Planning ahead, perseverance, and hard work guarantee success at MBA programs. Eduardo Silva, a Brazilian candidate's story is a testimony to this.
Eduardo worked with Poonam on his application for 6 top schools - UCLA, Yale, Kellogg, Haas, Stanford, and MIT. He was interviewed by all, wait-listed by Stanford, and received admits from UCLA, Yale, Kellogg, and Haas with substantial scholarships (Kellogg- 70K Donald Jacobs scholarship, - Yale SOM: 20k scholarship, UCLA Anderson: 70k scholarship). He is soon heading to Kellogg to begin his MBA in Fall 2016.
Eduardo started his MBA preparation as early as late 2011. In an interview with MER, he explained in detail that it took him almost 4 years to progress from the initial stage (GMAT prep) to the final stage (interview prep and execution), which was followed by 4 admits, 3 with generous scholarships.
Let's learn about his journey in his own words:
GMAT (2012-2013): Late in 2011, I decided to buy a GMAT book to see how hard the test could be, and I found that it was intellectually challenging and interesting! I imagine it may sound awkward to most, but I actually enjoyed the GMAT journey! For around one year and a half, I studied around three times a week in 1.5-hour sessions. It was a slow pace. Instead of hiring someone for GMAT preparation, I studied with guides (Manhattan Guides, Veritas) and Official Guides. My goal was to score at least 720. So I took several mock tests and only decided to schedule and take the test when I scored in the range of 730-760 for five mock tests in a row. I ended up with 740 on the actual GMAT.
School Selection (Q2–Q3 2014): Before selecting schools, I tried to define my career goals as clearly as possible (and wrote them down). Then I attend several admission events in São Paulo, talked to alumni, and researched a lot on schools. At first, I was looking for schools that helped with my career goals, but I later realized that fit with school culture was as much import as alignment with career goals. With this mindset, I was able to narrow down the list of schools. For the nine schools that remained, I chose six based on the portfolio approach: four dream schools and two reach schools. I did not choose “safe schools” because I felt that it was only worth devoting two years of my life to schools that I really wanted to attend.
Application Planning (January 2015): Once I had selected the six schools I´d apply to (Kellogg, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, UCLA, and Yale), I created a very detailed timeline with all activities up to admittance. After all, I’m a project manager! Hence I devoted some good time to plan the whole effort. I reviewed the schools' applications I was applying 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 PowerPoint. Please note that I enjoy crafting presentations! I listed their culture, location, program, faculty, and many other distinct characteristics on each school. I obtained such info from school websites, paid school guides, and various websites (GMAT Club, Poets & Quants, others). Still, I had some specific questions unaddressed, so I reached out to many alumni (usually schools have “school ambassadors,” which are great resources). By the end of each school presentation, I summarized my interest points in the school, such as cultural elements, specific courses and faculty, majors and pathways, clubs, location, alumni network, and others. 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 school essays and worked with Poonam to improve them. I completed all essays and short answers for each school before moving to the next one (I didn´t do so at first, but Poonam showed me that this was the best approach). I struggled with my limited writing skills first, but after a couple of weeks of writing essays, I became more and more comfortable with the writing process. I also worked with Poonam on improving my résumé and recommendation letters and spent some good time on the video essays for selected schools. For those who want more details on my experience working with Poonam, my review is posted on the GMAT club. Regarding recommendation letters, in late June, I communicated to my current supervisor and two former supervisors that I´d like their recommendations, which they agreed to. Finally, I completed and submitted my applications about a week before round one deadlines.
Interview Preparation & Execution (Oct 2015- Nov 2015): In October, I received interview invitations from 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 to them on a word document. Since many questions are school-specific (such as “why Kellogg?”), I reviewed my research on each school (which I had completed before working on the application). I did some mock interviews by video recording my own responses and my girlfriend acting as interviewer.
'Plan ahead' is the biggest advice I have, and the key reason for my success! The sooner you start, the better. For those who have a tight schedule ahead and struggling to tackle GMAT and application simultaneously, I´d encourage reconsidering taking one more year to prepare. I´m 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 life opportunities that your top choice has provided you.
Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at