We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Gabe Perez, and before that we got insights from Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve tapped Lauren Sickles to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.
Lauren graduated from Columbia Business School and now doubles as a financial services professional and entrepreneur.
Why did you go to business school?
In college, I attended a mentoring event organized by the women’s group at Stanford GSB. I was extremely impressed by the background and the quality of both the students and the alumnae. It opened my eyes to the types of career opportunities available to business school students. After attending that event, it wasn’t a matter of “if” I would go to business school, but “when”.
How has business school impacted your career?
Business school completely revamped my career. I was able to transition from a junior consulting position to investment banking. From there, the skills I gained as a banker, combined with my business school education opened the door to senior level positions in international strategy in the financial services industry. Through business school, I not only developed the skills to help me succeed in my career, but also the confidence in my abilities to become an entrepreneur. I recently launched Her Game Life (www.hergamelife.com) to solve the needs of female NFL fans by providing on the field news from a female perspective, in addition to content on fashion, dining, and party hosting. I met my partner for this venture during the business school application process. (Side note: don’t wait until school starts to begin networking!)
What do you want business school applicants to know?
Acceptance to business school isn’t a golden ticket to lifestyles of the rich and famous. You still have to work hard and be scrappy. In some ways, the competition is even tougher because you will be in a pool of highly accomplished and motivated individuals. It’s also important to be true to yourself. Take time to figure out what you want to get out of business school and what you want to do with your career. Resist the urge to follow the herd. It’s okay to blaze your own path.
How many schools did you apply to and get accepted to?
I applied to one school and was accepted with a fellowship.
What specific advice would you give those prepping for the GMAT now?
Do the work! You can’t cheat the GMAT. Unless you are a phenomenal test taker, poor study habits will result in a poor score. There are many different test prep options out there, but whichever you choose, you have to be committed to the process and make sacrifices in other areas of your life to accomplish your goal. If you do it the right the first time, you will only have to take the test once.
It’s okay to mix test prep materials. Different materials will help you round out your weaknesses. I used Bell Curves (best online tools/instructors), Manhattan GMAT (topic-based boot camp workbooks), and the Official Guide (very good explanations/solutions).
It also helps to surround yourself with others that are prepping for mutual support and encouragement.
Is there anything about your experience with the GMAT/application process that was unique or surprising?
While many people have a lot of difficulty with the quant portion of the test, that was my strong suit. I struggled with the verbal section. Despite the amount of studying I did, my verbal score didn’t increase very much.