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MBA Applicant Spotlight: A Marathon 10 Applications Long

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In our new series, “MBA Applicant Spotlight,” we’re bringing you the personal experiences and lessons of MBA applicants. The MBA application process may have the common thread of being challenging, but each person’s journey is different. 

To kick off the series, we start with Yansong Pang, who applied to 10 MBA programs. He is currently the global president at Global China Connection, one of the largest NGOs connecting Chinese students with young professionals around the world. He graduated from Carleton College and has worked both in buy-side equity research and strategy consulting. Read on for his experience with MBA admissions:

Where did you apply? What were the results? 
I applied to HBS, Stanford GSB, Wharton, LBS, Berkeley / Haas, Cornell / Johnson, MIT / Sloan, Yale SOM and Duke / Fuqua and the Jefferson scholarship at UVA / Darden.

I wasn’t offered an interview at Yale and MIT—I didn’t think I clicked with their essay questions. I received interviews from the rest. UVA offered me an interview because I was selected to interview for the Jefferson scholarship, but I decided not to go interview with them because there was a schedule conflict. Among the schools I interviewed, no one said no so far. They are either offers or waitlist.

MIT directed me to its Asian School of Business in Malaysia, where I got a full ride. Haas gave me a $50,000 scholarship. Cornell gave me a $12,000 scholarship. The other schools all waitlisted me for some reason, which I’m [finding] frustratingly funny.

Which part of the application process did you put off the most?
Asking for the recommendation. I work full time at a seven-person, buy-side investment firm. It was a little intimidating to ask for a recommendation from my supervisor, James Ulland, who was the former Minnesota chief regulator of banks and securities. However, Mr. Ulland was very nice and agreed to recommend me to all the schools that I applied to.

What helped you the most during the application process?
Planning early and knowing what I want to achieve. I memorized the GRE vocab when I was studying for the SAT in high school, so it took me less than one week to take the GMAT and GRE and get a good score. I knew I wanted to get an MBA from very early on, so I studied psychology and math during college to equip me with both people skills and data skills. Afterwards, I worked in strategy consulting and finance, started my own organization and oversaw a global non-profit organization. I also assisted a Chinese public company with expanding its North American business. Meanwhile I passed all CFA exams. All these efforts were planned and carried out with solid execution. The invaluable guidance from my mom and dad also helped me immensely. It wasn’t a one-time effort, but a studious marathon that took much persistence.

Which school’s application was the most fun to complete?
I liked HBS, GSB and Haas the best: HBS because it basically allowed me to write my life story; GSB pushed me to reflect deeply on what matters; and Haas is very creative.

How much time did you give yourself to complete your applications? Do you wish you’d allowed more? 
For each application, six hours a day, for four to seven days. This process continued until I submitted my last application. It took me less time after writing my first few essays, but I became obsessed with everything including the fonts and use of words.

I could use more time at the beginning to flush out deeper thoughts. I finished CFA Level 3 exam in mid-June, took a short break, completed GMAT in early July, and dived straight into applications in August.

If you could go back in time and provide yourself with one piece of advice before applying, what would it be? 
MBA is not the destination—it’s a means to get to the destination. Take more time to reflect on what matters to you and why in your life.

If you get accepted/got accepted to your first-choice school, who will/did you share the news with first?
I would send a message to my parents in China, thanking them for all the help and support they offered.

If you’d like to share your story as an MBA applicant, simply email [email protected] to introduce yourself and get started. 

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.