Saturday, April 12, 2008


I am an unconventional applicant...There, I said it. Being an unconventional applicant can be rather lonely, as I have scoured every forum and blog but have yet to find an applicant like myself. People from more "conventional backgrounds" have no problem finding others like themselves in order to gauge their chances at MBA admittance. For example, let's say that you are an engineer with 4 years experience and a 730 GMAT score. If you search any online MBA forum , you can find around 5,000,000 similar profiles, along with their accept/ding results. We unconventional applicants have to fumble around in the dark, beating our own path in the jungle that is the MBA application process. This blog will serve two purposes. First, I hope it can serve as a point of reference to any other unconventional applicant that happens to find it. Secondly, I would like to offer up my experiences in the University of Minnesota's Full Time MBA program to anyone else cruising the web looking for information on Carlson.

My profile:

Program: Full Time MBA
GMAT: 720 (45Q, 44V) ; 5 AWA
GPA: 4.0 graduating GPA
Passed CFA Level I exam
Work experience: 2.75 years by matriculation, mostly as an English teacher in China
Nationality: American
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Extra-curriculars/community: minimal. While I was in college, I had to work full time to support myself. In my current position, I have designed an optional lecture series that explains American culture for the students that attend the University that employs me.

As you can see, you don't see a profile like mine too often. From the beginning...

I suppose I should start with my educational background. At first, I went to a State Uni in NC for 2 years. When I first went to college it was so that I could party, drink, and escape a small redneck town, not for the education. I managed to obtain a 2.5 GPA before I left. I decided to move to NYC to give music a chance and try to start my own band. While there I waited tables at night and worked as an accountant intern for a very small company during the day to gain experience. I figured that since I wasn't going to school I might as well do something productive. The band thing didn't work, so I went back to school at a State Uni in NJ. I kept the accounting internship and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Finance in January 2006. When I returned to school I actually applied myself and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Thank goodness, all those annoying “C’s” from the first University changed to “transfer credits” at the second University. In December 2007 I took the CFA level I exam and passed.

I suppose many of you are asking yourself, "Why is a Finance major teaching English in China?" Here is where it gets strange... A friend of mine that I had met in NC that was living in China told me about a Mandarin summer program at a Chinese University. I asked my University if I could take this course to satisfy my foreign language requirements. My University allowed it, so I went to China in 2005 and stayed with my friend for the summer. Things happened, yada yada yada, we fell in love, yada yada yada, and I asked her to marry me. She said yes, so I returned to the US to finish my last semester of college and shortly afterwards went to China to marry her. Around graduation time I had a few good interview opportunities, but I turned them down because I didn't want to be apart from my current wife. I didn't want to marry her, then come back to the US and wait months or years for her visa to be approved. I naively came to China with a semi-inflated ego, thinking that because of my 4.0 GPA I could find a job in Corporate Finance easily. However, I found that in China only foreigners with advanced degrees and experience are needed. I sent my CV everywhere, but in vain. Companies in China don't need foreigners that are fresh out of college. If they need someone for an entry level position they will most likely hire a Chinese person. In order to obtain a visa so I can stay with my wife, I took a job teaching English. Now I am in China teaching English at a University, only making around 600 dollars per month.

It was around January 2007 that I got the "MBA idea". My wife wants to end up living in China. She doesn't want to permanently immigrate to the US and I'm fine with that as long as we live in a place like Beijing or Shanghai. Obviously, I don't want to teach English forever, so I need the MBA to be able to compete with the other foreigners in China.

Because I am an unconventional applicant, I felt that I had to go above and beyond in order to be able to compete with the "normal" applicants. I simply didn't have the money to travel to each school I was researching, so I had to show my interest in the various schools through other means. Perhaps it was a bit of an overkill, but I contacted around 10-15 students/alumni for each school I was researching. I made each school's website my personal Bible, pouring over every little detail. Of course, the essays were critical in my application, so I spent an ungodly number of hours writing and re-writing. I guess the extra effort paid off, as I was accepted by the school I most wanted to attend.

In the end, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I ended up going with Carlson at the University of Minnesota. Why? First of all, Carlson offers great experiential learning through the "Carlson Enterprises", which are basically student-run businesses. Given my lack of experience in the business world, participation in one of the Enterprises will give me something to talk about in future employment interviews. Secondly, if I cannot find a job in China immediately after graduation, I would like to live in Minneapolis while gaining experience leading up to the move back to China. Carlson has great connections in the Minneapolis area, an area that was recently voted the #1 city for business (Click here). Also, my entire extended family resides in the Minneapolis area and I would like to be close to them.

So, there you have it. As classes don't start until the end of August, I don't have much to report now. I'm sure this will change as I make my way through what promises to be an exciting and mind-opening 2 years as a student in the University of Minnesota's Full Time MBA program. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Hi there.
It was fun going through your blog. True, your unconventional... but I beat you by a mile:)
Hope to see you in fall.
-Khan, the uber unconventional applicant, COSM Class of 2010

tunnybell said...

Very interesting story! I think there are are a lot of unconventional people roaming the halls waiting to be discovered - it'd be interesting if there were some kind of "Who We Are" wall in the building. It's too bad there's such a distinction between f/t and p/t students since the p/t folks are already working and have (most likely) a LOT of networking contacts. I've even met a few with connections to China! Hang in there and have fun! Lots of great stuff to do in this town ~

Karunya said...

Great story ! I enjoyed reading...