Ten years after I purchased my first business school ranking guide, my dream of attending a top ranked business school has finally come true. I was a professional ballet dancer until I got sidelined by an injury, I majored in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, I ended up on Wall Street at a top investment banking firm, and I became one of the youngest executives at a top global consulting firm. I had a culturally rich upbringing as a first-generation Cuban American, daughter of an airline flight dispatcher and professional accountant, and while I was born in the USA, English was my third language.
When I first applied to business school, I was told “You are Hispanic and female, you can get into any school you want.” In the past, this comment did not bother me much, however, after being rejected by every single business school I applied to, two application seasons in a row, I cannot help but get a little emotional. My application experience proves there is no unfair advantage given to a minority applying to graduate school. The truth is that a spot at a top business school in America must be earned and not granted.
The first time I applied to business school was post September 11th. Unemployment was high, average GMAT scores increased to above 700 and applications soared. My background as an investment banker and consultant put me in a competitive applicant pool. Looking back, my essays did nothing to convey my leadership abilities. I merely regurgitated what was on my resume. The second year I applied to the same schools that had previously rejected me. It never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t a “fit” for those schools. I took a break from applying for a year, did some job hunting to see if maybe I could bypass the MBA all-together and ended up with some job offers. My theory about “fit” proved correct. I received acceptances at all the schools I added to my list and was offered a merit scholarship at one institution.
I believe that any goal that consumes you and comes from the heart is the Universe’s way of whispering your destiny to you. Only when I was able to take my ego out of the equation, was I able to convey what I needed to say in my essays. I wrote about overcoming personal hardships, my passion for quantum physics, and my vision of leadership for the future. I let go of the outcome and found the courage to restore my faith in the “ultimate plan”. I demonstrated some of my character strengths: perseverance, persistence and patience. But most importantly, I learned how to handle failure with poise and grace. The unexpected success made this final application experience that much sweeter. I could not wipe the smile off my face at Admit Weekend and at times I could feel my heart fluttering with excitement.
One of my favorite quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” A strong soul will outlive failure and intellect. This journey has conditioned my soul. I will be sure to make every second of my MBA experience count.