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New Program Lets College Students Try on a Stanford GSB MBA

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“OK, Now That I Believe I Can Be Here, How Do I Get Here?”

The participants seem to make the same shift themselves, says Hill. “You can almost see them thinking, ‘OK, now that I believe that I can be here, how do I get here?’” For precisely this reason, the program includes an MBA admissions boot camp, in which Stanford GSB admissions staff share suggestions and advice about practical steps students can take in the time they still have at college and beyond to strengthen their candidacy.

For starters, get involved on campus, says Hill. “We always say it’s not the quantity of things you do on campus, but more the quality. Just leading one of the clubs on campus means more to us than being involved in every campus organization there is,” she says. Another tip: “Students should pursue clubs they are interested in versus what they think we would be interested in.”

Hill and her team also encourage MBA Future Leaders participants to take the GMAT or GRE entrance exam for business school while they are still in college if possible. “We find it can be really helpful, while they are still in study mode, to get that out of the way—and the results are good for five years.”

Seeds Planted? Check.

Curtin was excited to learn about some of the opportunities an MBA could open up for him. Though his immediate path is set—he will graduate from West Point as a second lieutenant and then has a commitment to serve in the Army for a minimum of five years—he hopes to go to business school after that and use it to pivot to a civilian career. He confesses that hearing other Future Leaders participants talk about the different types of jobs they thought they might pursue after college was tough. “I have my obligation, but long-term my plan is to use my five years in the Army to really get a good sense of my leadership philosophy and how I want to proceed from there,” he says.

He was particularly interested in learning about potential future career opportunities around organizational culture. “I feel like it’s something I could really engage with down the line—studying and learning how organizations work and how they organize their culture around specific ideas,” he says. “The people leading these companies and corporations—they have a big say in how those companies represent themselves to the world and how the organizational culture works. I would love to be a part of that someday for some company or school.”

Curtin was also encouraged to learn that many students spend as many as five years between undergraduate and business school obtaining valuable work experience. “The age of the average MBA isn’t 22—I learned it’s more toward 24 or 25—and it was really exciting to hear that I wasn’t going to be five years behind the curve like I thought I was,” he says.

Many Paths to the MBA

In fact, as part of the program’s MBA admissions boot camp, Hill and others helped outline the variety of paths applicants can—and do—follow to the GSB. “They could apply as college seniors—we talked about that as an option,” says Hill. “They could do a master’s degree before the MBA or consider doing a joint degree, and then there are many people who do want to work for a few years before applying,” she continues. “There is no one distinct path that would even make you be most competitive—we encouraged them to apply when they feel ready. If that means as a college senior that’s great, we’d love to see your applications next year.”

But more than simply suggesting that a Stanford MBA was the one path they must follow, the organizers really did a great job of encouraging participants to keep their eyes open for other opportunities, too, Curtin says. “Nevertheless, I am absolutely sure that I will apply as soon as I can—whether that is in five years, four years, whenever I can make it happen. I know it will be at the top of my list when I get out.”

Shipley, for her part, has a resume as a college junior that is already impressive—including an undergraduate finance camp at Goldman Sachs in her freshman summer, an internship for North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams and an internship at Facebook for the Instagram product marketing team. This past summer’s MBA Future Leaders Program added another data point as she thinks about what she wants her future to hold. “Going through the program was an immersive experience in terms of the case method, cold calls, things I should be thinking about in terms of preparing for the GMAT—there were lots of things I wouldn’t have known without going through it,” she says.

“This definitely made me more interested in getting my MBA and made me feel more confident about the application process and more confident in myself that I could apply and go to a place to Stanford,” Shipley says. Upon graduating from college, her goal is to work for Google or another big tech company within marketing and the diversity space, she says. “I would say my plans after college have shifted some, in that before I was considering an MBA and now I am certain that I would like to get one and to attend Stanford’s MBA program.”

Short term, this means Shipley is back on her college campus, planning to study hard for her GMAT to make sure she gets a good score while also sharing her Future Leaders experience and the things she learned with classmates at North Carolina A&T. “As a member of my campus community, I will share this information with other students who may not have thought that an MBA was possible for them as well,” she says. This summer, she’s lined up an internship at Google as a product marketing intern, but the Future Leaders program has also piqued her curiosity about venture capital.

MBA Future Leaders
Last year’s inaugural cohort of MBA Future Leaders; photo courtesy of Stanford GSB

The inaugural cohort of the MBA Future Leaders Program consisted of 81 students from 56 universities in 25 states. Plans for this year are to accept roughly the same number of applicants, between 80 and 85. Hill and team don’t plan to make big changes to the admissions process in this second year, apart from changing the language of questions around preferred gender pronouns to help everyone feel they are being correctly identified. “It’s a small technical change that could have a really big impact on the experience individuals have here, and I’m excited to add that this year,” Hill says.

For the inaugural cohort, participants in the MBA Futures Leaders Program paid nothing to participate. The costs—including room and board and all activities—were covered by Stanford GSB and corporate sponsors Google and Norwest Ventures. “This year we do have a limited number of funds to also cover travel expenses to and from the program, especially for those coming from low-income backgrounds,” Hill shares.

Longer term, Hill hopes the program can find additional ways to capitalize on its Silicon Valley location. “The valley is in an interesting space right now where diversity is one of the issues that many, many organizations are trying to tackle now,” Hill notes. A Career Fair might be one way to bring together more of these companies with MBA Future Leader students who have gone through quite a rigorous application process. “It would be an incredible showing of solidarity and passion about the topic in the name of trying to increase, enhance and prepare the pipeline.”

Stanford GSB Places High Value on Program’s Impact

Hill herself was the first in her family to go to college and went on complete both her MBA and an MA in higher education/higher education administration at Stanford, something she credits to a community of family and mentors rallying around her. “This is a program that is very near and dear not only to my heart, but to the admissions team and as a school,” Hill says. “We believe in the impact of diversity—our alumni really do change lives, organizations and the world. Being able to have a diverse alumni base that is able to tackle all of the problems in the world is very important.”

Applications for the Stanford GSB MBA Future Leaders Program are open until March 1, 2017. Interested applicants must submit two required essays, a resume, an unofficial transcript and a letter of recommendation. Final decisions will be released on March 28th. This year’s program will take place from August 11th to 13th on Stanford’s Palo Alto campus. For complete details on how to apply, including the required essay questions, click here.