Finally, it comes to the end.
Last February, I made a call to a Tongji alumnus who also worked in Hong Kong to ask advice on career development. In that call, he kindly introduced to me the stories about how he made up his mind to beat the GMAT test, how he suffered in his MBA application, and how he grew up during the two years in Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He helped me to analyze my background and encouraged me to take a try: “MBA will help you open a new world!”
At that time, as an architect, I knew little about MBA. Few of the architectural forerunners took this track for their careers. However, I did know that taking an MBA would provide me a broad knowledge that could help me to negotiate with the developers and governments, different perspectives to understand the urban issues, and a unique experience to live and study abroad.
Finally, I beat the GMAT with a 770 score in my fourth test, I got my first offer from NYU Stern Business School at the end of the year after getting rejected by three schools, and I decided to accept my second offer to spend my next two years in Yale.
During my application, I was always asking myself and being asked by schools why I needed an MBA. This is a good question that will drive you to go through your past experience and push you to think about the future. MBA should be the middle point that connects your past and future. After all, it is an investment of over $200,000, and therefore you have to carefully consider not only your dreams but also your return on investment.
After questioning myself for days and nights, I figure out the reasons for which I want to take my MBA. I want to make a career switch because I believe architects could not save the cities just as LU Xun thought being a doctor could not save the Chinese. Architects are never the decision-makers because the architectural education does not provide us knowledge on economics, finance, or management. Architects know little about the financial strategies that can be used to realize their drawings. Architects also know little about the economic and political drivers behind the development of every inch of urban spaces. Most importantly, architects always criticize the developers and governments, but never themselves. Some architects escape from the complicated world by only designing museums, exhibition halls, and galleries, all of which deal with fewer complexities. Some just totally change their careers. However, I want to make a change.
Taking an MBA will bring me closer to this change. I will gain the desired knowledge by participating in different classes, by discussing with different professors, and by sharing knowledge with my classmates from diverse backgrounds. I will understand the complexity of urban issues by practicing in the real world. I will also learn from the successes/failures in the developed markets and then bring the experience back to China.
How to apply
To be honest, the application is one of the most challenging tasks that I have ever encountered. Particularly, as an applicant with a non-business background, I always feel it difficult to compete with other applicants.
However, the experience that I have is what other competitors do not have. The most important thing that I need to do is to differentiate myself from my peers. Why I joined the Army during my undergraduate study? What have I learned from living in different metropolises, traveling to all provinces in China, serving the Army and working as an architect? Why did I want to take an MBA as an architect? What can I contribute to the school/community with my unique knowledge and experience? I believe the admission committees are not only looking for applicants from typical business backgrounds but also asking for diversities that can make different contributions to their communities.
In every application that I submitted, I emphasize my uniqueness. I can help my classmates better understand the real estate markets from the social perspectives; I can contribute to the discussions with my rich knowledge in urban studies; I can also design creative products by sharing my coding and designing skills.
In the end, I do not believe there are any tricks to play with the application. The only thing that you need to do is to tell your stories in a sincere and smart manner, demonstrate your determination to take the challenges/chances, and convince others you need an MBA and you can contribute to your dream schools.
What to expect
During my application, though I get more and more clear about what I want to do after my MBA, I do understand there are a lot of uncertainties for my future career. I need to first find a job to support my living in the States, a difficult task for most Asian students. I also need to explore different possibilities where I can combine my architectural/urban knowledge with the business/financial knowledge. Future is never fully predictable, while I need to work hard to get closer and closer to my dreams.
Today, I still believe it is the best time for us to chase the dream.