Laura Laufer is a current Fashion & Luxury MBA student, specializing in Luxury Marketing and Strategy. Prior to Stern, she worked at Saks Off Fifth in New York where she was working in the Buying & Planning for Fine Jewelry & Watches. Laura is passionate about data-driven decision making, the convergence of beauty and science, and innovative business practices.
It’s no secret that the MBA admissions process can be a bit intimidating. Right around this time last year, I was beginning my own journey. It’s a lot – the paperwork, the transcripts, the essay, the Pick 6. How can one possibly summarize 20+ years of education, thousands of hours of work experience, and decades worth of monumental life achievements in 150 words or less? Yeah, it’s daunting.
Fast forward a full year later and a semester of business school officially in the books – I can confidently say that the application process is less about presenting yourself as the candidate you think admissions officers want to see, and more about presenting yourself authentically, proudly, and convincingly. Joining the Stern community has taught me that compassion weighs just as strongly as intelligence, and that asking questions makes you look wise, not weak.
That being said, here are ten tips I wish I knew when I was applying to business school:
- Do your research & attend coffee chats – choosing the right MBA program for you is difficult. There are millions of factors to consider – location, class size, general vs specific programs, alumni networks, etc. If you choose to apply to the NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA program, you should be prepared to explain why this program is right for you, and what you seek to get out of this very specific MBA experience. Joining NYU-hosted coffee chats is a great way to get a feel for the student body and an understanding of what the program has to offer. I attended four coffee chats last fall before submitting my application, and I learned something new in all of them!
- Have a vision – you don’t have to know everything, but you should have an understanding of what it is that you’re good at, what makes you happy, and what inspires you. This will help shape your questions in coffee chats, will explain why you’re targeting an MBA in the first place, and will guide your future career aspirations.
- Ask questions! – it’s almost annoying how often people tell you to ask questions. I’ve been there, trust me. But this is your moment to be curious, and you should capitalize upon that. After all, you’re putting your career on hold for a year, and investing in this degree. You should be as informed as you can be. No question is a stupid question!
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable – this goes hand-in-hand with asking questions. It’s okay if you don’t know what your dream job is after you graduate. You’re here to learn, to figure out what you’re good at, and to start over. If you had all the answers, you wouldn’t be pursuing your MBA.
- Be your authentic self – I can’t stress this point enough. Showing up authentically is your biggest asset. A lot of people out there have impressive resumes, but none of them have your same story to tell. Be proud of your story and own your background.
- Focus less on what you think the admissions team will want to see, and more on what your proudest version of yourself looks like – NYU is really good at bringing diverse individuals together to create a greater community. You’re applying to get your MBA because you want to improve yourself and further your education – therefore, you’ve already proven that you’re ambitious. Speak to the moments you’re proud of, whether they’re work-related or not. What you deem to be noteworthy about yourself sheds a lot of light on who you are.
- What’s in it for you? While you don’t have to know what your dream job is post- MBA, you should have a fundamental understanding of why you want to be here. Is it to develop your leadership skills? Is it to practice your soft skills? Is it to join a network of esteemed professionals in New York City? Whatever it may be, you should know what you want to get out of this program before you start.
- What’s in it for them? As I’m sure you’ve realized in your research about NYU’s ideals, NYU cares a lot about their community and their identity. Every single student, faculty, and staff member adds to the NYU community in some way. Think about your admissions decision from Stern’s point of view. Do you add value to the NYU Stern community? Are you going to be the type of student that tries to outrank their peers, or the type of student who works well in groups? Understand what you can individually bring to the NYU Stern community, and emphasize that in your application.
- Be organized – There’s a lot to keep track of when applying to business school. Make sure you stay on top of your deadlines, paperwork, and letters of recommendation. Your application will be weaker without all components delivered in a timely manner.
- Sleep while you can! This is more applicable for the post-admissions portion of the process. Once you actually get into the MBA program, you’ll wish you would have rested during the time leading up to your first semester. Things will get intense (in a good way!) so sleep while you can 🙂