Poonam, founder and president of myEssayReview ( MER), is now publishing interviews of her most successful students of Round 1 of 2015-16 application season. This is the first in the series.
Here is a chat with Eduardo Silva, who has recently been accepted into UCLA, Yale, and Kellogg with substantial scholarships (Kellogg:70K Donald Jacobs scholarship, Yale SOM: 20k scholarship, UCLA Anderson: 70k scholarship). Eduardo is now heading to Kellogg to begin his MBA in Fall, 2016.Poonam: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What do you do now?
Eduardo: I´m a 28 year old male, born and raised in São Paulo (Brazil). I hold a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of São Paulo (USP) – class of 2010. During my time at USP, I joined a NGO for the education of low income students, for which I have been contributing in multiple ways for more than ten years. After undergrad, I joined DuPont (based in São Paulo), and I have been working here for almost six years. At DuPont, I have worked in roles related to new product development, marketing and product line management. Currently, I am the Latin America Product Leader for the Tyvek® business.
Poonam: When did you start thinking about MBA?
Eduardo: In 2010, during my first role at DuPont (as a marketing analyst), I worked in projects with MBAs from Top business schools. Their skills and attitudes were a source of inspiration for me, which led me to consider attending business school. After attending a few admission events (2011-12), I was motivated by the schools and their accomplished and interesting alumni, so I finally decided that I would apply to business school at some point later in my career.
Poonam: What are your career goals?
Eduardo: My post MBA goal is to step change my impact to innovation led growth in Brazil by securing a Product Marketing Manager’s role in an Industrial company, and move up to an executive management role in the next 4-6 years. In these roles, I want to drive innovation led growth in Brazil and in Latin America to promote jobs and growth in my country and region.
To achieve this vision, I need to improve my competencies in leadership, innovation, global perspective, and business fundamentals. A Kellogg MBA will help me to rapidly address these areas.
Poonam: I am aware that you started preparing for your application more than a year before the application deadlines. Could you please share your application strategy, planning and preparation with our readers?
Eduardo: Poonam, it took me almost 4 years to move from the initial stage (GMAT prep) to the final stage (interview prep and execution). Here is snapshot of my planning and preparation.
GMAT (2012-2013): Late in 2011, I bought a GMAT book to see how hard the test could be, and I found that it was intellectually challenging and interesting! For about one year and a half, I studied three times a week in 1.5 hour sessions. I studied with guides (Manhattan Guides, Veritas) and Official Guides. My goal was to score at least 720. So I took a number of mock tests, and decided to schedule and take the test only when I was able to score in the range of 730-760 for five mock tests in a row. I ended up with 740 on the actual GMAT.):
School Selection ( 2014): Prior to selecting schools, I tried to define my career goals as clearly as possible and wrote them down. Then I attended a number of admission events in São Paulo, talked to alumni and researched a lot on schools. I chose six schools based on portfolio approach: four dream schools and two reach schools.
Application Planning (January 2015): After school selection (Kellogg, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, UCLA, Yale), I created a very detailed timeline with all activities up to admittance and reviewed the applications for my target schools in order to estimate how long it would take to prepare all materials, including essays, video essays, short answers, résumé, recommendation letters, and transcripts.
School Profiling (January 2015): For the six schools I chose, I decided to compile my findings on each school in a power point. Please note that I enjoy crafting presentations! On each school, I listed their culture, location, program, faculty, and many other distinct characteristics. Having these clearly defined points of interest in the school helped me immensely during essay writing and interview preparation.
Application Preparation & Submission (Mar 2015 – Sept 2015): I drafted application essays and worked with Poonam to improve them. I completed all essays and short answers for each school prior to moving to the next one (didn´t do so at first, but Poonam showed me that this was the best approach). I also worked with Poonam on improving my résumé and took her guidance on recommendation letters. For those who want more details on my experience of working with Poonam, they can find my review posted on the GMAT Club.
Interview Preparation & Execution (Oct 2015- Nov 2015): In October, I received interview invitations from all the six schools I applied to! As a result, I prepared for the interviews by first looking at the common interview questions, and carefully responding them on a word document. Since many questions are school specific (such as “why Kellogg?”), I reviewed my research on each school and did some mock interviews by video recording my own responses, and also with my girlfriend acting as an interviewer.
Poonam: That’s really impressive. You are indeed a great planner and an executioner. Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it? How would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges?
Eduardo: The most challenging aspect was to understand the differences of each school, so as to select the ones I´d apply and to prepare my strategy to each of them. In Brazil, students select schools based on prestige and rankings. Given so, I was naturally inclined to use rankings to select schools. However, in all MBA events I attended, the school representatives and alumni emphasized fit and culture a lot, so I realized that I had to look beyond rankings.
To overcome this, I initially had to understand what the similarities among schools were, and only then I could start grasping distinguishing school characteristics. For example, the majority of US top 20 business schools share the following elements: general management emphasis (Wharton is not just for Finance and Kellogg is not just for Marketing), well accomplished students, strong alumni network, great facilities, strong career centers, global experience programs/courses, and a variety of clubs and competitions.
I am not trying to make the argument that business schools are similar – they are not! Failing to see the differences is the surest step for failure! My point is simply that, an international student who is not familiar with Top business schools ( like I was) , it is hard to understand the differences without knowing the similarities.
I´d encourage others to follow the same approach of understanding the common elements shared by top business schools, and only then do deep diving on their unique aspects.
Poonam: You applied to 6 schools and you were interviewed by all of them. You were wait listed by Stanford and received admit offers by Haas, UCLA, Kellogg, and Yale with substantial scholarships . scholarships (Kellogg-70K Donald Jacobs scholarship, – Yale SOM: 20k scholarship, UCLA Anderson: 70k scholarship) .You finally chose Kellogg. How is Kellogg the best school for you?
Eduardo: I wanted a school that has a highly collaborative culture a large network and a variety of electives. Unfortunately, one needs to choose on the trade-off of either a highly collaborative school with small student body or a large school with more electives and larger network but not collaborative or close knit. However, Kellogg has a fairly large student body, network and broad offering of electives, but surprisingly has managed to foster a distinguishably collaborative and teamwork culture!
In addition, I wanted the sense of community found in schools located in small cities, while I also desired the vibrant life and resources of a large city. This is another tradeoff that many schools present, but not Kellogg! I will enjoy the sense of community of Evanston, the suburb where the school is located and nearly all students live, while also being 35-min train ride away from Chicago, a fantastic city!
Poonam: Fantastic. Your success is an example for MBA hopefuls to top schools. Do you have any admissions tips for applicants who are aiming for top 15 MBA programs? (e.g. school selection, GMAT, essays, résumé, recommendation letters, interview etc.)
Eduardo: Planning ahead is the biggest advice I have, and it is the main reason for my success! The sooner you start, the better. For those who have a tight schedule ahead and are struggling to tackle GMAT and application at the same time, I´d encourage to reconsider taking one more year to prepare. I am sure that being admitted to your dream school will make you happier than rushing your application and ending up in a school with not as much fit or opportunities. Looking 20 years from now, this additional year of preparation will seem negligible compared to the lifetime opportunities that your top choice has provided you.
Poonam: I couldn’t agree more. Do you plan on returning to that industry after you receive your MBA? Do you plan on heading back to Brazil or relocating somewhere else?
Eduardo: I plan to go back to Brazil, since I want my degree at Kellogg to empower me to make meaningful impact in my country. That being said,I might spend a year or two working in the US if I feel that there are opportunities to grow and learn, which can later amplify my impact to innovation led growth in Brazil.
In terms of industry, I am currently in the manufacturing industry, where I have worked mostly on new applications of existing materials. Post MBA, I am looking for opportunities in the intersection of Manufacturing and Tech Industry (like autonomous car, and many others).
Poonam: What are your favorite non-school books? What are you hobbies?
Eduardo: My favorite books are the Game of Thrones series (a song of Ice and Fire). Like many other fans, I am anxiously waiting for the six book to be released! My hobbies are playing soccer, tennis, video games, and board games. Also, I enjoy tasting new brands and types of beer! Long live the craft beer boom!
Poonam: Thank you, Eduardo for sharing your story with us. It was a pleasure chatting with you. I am sure your valuable insights will serve as road map to the prospective MBA candidates. Good luck on your Kellogg experience and your future career.
For questions, email Poonam at firstname.lastname@example.org