UK Applicant Gets $176,000 Full Ride Scholarship to NYU Stern MBA
In her NYU Stern MBA application, Jasmin based her “Pick Six” photos on Tarot cards, for example “The Ace of Wands: Achievement”. To be honest, I don’t know much about Tarot cards. So, to me, this unconventional approach seemed like a gamble.
But it’s fair to say that her gamble paid off spectacularly: Jasmin will be joining NYU Stern Business School’s MBA program with a full ride scholarship worth $176,000. She also received offers from ESMT (€8,000 scholarship), Darden ($80,000 scholarship), and Georgetown ($50,000 scholarship).
The rest of Jasmin’s profile was equally unique. Jasmin comes from the UK, did her undergraduate degree in Modern Languages from the University of Cambridge where she then worked in Business Operations for 4 years. She transitioned to a recruitment role at a small start-up after.
When she started thinking about pursuing an MBA, she was severely underinformed. She applied later in the cycle and hadn’t even heard of the GMAT. So how did she manage to secure an admit to one the world’s top business schools with a full ride scholarship?
Jasmin was kind enough to share her MBA application story in an interview for our YouTube channel. This is her advice:
How MBA events helped
For Jasmin, the MBA events organized by schools and students were transformational. When she started the application process, she hadn’t heard of the GMAT, didn’t know there were multiple essays involved, and thought it would be like any other Master’s application.
Being able to meet the schools in person showed her the difference between US and European MBA programs and gave her an actual idea of the classes, seminars, career pathways, and the schools’ unique personalities. It was at one of these events that she met me for a CV review, not knowing she’d need to rework her whole CV to adapt it for business school. The rest is history!
This is why we recommend all of our clients reach out to current students, alumni, and staff at their target business schools during the application process. We know from experience that most successful applicants speak to at least a couple of people at their target school.
Learn how to send cold reach-outs with the free Which Schools course on MBAconsultant.com.
Applying to MBAs as a Briton
British applicants are a relatively under-represented MBA demographic. Business school is not part of the traditional professional journey in the UK. Initially, Jasmin thought an MBA was a course someone might do part-time, or as a distance learning course. But when she learned more about the flagship MBA programs at different schools, especially in the US, she began to realize how the MBA could be a stepping stone to getting out of the UK, and gaining a global perspective.
Her unusual background, a Brit who studied modern languages, made her interesting to AdComs and to the MBA students in the US. So she was able to have plenty of useful outreach conversations. Maybe her thick British accent helped too!
One of the main challenges of applying as a British candidate was managing her recommenders. British (and many European) managers and recommenders tend to be less extravagant than US peers. This cultural gap means that when it comes to rating an applicant, a British or European recommender typically might not give an applicant the highest possible rating for fear of appearing insincere. In contrast, American recommenders and managers tend to be more “extra” with their ratings and comments.
To make letters of recommendation even more difficult, Jasmin worked at a small startup of only about 80 employees where most of her colleagues were not familiar with MBAs. Luckily, she had a supervisor with an MBA who was familiar with the process. We worked with Jasmin to guide these recommenders, providing useful frameworks for them to work with. Jasmin also used Reddit to research how to help her recommenders understand the process and assure them that it was okay to be unguarded with their ratings.
How did different schools compare?
Jasmin began the MBA application process with rock-bottom expectations. She felt she wasn’t a strong applicant. She wasn’t particularly career-oriented and her extracurricular (music) was her first priority. She felt like a small-town girl who had a good education but no finance or consulting background in a big city. So, she initially planned to apply to mid-tier schools ranked in the 50-100 range.
In one of our first conversations, I made it crystal-clear that she was shooting too low and should apply to more high-ranked schools. That vote of confidence helped Jasmin apply to 7 schools in Round 2, including NYU Stern and Darden.
Applying to NYU
NYU first felt like a reach. But Jasmin found that the school’s culture aligned remarkably closely with her values, so she applied nevertheless.
One of the most unique parts of Jasmin’s application (and certainly something none of us at SWC have seen before) was her answer to NYU’s famous “Pick Six” question. The prompt asks applicants to submit six images that describe who they are. This ‘essay’ asks for creative personal expression, something that was right up Jasmin’s alley.
None of Jasmin’s images were about work. Instead, they were reflections and themes from her life. To represent these, Jasmin chose a medium that helped her process her emotions - tarot. She edited imagery from tarot cards onto her photos. For example, she used the Three of Cups tarot card, which represents community and friendship, in a photo of her friends - 3 saxophone players in her band. She photoshopped the cup symbols over their saxophones in a risky (NYU recommends that you don’t edit or alter the images) but creative way. As her edits didn’t change the original photo, this unusual presentation worked for her. It was the first thing she was asked about in her interview!
NYU Stern turned out to be the first business school to extend an interview to Jasmin, the first to give her an admit, and gave her the largest scholarship ($176,000). Jasmin hadn’t really considered the weight of student loans, so the scholarship was a true blessing.
So why did she choose NYU? Of course, the scholarship helped. But there was so much more. She listened to several NYU student podcasts and connected with them 1:1. Stern’s focus on EQ shone through in its students’ attitudes and welcoming nature, making Jasmin feel like she was part of the community. Jasmin’s NYU Stern application also included a recommendation from a transgender colleague, who wrote about how Jasmin helped her feel supported at work. NYU’s positive response to such an unconventional, yet deeply personal application showed Jasmin that this was the right fit.
Then there was the city itself. Being in New York, especially as a musician, would help Jasmin connect with people from diverse backgrounds and explore career options. She felt the school was best placed to help her grow professionally, but also personally.
Advice for MBA applicants
Coming into the application from a non-traditional perspective, Jasmin had plenty of advice to share with other applicants:
Have confidence in yourself. You don’t need the perfect profile. Stories about exceptional applicants who haven’t managed to secure an admit can make you feel like you can’t measure up to others. Reaching out to schools, students, and an admissions consultant helped Jasmin see the uniqueness in her own profile and give her the confidence boost she needed.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask questions, no matter how simple they are. Most schools have student ambassadors you can speak to. Jasmin compiled her questions in an email or a school website form. 75% of the people she reached out to wanted to jump on a call with her. One even emailed her on a flight from New York to Spain on Christmas eve!
Trust your gut. Starting salaries and median GMAT scores may be a good starting point to find the right school, but what really matters is your school fit. Visit schools in person if possible and do your research. If you are concerned that the commute to the city is too long, or your partner may not be able to visit often, look elsewhere. Applying to an MBA is an exercise in self-reflection, so focus on your connection with the school and the people around you.
Inspired? Watch Jasmin's full interview here.
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