBA also need to transcend “I’ve plateaued in my career” or “its part of my 5-year plan” or “I don’t know. I just think it’s time.”

Your story also needs to glue all the pieces together—where you’ve been, where you’re going, and why the MBA or JD at School X will get you there. I would worry less about literary flare, and put more emphasis on the functionality (JD prospects, consider literary flare though. Writing and rhetoric will be the instrument of your profession) If you are being truly genuine, it will shine through. Best believe an adcom can see the real from the fake.

If you are in the same role that you had since you graduated undergrad, at minimum, consider changing function. It broadens your perspective and you become more self-assured in your end goal. It’s also a good signal that you know how to navigate your career path strategically—a skill that will be required in your graduate endeavor. When and if you leave, try a new industry. Your professional brands are strong indicators for other industries as well. They know analyst programs cultivate a skill set that is transferable. One thing I wish I did was acquire more work experience prior to matriculating and exploring more industries. When I return to school, I still have to find a way to navigate that uncertainty. Try to learn that before returning to the classroom folks.

Be fearless and go abroad. Leave your organization to go work in agribusiness in South Africa or that social impact fund in London. As our society becomes increasingly global, being able to have an international perspective in any sector will become invaluable. The ability to engage with different cultures, professionally and socially, is definitely a unique value proposition.

And of course, what are you doing outside work? How are you engaging with community? I’ve seen people get rejected from The Consortium, not the school, because they thought being black and having a little Big Brother Big Sisters (BBBS) would suffice as “giving back”. If you can’t speak meaningfully on that BBBS experience because your interactions were sporadic, trust, they’ll rather give the money to a white TFA alumnus/alumnae who was working with underprivileged children in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. And consequentially and more importantly, you are blocking your coin and guess what? Future is now F’ing up commas better than you are. SMH.

Largely, what I’m advocating, as per usual, is challenging yourself and asking the internal tough questions before you open the application. A lot of ish you think sounds off the chain looks real reguLARR in a pile of 10,000 applicants. Look at your peers. If your resume looks largely like the people around you, you may want to add some nuance to it.

AND IF YOU REALLY BOUT THAT LIFE, then once you’ve asked yourself the tough questions, you find someone who isn’t in business and or law. Find you a good dentist and ask them if you’re inspired, compelled, engaged, or caught the Holy Ghost from hearing your story. If they don’t fall “dangerously in love” with it, I would imagine you would have a difficult time conveying it on paper, and we know the abysmal consequence that can occur from that.


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