A time-consuming process

Applications to four schools gave plenty of chance for self- reflection

Marco Biava

Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business

My MBA application experience has been long. This is because I applied to four schools: two one-year programmes and two two-year programmes. In the first round I applied to the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, my first choice, and then completed the other three applications for the second and third round.

With four schools to apply to, you can imagine the number of essays I had to write. However, I realised that writing about myself so extensively was a great opportunity to get to know myself. There were certain challenging essay questions that made me think again and again about my career, my personal life and my expectations, questions that I was never asked before but that served as an effective auto-analysis tool. The good thing is that I enjoy writing, so the essay part turned out to be the most pleasant part of the process.

My GMAT experience has been less pleasant. A piece of advice here: it is wise to get rid of the most burdensome item of the process as soon as possible by completing the GMAT well ahead of application time. The GMAT is a test that for most people requires a long, regular study plan. Because of my irregular weekly routine, I was late with the preparation and started focusing on the GMAT only a few weeks before the first deadline – not a favourable condition to approach such an event. I could have done much better at the end, but I am glad that the schools were happy with it.

All of the programmes I applied to asked for two letters of recommendation. Schools favour recommendations sent by candidates’ former or present supervisors who can provide the admission committee with a convincing third-party assessment.

My first recommender was the supervisor I had at Citigroup in New York. Since the second part of my professional experience was from my family company, I could not have my father write a recommendation for me, so instead I opted for a client from Dubai who knows me well, and asked him to write it. At first I was intimidated about asking him for this favour, but eventually he was supportive. I started contacting my two referees about 40 days before my first deadline. Forty days may sound overly cautious, but ultimately I received my client’s letter of recommendation only two days before the deadline, as he had been travelling. Fortunately, all schools ask referees for similar information, so the two recommendations worked for all my applications.

The visa process was the last step I needed to go through, but thanks to the school’s support there should be no problem.

As this wearisome experience is over, I am now looking forward to devoting my energies and time to this exciting MBA journey in Beijing.

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