Ryan Brown, a finance professional, is accepted into the full-time MBA program of Goizueta Business School, Emory, for both the 1-year and 2-year programs with a generous merit-based scholarship: $45,000 for the 1-year program and $60,000 for the 2-year program. Ryan is all set to begin his MBA studies at Emory in Fall 2016.
In this interview with Poonam, Ryan talks about the following:
- His background
- Reasons to go for an MBA
- Career goals
- Application, strategy, planning, and preparation
- The most challenging part of the application process
- Preference for Emory (He applied to only one school-Emory)
- Helpful Tips for prospective MBA applicants
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?
Ryan: Certainly! I was born and raised in Macon, GA, and received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Georgia College in 2012. I went into the mortgage industry after graduating, working in the Secondary Marketing department for a national online mortgage lender where I was responsible for the daily pricing and trading of originated mortgages to correspondent end-investors. After about a year and a half, I transitioned into the Corporate FP &A environment for a public lighting manufacturing company headquartered in Atlanta, GA. I am currently a Senior Financial Analyst and have supported strategic growth initiatives and acquisitions for the Sales, Verticals, Business Strategy, and Product groups over my 2.5 years at my current company.
Poonam: When did you start thinking about an MBA?
Ryan: I think I have always known that I wanted to pursue an MBA, as I’m a big proponent of opportunities for continued personal growth and development. After I graduated from undergrad, I took the initiative to do some informational interviews with a few high-performers in my network who had already received their MBA. The consensus was that the more work experience you can bring to the table, the more you would get out of the program. So I set a 5-year goal for myself and decided that if I could achieve my personal goals within 5 years, that would be the time to pursue my MBA. Fortunately, I have achieved that goal in 4 years, so I decided to apply a year early.
Poonam: What are your career goals?
Ryan: Long-term, I’d like to develop myself as a strategic consultant, thought leader, and business developer. I envision myself as the leader of a powerful team who shoulders the responsibility of driving innovations and long-term corporate planning. My experience thus far in Finance has given me a great foundation for understanding marketing strategy, business intelligence, and the financial impacts of decision-making, and I think leveraging these experiences will help develop me into a well-rounded corporate executive.
Poonam: When did you start preparing for your application? Could you please share your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our readers?
Ryan: I actually started preparing for my applications a full year before I would actually apply. This all fell into my 5-year plan that I mentioned before; when I realized that I was ahead of schedule, I began to “pretend” that I was applying for business school a year before I actually planned to submit applications. I began to think about my stories, my essays (because they generally stay the same), and what my candidate profile looked like compared to those that I would read about on GMAT Club and the schools’ websites. Off and on over the next year, I would tweak my stories (adding or changing based on my new experiences) and really did some soul searching to understand why I was going to get my MBA. Then four months before the Round 1 deadline for my target school (Emory), I really started to get in gear. Because of my preparation over the past year, I pretty much knew all of the stories I wanted to tell and how I would speak to them in the interview. However, I was not sure how to best convey all of my ideas in the almost-impossibly short essays – that is why I contacted you!
Poonam: 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?
Ryan: Personally, the most challenging aspects of the admissions process were the essays. As I said before, I felt like I had enough preparation for interviewing skills and knowing my story that most of the applications process did not really bother me; however, writing an essay about an important, impactful story in only 250 words is VERY challenging. I think the easiest way for me to tackle these Essays was to think about them in the S.T.A.R. format and then write down an outline. I’d spend about an hour a day looking over my S.T.A.R. outlines and writing notes about my stories, and then pick the most impactful ideas to include in my writing. Ultimately, though, it was the help I received from you that really made my essays shine. I think it’s great having an outside, objective viewpoint to help drive the meaning of the story home. Receiving feedback like “this point you made is incredibly impactful, so why did you wait until the last paragraph to tell me this?” made writing my essays a lot easier. My advice – KNOW your personal stories inside and out, and then tell them to as many people as you can. That is what you will be doing to the Ad Com, so why not practice on people who can outright tell you what will make you better?
Poonam: You applied to only one school. How is Emory the best school for you?
Ryan: I did a lot of research on potential programs and their benefits, and I think Emory stood out to me as the best choice for a few reasons. First, Emory is located in Atlanta, the geographic location where I would like most to work. Second, the class sizes are small, meaning you develop an intimate relationship with both students and faculty. I believe your Net Worth is your Network, and Emory’s class structure facilitates a powerful network within the program. Finally, Emory’s reputation in the Southeast as a top-tier Consulting and Finance school means that I can get exposure to a great curriculum that will help me develop as a strategic thinker and leader while opening doors to potential employers that recognize the pedigree of the program’s rigorous yet thorough nature.
Poonam: You were admitted to Emory for both the 1-year and 2-year programs with a very generous merit-based scholarship: $45,000 for the 1-year program and $60,000 for the 2-year program. Which one have you decided to join, and why?
Ryan: I was very gracious to receive the news about my scholarships, and in the end, I decided to commit to the One-Year program. I feel my education and employment backgrounds lend well to the accelerated nature of their program (I am very quantitatively -focused in both realms). I don’t feel that I need to leverage an internship to continue the career path that I am interested in. Plus, the ROI on a One-Year MBA is incredible – you enter the workforce quicker, and the program is less expensive. It’s a win-win. A caveat, though – it’s a lot of work. They make that clear as you’re going into the program. But if you have the background, they’re looking for, and then you’ll succeed no problem.
Poonam: Do you have any admissions tips for applicants aiming for the top 20 MBA programs? (e.g., school selection, GMAT, essays, résumé, recommendation letters, interview, etc.)
Ryan: In the age of the internet, almost everything you need is at your fingertips. Research schools, research what they are looking for, research previous and current class statistics…research everything. Then really do some soul searching to figure out what it is that you are looking for. Once you have done those things, and then don’t be shy to ask (and in many cases pay) for help. I purchased a GMAT study course and countless interview books and admissions guides, but I believe my most helpful resource was you, Poonam. Having someone on your "team" to be completely objective about your entire candidacy profile is invaluable– you need someone on your side who is willing to ask questions and challenge you on what you're trying to communicate. Poonam was that resource for me, and I certainly would have struggled through the entire application process without her. But most importantly, know your STORY. Why MBA? Why now? Once you’ve sold YOURSELF on the idea of an MBA and truly believe your reasoning, then I think you can get into any school you want to. Oh, and proofread everything. Do not embarrass yourself by misspelling something on your résumé.
Poonam: Do you plan to stay in Atlanta after you receive your MBA? Do you plan to relocate somewhere else?
Ryan: I am very interested in staying in Atlanta– I already have a solid network in the area and enjoy the vibrant nature of the city and employment opportunities. I have also considered relocating to potentially North or South Carolina, or potentially New York, but I think my heart is in Atlanta.
Poonam: What are your favorite non-school books? What are your hobbies?
Ryan: Anything by Nelson DeMille. He is an ex-military author who writes suspense/ action historical fiction, usually centering around anti-terrorism or government conspiracy. My favorite book is The Gold Coast, but Charm School and The Lion are also incredible. When I am not reading, I enjoy trying out new recipes in the kitchen, riding my bike, or attending live theater or symphonic concerts.
Poonam: Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your story with us. It was a pleasure chatting with you. I am sure your valuable insights will be a great resource to prospective MBA candidates. Good luck with your Emory experience and your future career.
Note: You can connect with Ryan via LinkedIn.