Success Stories: Mom uses MBA to re-enter workforce with scholarships worth $83,000
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Chinenye is different from your average MBA applicant. Sure, she’s worked as a financial analyst in investment banking and consumer goods, and her goal is to pivot into strategy consulting post her MBA. But she’s also been a full-time mom for the last 3 years.
Back home in Nigeria, she had always wanted to do an MBA. She’d seen how it could transform careers, but couldn’t grab the right opportunity back then. So, after moving to the US in 2018 and getting married, she began to plan her next steps.
But family came first, and Chinenye took a 3-year career gap to focus on motherhood. She had some fears about re-entering the workplace but was determined to grab life by the horns. She joined a tech startup and dove right into investment strategy consulting.
Then came the big decision: Applying to an MBA.
“I woke up one morning and I decided that I wanted to do this.” she beams during our conversation.
As a young mother raising two children, working part-time, and navigating her new life in the US, applying for MBAs was far from easy. But right from our first chat with her at QS MBA resume review, I knew Chinenye would be going places, and we really enjoyed helping her achieve her goal.
Months later, the verdict is in.
Chinenye received offers from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School with a scholarship of $20,000 and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management with a scholarship of $63,000.
What was it about Chinenye that made her such an exceptional MBA candidate? She sat down with me to revisit her application journey and share how she positioned her strengths to get results.
Strength 1: Resilience
Chinenye plans to re-enter the workforce after a significant career gap. Added to this, she was a recent immigrant to the US after leaving behind a thriving career and growth opportunities in Nigeria to start afresh.
Understandably, she wasn’t confident about MBA applications given this uncertainty and change. But I explained that such an unusual application narrative could actually work to her advantage if she used imagery to tell her story.
“As I spoke to you, you helped me build that confidence, and I felt convinced that I genuinely did have a story to tell."
We worked on her applications together to show schools that there was more to this applicant than being a dedicated stay-at-home mom. We highlighted volunteering opportunities and courses that she had studied during her break. She joined a tech start-up called Hash, taking on stretch goals and improving her communication skills. It helped that she had also taken initiative and stepped out of her comfort zone in previous roles.
Chinenye’s resilience and drive to grow academically and professionally were clear. This is exactly what business schools look for - the drive to create value, no matter your situation.
Strength 2: Communication
During her time in investment banking, Chinenye often dealt with multiple conflicting stakeholders. Her strength is listening to people's ideas and keeping all parties up to date. She also had experience in business transformation. Together, we used these two pieces of experience to show that she was ready for a consulting role.
But what was different about these stakeholder management and communication skills, was that they had been trained in a unique setting - motherhood.
“When you have kids, it’s a different story altogether!”, she laughs.
She told the Admissions Committee how she learned to tailor her communication style to her children, coming down to their level. This patience also helped her work and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures - something that business schools value highly.
Strength 3: Uniqueness
Chinenye’s profile and skill-set are unique. Knowing how to present every aspect of her personal and professional life worked wonders. She can also network like a pro - many of the admissions staff and current students knew her by name by the time she submitted her applications.
Business schools look for a wide range of motivated individuals. Her organizational skills as a working mom showed that she could multi-task, set priorities, and take on a wider range of responsibilities. At home, they call her the “Managing Director”!
Moreover, as an immigrant woman from Nigeria, she brought a unique industry perspective. She was able to convey how her MBA would add to those skills and equip her for a career transition.
Being a mom in business school is difficult, but creating stories that show resilience, communication, and uniqueness convinced the schools that she was more than suited to the task.
After weighing up her offers, Chinenye has decided to go to Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management.
The $43,000 difference in scholarships was a major factor, of course. But it was also that she felt the Owen's values were closely aligned with hers. Its inclusive culture and supportive environment for people with families is just right for her. She is particularly excited about working with the Owen’s partner association to think about policies and programs that accommodate mature students. For example, moms going back to the classroom after a break, just like her.
So, what's her parting advice for MBA applicants?
“There are a lot of people who are willing to support you on this journey. Current students, alumni, consultants, if you want to… Where you're unable to tell your story, a consultant is able to see the parts of yourself that you probably did not even know to exist.”
Need help telling your story? Book a free 30 mins chat with me right away.