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2013 Consortium MBA from the Perspective of the Fellows with Rebecca Dockery

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Linda Abraham: Hello, my name is Linda Abraham, and I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today's chat. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Consortium MBA Admissions Q&A. I want to congratulate you for making the time investment to learn more about the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and also to hear about its program from the perspective of alumni and current fellows. You need to know as much as you can to make a sound application decision and to gain acceptance to the school of your choice, as well as to become a Consortium Fellow. Being here today allows you to ask the Consortium experts and today's Consortium alumni representatives about this outstanding program and their experiences in business school.

I also want to welcome our special guest for this evening, Rebecca Dockery, who is the Senior Manager and Program Administrator at the Consortium for Graduate Study and Management; and Christina Marshall, member of USC Marshall's MBA Class of 2013 and a Consortium Fellow. We're also expecting a few other Fellows, but apparently they've been detained, and we hope that they will be able to join us shortly, and I will introduce them when they get here. So again thanks to everyone for joining.

This is your opportunity to ask questions, and I'm going to start out and take advantage of my role as moderator and ask the first question. I'd like to ask Christina, just tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your summer internship position, and your future goals and plans, and welcome again.

Christina Marshall: Sure. Hello, everyone and congratulations for embarking on a journey towards your MBA education. So a little bit about myself. Again, my name is Christina Marshall. Since my undergrad at NYU, I spent about 10 to 11 years in New York City working in advertising and marketing. I found myself just wanting to be on the other side of the table with my clients, because having more autonomy, ownership, and accountability associated with the brands I was working on. So then also I had my own entrepreneurial pursuits, and I felt like an MBA was the perfect springboard to position me in a way where I could approach both of those goals with the right skill set to make sure that I could win, basically. I ended up at USC Marshall.

I selected to go to USC Marshall after spending all that time on the East Coast. I felt like I had a great network out there, but wanted a network on the West Coast, but then also I wanted international exposure and Marshall had a phenomenal program where it was baked into your experience that you were definitely going to get that global perspective in management, but then also my entrepreneurial pursuits are in retail and some of the more local retail startups are happening.

In terms of what I've been spending my last year doing, I've been diving really head first into entrepreneurial studies and also into just traditional marketing. I found myself at Target this past summer which was an incredible opportunity to work in the retail space, but still kind of pulling those traditional marketing levers and honing my skills in that sense as well.

In terms of what I'm doing now I am in the process of finalizing where I'm going to actually spend the first part of my career post business school. Well, actually I won't reveal exactly where I am going because I haven't made that final decision just yet, but I have two incredible offers. One of course with Target and another with Kraft, and I'm going to end up just pulling out of two other opportunities in terms of interviews. So that's where I am. Hopefully, that gives you a holistic picture of what I'm about and where I am headed.

Linda Abraham: Thank you so much, Christina. Okay. While Christina was giving us a brief overview of what she's been doing, the other three Consortium students and alumni have arrived. First, we have Khalif Oliver, who is a MBA in the 2010 class of UNC Kenan-Flagler, also, Puja Kalra, an MBA in the 2009 class in the University of Rochester Simon School, and Brace Clement, who is currently a student at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the MBA Class of 2013 there. I want to welcome you all, and again, I'm going to ask Brace, Khalif, and Puja to just give us a bit of information about their background, what they're planning to do, and how they're enjoying their MBA Studies.

Khalif, do you want to tell us a little bit about your background, your goals, and what you're doing these days? Maybe an internship? Actually, you're already working, so it’s your work, what you're doing.

Khalif Oliver: Hi, everyone. I was an industrial engineer for the United States Postal Service out of DC prior to the MBA school for four years. Then I went to UNC Kenan-Flagler for two years from 2008 to 2010. I concentrated in consulting. Now I'm a manager at North Highlands Consulting Company in Charlotte. So I'm working in project management, currently in the Retail and IT space. I obviously enjoyed my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler and was able to leverage a lot of the advantages and resources from being a part of the Consortium network while at school and after school to my benefit, and also as I'm doing now to continue to give back and to utilize the network and help out as well.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much.

Brace Clement: My name is Brace Clement. I am a second year MBA student up here at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I am studying corporate finance and investment banking. Prior to coming back to get my MBA, I was in the military. I did six years with the United States Marine Corps, and then I did also some work for the Federal and State government with some other government agencies within those two branches there.

So I had pretty much of a government-type background where I worked in policy and legislative analysis, and then got exposed to some things in the financial sector. I liked how that was, and I wanted to learn a little bit more about finance and just the whole industry of business and the private side of business. And so I just decided, well listen, I'm going to go back and get my MBA and that's where I met up with people from the Consortium, and I got involved in that. I went through the whole process of getting my application and everything in. I chose Wisconsin after coming up here for a school showing. I've loved it ever since.

This past summer, I was doing my internship with Starbucks in Seattle where I worked in the Treasury Capital Markets Group, [and it’s a] really, really fun company. I had a really good experience. I worked on two significant projects and had a good experience and got an offer. And now this second year, I'm just trying to wrap up everything and make the best of this opportunity, but then also I’ve done some interviewing as well. I have one other opportunity that I'm looking at right now, like Christina, and weighing the options between the two of them and hope to make a decision in the next week.

The MBA process has been just a very, very good one for me, and I would recommend it to anybody who's actually looking to do this type of thing. Just go for it and do it.

Linda Abraham: That's great. Thank you. And let's hear from Puja who is from the University of Rochester Simon School. Could you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, your MBA program, we'd love to hear from you?

Puja Kalra: Thank you. Hi, everyone. My name is Puja. I'm from New York City, born and raised. Prior to going to business school, I worked at Bloomberg Financial for three years where I did sales. I always knew I wanted to go back. Being in sales you get a lot of exposure to marketing, which is what I went back to school for. Then I interned at Kraft Foods between my first and second years and received an offer and went back full time in their Food Service division which is their B2B marketing group. I was there for two years and then I moved on. And now I'm currently at L'Oreal where I work in our cosmetics marketing group working on an anti-aging foundation brand which is really interesting.

So I've already made a couple of switches, since graduating, but the whole business school process was amazing. Sometimes I wish I was still back in school, but alas, I'm in the working world which is also fun. I'm happy to help and answer any questions anybody may have about Rochester, or marketing, or either of the two companies that I worked for. So nice to meet everyone.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Okay. Now let's go to everybody's questions, okay? Angelina asks, and this is probably more question for Rebecca, “I volunteer at a women's employee board that focuses on diversity. We plan events targeted for Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans. However, the organization not targeting directly for one of the three groups. Is this still a usable example?”

Rebecca Dockery: You know, Linda, this kind of question falls under what I would call the category of the disclaimer you issued at the beginning before we got started about the laundry list of qualifications, but I think what we can do is actually build on it because one of the principles of the Consortium is demonstrating your commitment to our mission not only before you're in school, but while you're in school and once you've graduated. So we could take from it maybe some examples from our panelists of what they have done or what they are currently doing that is related to the Consortium mission.

Linda Abraham: That's a great idea. I'd love to hear from the panelists on that front.

Brace Clement: So up here at Wisconsin, one of the things that we felt was a missing link and something that was needed for students as a whole, in particular Consortium students here, it was the access to capital for things like some of the conferences that are maybe minority-focused, or some of the conferences that have paid aspect to them, or some of the conferences that may have other agenda items that something of substance, a business that we can take and bring it back to the school.

One of the things that me and my Consortium classmates are going to be working on this coming January, our second year, is putting together a structure for a fund within our Consortium group to work on being able to bring access capital to Consortium members who will be in our class after us and the ones coming forth that they'll have some kind of a system where they can access money to be able to use some of these different conferences that are out there or case competitions. I know one of the things that I thought was interesting things that for me I wanted to do a couple of case competitions this year, and when I went to my program office, there weren't funds available, and there were no scholarships available to it.

So we just thought that this would be a good ploy to set up, not only the fact that we have our own fund that we can pull from, but it also helps our class have the funds to be able to go forth and do those things. So that's one of our big projects this year, setting up a fund that we can use and draw off of for years to come.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you.

Khalif Oliver: The obvious one, after I graduated there was the monetary portion of it, but a lot of it's just staying connected and reaching back and helping out the students, whether it was when I was in school helping out first-years to prepare for OP, reaching out to students as they were thinking about going to school, and also as I've graduated reaching out to help the current students in terms of preparing for job interviews. While I was in school I was part of the Alliance of Minority Business Students, which it overlaps fairly well with the Consortium students. So part of that is we established while we were in school, we had our own essentially tutoring and prep sessions for the final exams and classes. So we had a set of those set up.

I participated in quite a few of those to help out with the other students. As well, we did prep for a lot of the different conferences that people were going to, to search for jobs. So just participating in different things like that as well as we also set up an Alliance of Minority Business Students Alumni Association, and I sit on the alumni council that leads that association to work back with the current students to help them with things like just connecting and networking with alumni who are where they want to go. Also connecting with programming that's going on determining what interaction they could benefit from having alumni back, whether something as simple as a minority visitation weekend and speaking about Consortium at that weekend to help to get the word out to help people understand where all the benefits are. So that's some of the things I've done and participated in throughout school and after school.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Great. Thank you very much.

Christina Marshall: In terms of what we're doing here at USC in terms of propelling the mission, it’s very similar to some of my cohorts here. We were very active initially just kind of doing a lot of mock tail and prep sessions for the recruitment conferences. Specifically our mock program, which was really cool; it was all about mock interviewing. We felt like a lot of people could get their resumes ready, but still didn't feel like they were prepared to go out there and sell themselves, be convincing, and leverage the skills they already had, sans the skills that they had yet to acquire in business school. So that was really successful and we had a lot of successful candidates.

We've been doing a lot in terms of reaching down at the school here. There's a lot of business students in undergrad programs who have aspirations to one day be in our place. So we've been trying to work with them to let them know, expose them to what the Consortium's about. Let them know that when they're ready to be in this space, there's help out there in a number of ways.

I think another thing that we're doing is really just trying to keep people connected with the latest greatest news about scholarships, news about what's happening in terms of job opportunities, news about what's happening in terms of the greater Consortium network, and we've even created a blog that some of our members help co-author. So being connected has been an awful great resource for the membership, being a support. It's a very rigorous program here just like everywhere else. So having outlets and doing social things that can be a reprieve from them has been actually a great addition I think to our efforts.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Okay, we have more questions. We actually have quite a few questions. Avishak posed several questions and I'm going to try to group them altogether. It's basically, “What kind of support did you get from the Consortium, either the Consortium the organization or from other Consortium members?” And by support, he’s talking about career support, academic support, any kind of assistance from the Consortium that you might have benefited from while you were in B school.

Khalif Oliver: It starts with orientation program before you go to school allowing you access to meet other people in the same situation as you, preparing to go to school so that builds your network. So that gives you opportunity to access people outside of just the Consortium program itself. Those people were very supportive throughout the entire process. Those are people who, if you're going to another city and need somewhere to crash, you make that type of friendship, a lot of times that's happened. You'll actually have people who during an internship if I live in New York and I know a lot of people are coming to intern and need to sublet for the summer, and I'm going to be going somewhere else, there's that kind of exchange across the network. So a lot of just small things like that, leveraging the network was very supportive.

The other part of the orientation program was that you were able to access companies prior to anyone else. Companies were coming specifically to get the best and brightest students before any other companies got their hands on them. So you were able to not only interact in the job fair aspect, but any of you could get a leg up on pretty much everyone else in business school. So those things speak specifically to the Consortium for allowing you access to a company and also to how the rest of the network was leveraged throughout school and a lot of them became just friends that I keep in contact with to this day.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. Do any of the panelists want to add to that answer in terms of the support that you received from the Consortium itself by being a Consortium Fellow?

Puja Kalra: I just wanted to speak up a little bit to the support prior to getting into school, while you're in school, and I echo everything that you’ve said. I've made some of my very best friends going to business school and you don't necessarily think that you're going to form friendships that are going to be so meaningful from your business school program, but I was fortunate enough to do so.

In addition, I feel like the Consortium network lives on post-business school. And in my current job, I have this vast network of people that have run into and am able to lean on at work. I have friends now that are Consortium graduates as well at work which is another amazing network that I can leverage that none of my colleagues can. So just another testament to how the network lives on, not only during school but post-school.

Brace Clement: Yes, one thing that I would also stress about the program is here at Wisconsin we prep people before the OP prep. So I think that that was really beneficial for me, just because it gave me a sense to know what I needed to know before I actually went to the orientation program when I was in there. And like my fellow Consortium members have just said, it is pretty competitive. I think Peter Aranda had mentioned at my OP that one-third of minority students that are in the MBA programs come out of the Consortium. It's a who's who in that kind of arena, and you want to be prepared and you also want to be able to put your best foot forward.

So here at Wisconsin, we did a bit of an OP prep kind of the things and we've been doing that for the last four or five years, actually probably longer than that. It gets you ready to go out there to OP and be successful. It's been really beneficial for our classes, and it's something that we've continued the process of doing. So that's the way to be prepared, so you're prepared before the first day of class in September or August.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Great. Now we have a couple of questions here specifically from Frank and Monique about how you chose the schools to apply to. Frank asked, “Are you giving the opportunity to, or how did the fact you were Fellows dictate your school choice? Did you apply only to Consortium schools because you were hoping to get a fellowship?” And Monique asked, and thanks you very much for participating this evening, “Could you please provide insight as to how you bring to the schools during the application process? How did you deal with the whole ranking process in terms of your application?”

Puja Kalra: I think it's really important attending the MBA conferences that happen all across the country, and I went to a bunch of them in New York: EMBA, world MBA program, U.S. MBA program conferences. I went to a bunch of those initially just to get a footing in terms of how the business school process begins and what’s required of me. And then when I learned about the Consortium, I'm made sure to attend as many diversity weekends as I could. I felt like that was a great way for me to learn about the school, to learn about the professors, learn about the curriculum, meet current students and get a firsthand sort of experience of what life would be like for the next two years.

That's how I ultimately ended up making my decision. So going to these diversity weekends and really interacting with current students. I didn't think that, for me at least, just interacting with the admission staff or just reading about the school online wasn't really enough. So once I was able to go on campus and really develop these relationships I was ultimately able to make that decision.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Did the fact that you had to rank the schools for your application influence things for you in any way or how did you decide how to rank them? I think that was actually one of the questions posed here.

Puja Kalra: For me, just to be frank, you also obviously want to have the Fellowship, so I think it's a balance. It's definitely a balance of where you think you'll be able to get in and also the school that he felt like you connect it with the most. So I did a little bit of both and I ended up at Rochester.

Khalif Oliver: I would say of course everything she said was great and definitely applies. I went to some of the minority events as well, but I also say don't just limit yourself to Consortium schools if you're looking for a fellowship. There are plenty of other schools out there who do offer fellowships as well. So if you're looking, that can be a deciding factor. Definitely complete the Consortium application, and as she said, think about how you want to rank it in terms of where you want to go, and also if the Fellowship is already going to be the deciding factor to think about that as well.

But also apply for schools outside the Consortium because they too offer fellowships directly from the school and that can be another source of [funds], if you find a school, that's really a big thing, and [I’m] not sitting here trying to push you to go outside [of the Consortium], but just in terms of getting a good quality MBA, it is possible to get into a school and then get a fellowship from that school if really money is a big thing. If it's really more about the school, then take the school that you want to go to and have it at the top of your list. That's how I went along with it and it ended up working out to the better for me. I just want to make sure people don't just completely pigeonholed into “okay, let me see if I can try to get through the system to make sure I get a specific fellowship” and make out the best within the Consortium.

Brace Clement: I think the only thing I would add to what was said is just, I think before you even look at the schools, just figure out what it is that you want to do. What do you want to gain from the MBA program? That mindset first and foremost really, really sets the stage for what schools will look the best for you. If you go in there just thinking, "Well, I just want to get an MBA," that’s not really going to help you shape after those two years are up what's the next step. I would just say be intentional and really understand and know what's the goal that you're trying to achieve by getting this MBA. Linda: Great. Great advice.

Christina Marshall: Can I add one more thing? Basically, it's the reality of even if you have the Consortium, let's say you decide to go down the path of just applying to Consortium schools, some people have that misconception that suddenly there's no more–if you were awarded the Consortium Fellowship that there's no more cost and you wouldn't have to take out a loan, and there's no more expenses other than just eating and where you live, but there are. So, a lot of people still have to take out loans and a substantial amount of loans sometimes.

So the question becomes to me knowing that is if I know I have to have to still invest in this education myself, why would I invest in somewhere where I could just get in and just get a Fellowship versus the place where I ultimately I wanted to be. It's going to be an investment no matter which path you go down, so why not make that investment, to Brace's point, somewhere that delivers on your most salient needs when you itemize them on a piece of paper, and also a place where you can be happy. So investing in your MBA strategy, whichever path you decide to go down, is an investment in your future happiness, at least two years of your future happiness.

Linda Abraham: Right. For sure. Good point. Okay, we have a question here. Harlem asks, "Do you have to complete independent interviews for each Consortium school you applied with?"

Rebecca Dockery: The Consortium application itself no longer has an interview requirement. We took that out about two years ago. So instead you are responsible for abiding by whatever the interview policy is at those schools that you include in your application. So you'll want to make sure that you check in directly with those schools. If they tell you to go ahead and schedule it now, obviously, you schedule it now. If they tell you to wait for an invitation, then wait for an invitation.

Linda Abraham: Okay. That's pretty clear. Johnson asks, "What are some of the unique challenges underrepresented minorities face in the application process and as a student in MBA programs?"

Christina Marshall: I think in the application process, in terms of people trying to be unique or at least a dilemma I would talk to with my peers about was I don't want to be another sob story. People feel like if you come from a background of struggle, which not everyone does, but if you do, that it's kind of endorsing some particular perception of underrepresented minorities. So people are sometimes afraid of being their authentic selves in their essays or just even in person when they're going to interact with the admissions team. My thought on that is there's nothing better, and I think more rewarding than being completely who you are and presenting that because it's just a part of your unique identity.

So that was a struggle that I had in the interview process, but I think being a part of the program itself for some of the institutions, and mine is an example, we are extremely few and far between. The Consortium essentially comprises the majority, the vast majority of the ethnic minority or cultural minority representation here, and us knowing that puts a little extra pressure on us representing this organization as well as ourselves. We check ourselves sometimes and allowing that to dictate how we move and how we act as a group to make sure that at the end of the day, our first objective is to get out of this experience what we came here to get, represent ourselves the best, and we think in doing that we're going to represent the Consortium. So, those are two challenges that I've identified.

Linda Abraham: Okay. All right, thank you. Esteban asks, "How developed does my Consortium essay have to be specifically with regards to short and long-term goals. I'm currently in the military, and I know getting an MBA is for me. I have leadership experience, but not really any business experience whatsoever. It seems like everybody else does."

Khalif Oliver: I worked for the Postal Service. It wasn't specifically military, but I would say if you know it's something you want to do–and this should go for essays for Consortium or for schools–if you know what you want to do or have an idea, pick that idea short-term and long-term and basically sell it wholeheartedly. If that's what you want to do, you pick that idea, go with it, say short-term, the next few years this is what I plan to be doing and this is how the MBA will help me get to that, in long-term, this is where I plan to be at 5 or 10 or 15 years from now, and this is how the MBA will lead to that.

In reality, I think the people reading them always know that things change. You may or may not be there, your concentration may change, your focus may change, etc., but just be very deliberate in what you're saying and believe in it wholeheartedly when you write and when you speak in interviews.

Linda Abraham: Right. Okay. Thank you.

Brace Clement: Yes, I think you might be looking at this a little bit incorrectly just because you have what these schools want because you've been in the military and you've probably done a lot of leadership already. You've probably led small teams. You've probably led missions or some kind of a project for a huge organization with a lot of things at stake. So from a young point of view, probably from a young age, you've probably already been exposed to a lot of the different things that a lot of my colleagues here that are in business school have not. They might have a lot of the academic side, but they don't have a lot of the practical.

For me, that was an advantage because I had a lot of leadership already under my belt in my six years in the military, and it stands out whenever I go into different circles. You can tell that I have these types of experiences and people gravitate towards it. So I think that's an advantage.

From you putting that onto paper, I think that goes back to my whole thing of just being intentional about why you want to go to business school. I know a lot of times some people tell you, well, if you go to an MBA, you're going to go to a company and you're going to make a lot of money, but at the end of the day, you can make a lot of money doing anything. If you have a lot of passion behind whatever you're doing, you can find a way to make money.

I think MBA really puts you in the spotlight of being business leader and learning traits that work well in business and having a full array of history and definitely math and analytical skills that will set you apart from your peers. So, I think what it is when you look at those short and those long-term goals, look at it from the stance of why are you going to business school. What do you want to achieve from getting this business degree? Then, etching that out from, okay, once I get out of business school timeline all the way to maybe five to ten years out, where you see yourself going to be. So definitely I wouldn't shy away from the fact of saying you are in the military because that will be huge. I definitely just say look at what you want to do, what your long-term goals are in getting this MBA degree.

Linda Abraham: Excellent answer.

Puja Kalra: Mine will be really brief. I think the question was how developed should the essays be? I think that this is your one opportunity to really connect with and really show who you are to the admissions counselors, so I think it's really important for the essays to just be thoughtful and to really pull through who you are as a person, because not everybody on the admissions staff is going to be able to meet you individually. So I would really use and leverage that essay as a way to introduce yourself and then get to know who you are.

Christina Marshall: I would just add that there have been multiple articles that have come out as of late about things that MBA's are lacking. A lot of that comes from those skills that, I believe it was Brace who was talking about, those things that are harder to teach, but one has to have experience in order to learn them: communication, leadership, just thoughtfulness, rigor in terms of how analytical you are.

A lot of, I think, the most successful people here in my program are ex-military people, and that stands out to me. I come from a military family, and I definitely see that they've come with this special sauce that a lot of people don't have because of the nature of the type of work and the type of environment, type of conditions that they have to operate within. It is to your competitive advantage, I think, that you're coming from military, as opposed to a liability.

Linda Abraham: I just want to add briefly to summarize, coming from the military is definitely an advantage in MBA admissions. I also think that you want to use your essays to present yourself at your best. They should be very well developed, not in the sense that they should be contrived in any way, shape, or form, but they should be thoughtful. Keep in mind that the MBA is a means to an end, not an end in itself. So I think the points that really all the panelists made to be purposeful in your application and in your career planning process is really, really good. You're not signing a contract. You can change your mind, but do have something in mind longer term. A purpose to your studies will also really help you once you arrive on campus.

Okay, so we have some other questions here. One is from Brandon who asks, "Developmentally, what sort of things were you able to learn through your involvement with the Consortium that you may not have been able to learn or have access to simply by attending grad school on your own?"

Brace Clement: I think for me I didn't have exposure to a lot of different people and networks that the Consortium gives you. I think some of my Consortium members on the phone have already alluded to it, I mean, man, the network is amazing. There is literally no company or no Fortune 100 even that you can go to that you can meet somebody from that they don't have somebody in there that's from the Consortium. In fact, this summer when I was at my internship at Starbucks, my Senior VP there, he was a Consortium member from '80, and everybody recognizes themselves by what year they came in, so he was from OP '80. I could never have known that. I've gone to case studies and I've been to conferences, and you just meet people, and they'll say, "Oh, I was a Consortium," or this person that they know who works in there was a Consortium, and usually they are all leaders.

That's just the really remarkable thing about the Consortium, just the network is almost on line with some of the really, really big Ivy League schools that you meet. You hear people say that the Harvard network and all those different ones, but it's close. It's pretty comparable to some of those because you can go to any company literally and meet somebody who went to Harvard. I think that was a really, really big piece for me. That was just amazing to me, and it still amazes me whenever I go places and meet somebody from the Consortium, so that's my big takeaway from the whole thing.

Christina Marshall: I would just add that being a part of an organization or a group that has a cause or a mission, and a vision that is geared towards community development of sorts, at the end of the day is propelling the advancement of marginalized groups of minorities. To be able to work on advancing that agenda without necessarily doing that by yourself where you're feeling like the Lone Ranger, or it kind of creates a little bit of contention in an organization.

If you worked in a company and you were the only one trying to advance that mission, it could be really lonely, and it could feel awkward. But being part of a collective group who's working towards that is incredible to me. I'm glad to be a scholar and a part of this program because of the network, but because I know that we're all collectively working towards the advancement of a group or multiple groups of people as opposed to just trying to get a free education.

Linda Abraham: Great. Let's move on. Jewel asks, "Were you worried about being in round two even though it's round one via the Consortium app for many of the schools as opposed to applying round one outside the Consortium?" Does anybody have any concerns about that from the panel?

Rebecca Dockery: A lot of people worry about the Consortium's deadlines not lining up exactly with any particular schools. Obviously, with 17 schools we can't match any one particular program exactly, so our deadlines are really more of a close approximation. What you have to keep in mind is that these schools know exactly what they're getting into by agreeing to those particular deadlines as well as by using the common application.

You don't have to worry about that it doesn't match exactly or it's not 100% identical, because the schools have adjusted within their own processes to make sure that your Consortium application submitted by the Consortium deadline still works. It still is going to get reviewed by the exact same people. It's still going to go through the exact same process. It's going to get tweaked a little bit as far as how that's done versus some of the folks who came in through their direct application, but I promise you that you are still getting the exact same amount of attention and the exact same consideration that you would get had you applied directly to that school.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. Aditaya asks, "I have completed the GMAT, but I do plan on retaking in February. Will you guys consider this in the application process or do you have to evaluate based on what is current on the application?

Rebecca Dockery: A February test date is going to be pretty touchy. Before you set that in stone, I would suggest that you talk to the schools that you are planning to include in your application because the Consortium applicants have a pretty tight turnaround as far as most of them will turn in their applications in January and then decisions have to be done and ready by early to mid-March, and out to you guys by mid-March, so it's a very short window.

So, taking the test in February is going to make life pretty difficult at the schools to have to do that review, and some of them, February might be too late. So check in with those schools and find out exactly how late you can take that test before you schedule it.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Whitney asks, "Were you worried that the Consortium schools can see how you rank them in the application? Do you think Consortium schools take your ranking into consideration?"

Christina Marshall: I guess I would maybe restate the question and say that I think that the schools take it into consideration. That's my personal opinion. I know that you'll hear multiple answers to that as you continue to do your due diligence out there, but I do think they take it in consideration because it's only logical that one would look at that list. The list exists for a reason; it gives priority to the schools to be able to say "Yea or nay, I'm going to extend the award or the reward to this particular student," but I think it also indicates which ones are you the most enthusiastic about. Of course, if I was looking at a list, I'd like to see me as an option at the top. So I personally think it does matter.

Khalif Oliver: I was not concerned about the rankings. It was a clear choice of the schools that I wanted to go to, so I put that at the top, and the other ones fell in line after that. I guess subconsciously you can easily say, "I saw that you ranked this other school above me, so I may not want to offer the Fellowship to you because you've fallen down to where I am." But I would like to think from a standpoint of a top-ranked school, is this a candidate that you're going to offer to? No, okay, next in line. Is this somebody who is still on your top whatever list? "Yeah, they're still on our top list. We still think they're the best candidate that's left, so we would offer them a Fellowship." That's how I approached thinking about it. When you get to the school and they still have you on their list of candidates that they see at the top, I approach it as the fact that they would just offer it to you if it got to them and you're still on the board essentially.

I think of the sports scenario, you know, a draft, in terms of every school saying, "Well, here's who we're looking to get, and offer to if they're available once they get to us on their list, then we're going to get an offer regardless of who else they pick above us." That's how I approach it. I wasn't worried about it at all.

Brace Clement: I would just say that it's sort of like dating a little bit because of the fact that you don't want to go in there and just put everybody on the list. I know people who did that who just put seven or eight schools on the list, and then that doesn't give the person looking at it like you've committed to something, that you've really thought this through. I think that's what you really need to look at. If it doesn't work out with your number one choice, that means it really wasn't a good fit, and you probably don't want to be there to begin with.

What I would do is I would just look at your top two to three schools, and I would really try to figure out, out of all these schools that are in the Consortium–if this is the route that you want to take–figure out what are the top three schools that are going to meet your end goals and then also be the right cultural fit for you. Once you do that it should become a little bit clear; your list should dwindle down a little bit, and you should be able to really look at it from a standpoint of just maybe three to four schools at the very most.

Rebecca Dockery: Yes, okay. There are two things that I want to say. First and foremost, I promise you there is no school out there that thinks it is the only school on this planet that you are applying to, Consortium or not Consortium. I promise you they know you are applying to other schools inside and outside the Consortium, so it is what it is and everybody knows it and everybody is aware of it.

So that said, people worry more about the rankings than they need to. There are a total of three decisions being made on your application. The first being whether or not you are admitted to the school and those decisions are obviously made by those individual schools. Many of the schools actually withhold the rankings from the people who are reviewing the application for admission, so in most cases they don't even know where they're ranked. They just know that you applied. The place that the rankings come in is step number three, so by the time the rankings matter, you've already been admitted to a school, and you've already been approved for Consortium membership, so rankings are step number three, not anywhere involved in steps one or two.

Linda Abraham: So one is whether you are accepted to the school. Two, I think you might have missed one of those . . .

Rebecca Dockery: Sorry. Okay. So step one is admission to a school. You know, with six schools in your application, you could potentially be admitted to all six places.

Linda Abraham: Those individual schools make those decisions individually?

Rebecca Dockery: They do. Step number two is whether or not you are invited to be a part of the Consortium. That's based on the essay and the recommendation that talk about your commitment to our mission and that decision is made by the Consortium team.

The third and final decision goes back to the school and that's when they use those rankings to decide who is going to get the Fellowship. Basically, what happens is they look at your application, whichever school it is that you have ranked as your first choice has the first chance to offer you the Fellowship. If they make that offer, you're done. If they don't, we go down to whoever you have listed number two and so on down the line until you either receive a Fellowship or you run out of schools.

Linda Abraham: So you could be accepted to, let's say, your top three schools where you ranked and offered a Fellowship theoretically by number six, right?

Rebecca Dockery: Yes. People get Fellowships from the schools they have listed first choice. People get Fellowships from the schools they have listed sixth choice. It's really just a question of availability of Fellowships and fit between the applicant and the student.

Also, keep in mind a Consortium Fellowship is only one type of financial aid that the schools have available, so if you haven't already, you need to make sure that you are looking at the individual schools to find out if they have additional financial aid applications that you should be filling out. You should also be doing your FAFSA right after the first of the year because that helps them evaluate you for other types of financial aid as well. Linda: Right. Thank you. Brandon asks, and this is probably going to be our last question, “For those that worked for a few years before applying to Consortium, did you have any difficulties transitioning back into school from the workforce? If so, what were some of those sticking points?”

Puja Kalra: I think that business school does a great job of putting you into cohorts, so you have a great learning team. I think the transition is a little bit difficult just to get back into the scheme of studying and going to class and working in teams, but I think schools do a really nice job of setting you up for it. So it’s definitely an adjustment in the beginning, but I feel like as time goes on, obviously you get acclimated, and it gets a little bit easier. I think it’s just those first couple of months. Maybe that first–we’re on a quarter system–so that first quarter is definitely a culture shock, but after that point it was pretty easy.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. I have a question that I want to raise, and it’s just what were some of your favorite–if you’re in school or out of school–what were some of your favorite or most valuable classes, activities, whatever when you were in the MBA program.

Brace Clement: There were a lot of them. I would probably say, I’ll give you two of them. One is every Thursday here we have what is called Thursday Night TAPS. I think every school has something to this degree, but it’s basically like an end of the school week kind of a thing, and it’s almost like everybody gets together at some different eatery, club, or event, or an activity place, and we just all get together. The first years and the second years and we all just get together, and we fellowship together, and just relax from the school week.

The other really, really cool thing that we did is we have an annual Polar Plunge. It’s like our really, really big event, and it’s like a big to-do up here where we jump into one of the lakes during January, and it’s like a really big bonding thing for us because we fundraise, and we actually have a lot of history and ritual to it as well. So that’s really fun for us up here, and that’s two of the things that stand out the most about being in the program. Just really the fellowship piece is the great thing about it.

Linda Abraham: Great, wonderful. Then I want to thank you all again for participating today. Special thanks to Christina, Brace, Khalif, Puja, and Rebecca for joining us. If you have additional questions, e-mail recruiting@cgsm.org.

We look forward to seeing you at future Q&A's and admission events. Coming up next, we have:

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Once more, thank you all for joining us. Best of luck to all of you with your applications. Thank you so much again. Have a very good evening.

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