Yesterday I posted about the process I stumbled into for getting into an Ivy League business school in 23 days.
How to read this post
Today I’ll talk about the credentials that made it possible. But please recognize, the point of these posts is not merely to show you how to get into business school, but to show you that you can combine whatever you have in your past into something bigger than you expect. You have to be aware of the possibilities and ready to act on them.
If you are insecure and want to justify why can’t succeed, you’ll read this post to see how other people can achieve big things because they have advantages you don’t. I used to look at things like this that way too.
If you’re secure and want to see what more you can do than you thought, you’ll read this post for inspiration, using it for ideas, whether related to business school or not.
If you’ve achieved a lot more, I hope you’ll read it to think of ways to tell me what more I can achieve and expand my horizons.
You can also find specific tips for preparing for business school.
I earned my BA and PhD in physics at Columbia, so even if nothing else, they’d have to respect multiple degrees from the same university.
Columbia Business School connection
Since I’d had my first start-up’s business idea while in graduate school and since I’d had no business experience before then and since the business school building was next to the physics building, I had audited a few classes at the business school by the time I’d applied.
Years before, while in physics graduate school, I walked to the business school building, talked to the administrators of the entrepreneurship classes, shared that I was thinking about starting a business, and asked if I could take classes there as a student from a different school within the university. They said if the professors agreed and there was space, I could. I ended up taking five classes there — one semester’s worth.
(Unfortunately for me, none of them were in some of the basic skills I needed, like accounting and finance. But the entrepreneurship skills were essential too.)
Since I wasn’t then ready to leave physics, I only audited the classes so my physics advisor would see a record of me in the business school.
Anyway, I had done well in those classes. Despite having no paper trail of them, I could ask any of my professors
I had started a company that had met some success, though I had lost my position as CEO. At the time I saw losing the CEO position as a weakness, but now I see it as a great reason for business school that the admissions department would probably value.
I didn’t know until into the process that Columbia’s Dean was increasing Columbia’s focus on entrepreneurship, so that worked in my favor unbeknownst to me.
New York City connection
I lived in Manhattan and was ready to start any time. I didn’t need housing or time to move. In New York this can be a big issue.
Money is not an issue for going to business school. If you can get an MBA at Columbia, you can figure out how to pay off your loans. And plenty of institutions are ready to loan you money.
For what it’s worth, I had no debt at the time, so I would have been that much better a candidate for a loan.
While the outcome of my story suggests I was well-prepared to get in, I could easily have interpreted my story differently. I could have felt I had a degree in an esoteric field, tried and didn’t succeed at a start-up, and little other business experience.
If you think, “No way, of course you’d have an easy time getting in” the point is not that I was well prepared for business school, but that everyone is well-prepared for something.
At the time I wanted to start a company. I wasn’t well prepared for that, as I increasingly found out the more I learned in business school. I thought business school was a step backward, however essential, making up for what others my age at the time already generally knew — accounting, finance, economics, sales, etc.
I later realized the value of the so-called soft skill of leadership, general management, negotiation, and so on, which started my path and became the foundation of the Model, Method, coaching, and much of what you see on this page.
Tomorrow: my application essays
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book