Applying To Stern: My Application Journey & A Few Tips

If you’re working on your application to B-school, I was where you are not too far back. My experience with the application was spread over – believe it or not – 2 years. Since Stern was the only school I was applying to, and the Fashion & Luxury MBA was the only program I was interested in, it was an all or nothing play for me, which in hindsight is what made the entire process that much more stressful and daunting, but in the end equally rewarding.

For me, the starting point was understanding Stern as a school. The concept of IQ + EQ is in almost every Stern post because it is very much ingrained in the DNA of the school. What it means from my perspective is that along with having quantifiable professional achievements, one also needs to be self-aware and emotionally in touch with their environment and the people who inhabit it. This for me was the very foundation on which I built the rest of my application.

I did use this blog for a lot of inspiration when I was preparing my application, so I find it surreal that I am actually writing this blog post now. Talk about life coming full circle, you know! Similar posts from past students were critical in keeping my focus and conviction strong. I am hoping to pay it forward and will be thrilled if anything I write below will be helpful for you. If I can come this far, trust me, so can you!


Coming from a design background, I wasn’t sure if my resume would be valuable to a business school admissions team. While there is the idea of a “non-traditional background,” which could have given me a few brownie points, what I felt was lacking was a demonstration of my interest/experience in traditionally MBA-related roles, eg. marketing, managing projects and teams. So I looked for opportunities in my role to extend myself into these projects. I’m not saying this is the only way to do this, but it was very helpful for me as an experiment to even understand if digital marketing or project management would be something I would be interested in doing full-time post-MBA. To me, this also showed that I was inquisitive to push the envelope of my abilities and, irrespective of my admission in the program, I would continue to explore business-related roles in my industry, cementing my genuine interest in the program I was applying to. The added benefit was that professionally, I was able to add many more feathers to my many hat which is good to do anyway, irrespective of your application to b-school. At the end of your resume writing process, your final product should actually make you feel really proud of your achievements and give you a sense of genuine confidence about your abilities and professional history.

Key Takeaway: Your resume is an advertisement of YOU and it should be written like that. All ads carry the best features of what their product has to offer, not everything, but the best. So be mindful of what you want to call out and what you want to maybe discuss in person and hence omit on the single sheet that you will upload. Quantifying your achievements is helpful as well. (Shout out to my friend Sneha who taught me all this!)

Standardized Tests:

I struggled with this part of the application the most. NYU does not have a preference between the GMAT or the GRE, so if you are feeling anxious about the GMAT, you should try the GRE. I spent 6 miserable months studying for the GMAT along with a very demanding full-time job and took it three times before I got a passable score to apply with. I took the GRE sample far later into my GMAT prep and would have much rather just prepped for the GRE and taken only that. Also, please know that the standardized test scores are only one small aspect of your entire application. Apply with the score you are most proud of and trust yourself.

Key Takeaway: I recommend taking free sample tests online of GMAT, GRE, or any other accepted exams and build from there. You might realize that you are more comfortable with one exam format than another and I feel that’s half the battle won.

Professional Aspirations Essay:

Authenticity is the highest priority in this section. If you try to use a formulaic approach to an essay, it really shows. An admissions officer is an expert at their job and can easily identify a genuine interest versus a vaguely written, generic submission. Your authenticity will show through your research and knowledge of this program, of Stern, and how it relates to your personal and professional journey. Remember the IQ + EQ value and use that as your anchor. I felt it was important for Stern to see that this was the only program that I could even think of doing and I probably read every article, news report, blog post, website page available to inform my decision. It may not be possible for everyone looking to apply to multiple programs across multiple schools, but I feel you should try to do as much research as you can because it will only make your writing stronger and your arguments more convincing.

Key Takeaway: Don’t try to fake it or be superficial. It will be very evident. Since there are limited words, value each word and ensure it adds value to your statements. There will be multiple drafts and that’s fine (I submitted draft 37, really). Once you’re done with a draft, read it line by line and ask, “Why is this important/Why does this matter?” If you can’t come up with a good answer, rephrase your statement. Once you feel you are confident about your writing, take feedback from friends, peers, mentors, anyone you trust, and reiterate till you feel your writing is most true to you and authentically represents you. The best essay is the one you feel most confident about.

Pick 6:

This was an image in my Pick 6. I love the Met Gala so I added this image along with the caption “The Costume Institute Gala is a confluence of three of my key passions: Fashion, Museums/Exhibitions & Business and continues to influence & educate me about the cyclical impact of costume on the themes chosen.”

This is the most unique aspect of the Stern application. I don’t know if any other schools have a similar personal expression essay. It really is an opportunity for Stern to see who YOU are, what you value, and what makes you YOU. I have often struggled with boxing myself into a few obvious compartments of my life like what I do for work and what I do in my free time, but this exercise made me think of all the facets of my personality. What helped me start was asking my closest friends about whatever comes to their minds when they think of me. I did this exercise multiple times with different sets of people, and received a variety of words I expected to get and then some I didn’t even think of which came up again and again from different people. It made me realize the attributes that people associated with me without me even knowing, which makes this a good exercise on self-discovery and the EQ portion of self-awareness. From all of these responses, I started to think hard about what really mattered to me and shortlisted visuals I thought best represented me and my life.

Key Takeaway: Try to have fun here. In this age of Instagram, we are all for the most part, fairly used to selecting aspects of our lives and sharing a snippet for the world to see. Which is what this is. It is a space for you to express yourself personality, so let your personality shine and be proud of who you are and what you believe in. That’s what makes you unique and that is what will make your essay stand out.


If you get invited to interview, congratulations! I just needed an excuse to come to New York, so I actually flew in from India to New York for a 30-45 mins discussion. I am in no way saying that it is essential to get admission because a few people in my class who are from New York interviewed remotely (#PandemicProblems). What is essential is that your story and your passion shine through your conversation with the Admissions Officer. My interview was very conversational and made me feel incredibly comfortable to the effect that I didn’t even feel like I was being interviewed. It was like having a coffee chat (which you will eventually do a lot of during your MBA).

Key Takeaway: Revisit your application. It’s important that what you submitted is the same content you say during your interview. An authentic, true-to-yourself application will be the easiest to prepare since that is your true story. And don’t worry. The interview was the best part of the admissions process for me. Relax, be yourself, and show your passion. You’ll thank yourself later.

Closing Notes:

My final advice to you is to be very surgical and systematic about the application process. My dad kept telling me to do a SWOT analysis (he tells me to do this even today) and I pass on that wisdom to you. Do a SWOT analysis of yourself. Write down your Strengths, your Weaknesses, the Opportunities you have or need to create to either display your strengths or overcome those weaknesses, and finally the Threats that may create a path of resistance. What helped me was to look at my resume and see what I had achieved professionally and looked at LinkedIn profiles of Stern alums to see what I was missing or what were my areas of development. Then I needed to find or create opportunities where I could fill in these gaps while being prepared to tackle any obstacles along the way with backup plans. This broad structure helped me keep my focus intact.

Also, ask for help, even when you feel you don’t need it. You’ll be surprised how much value another perspective adds to your application. Have your essays read by another person, get your resume reviewed, and understand how someone else is reading what you have written. When you are so close to your own work, you forget to have a distanced perspective which is more valuable than you can imagine. I can safely say that I would not have been able to crack this admission without a strong support system.

Finally, your strongest application is the one you are most confident about. I said it before, and I really mean it. Apply to the deadline you feel most prepared with and let your hard work do the rest.

All the best and I hope to see you on campus!