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Real Humans of NYU Stern’s MBA Class of 2021

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Michael Perry, NYU Stern MBA Class of 2021

Michael Perry, NYU Stern MBA Class of 2021

Age: 28
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: I studied finance and international business at Arizona State University.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I was an Army infantry officer for about four and a half years.

Why business school? Why now?
I’ve actually had an MBA on my radar since undergrad. I decided on 9/11, at ten years old, that I wanted to do my part for the country by serving in the military, but I never planned on pursuing a twenty- or thirty-year career in the Army.

At ASU, while I was busy on campus earning my commission as an Army officer through the ROTC program, my college roommate was active in the investment banking club. He ended up moving out to New York after graduation to work in banking. Through our relationship, I learned about the opportunities in industry, especially for graduates from top MBA programs. When I finally commissioned in 2014, I was already planning on pursuing investment banking through an MBA once I had completed my military service.

While attending business school can be a great decision for a wide range of applicants, b-school is ideal for laser-focused career switchers like me, who have a clear idea of the role and industry that they would like to move into after graduation. A competitive MBA program offers its students relevant business skills and knowledge, admission to an extensive student and alumni network, and a robust recruiting infrastructure. As I was nearing the end of my service obligation, I set my sights on an MBA, took the GMAT, and started applying to schools.

Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
First and foremost, I wanted to attend a great school that was known for finance. Last year, more than a third of Stern graduates accepted jobs in financial services. Stern’s finance department is consistently ranked among the top in the world. It’s a target school for most investment banks, and boasts an extremely strong alumni network in banking, especially in New York City.

Secondly, I connected more with the students at Stern than the students at any other school I visited. The admissions department really does do a great job of screening for people with both high IQ and high EQ (emotional quotient). I really enjoyed the pride and sense of camaraderie that came with working in a service and values-based organization in the military. I really wanted to belong to a similar community during business school.

Third, the Fertitta Veterans Program really sold me on Stern. The program is designed for U.S. military veterans and active duty students to support their transition to business school academically, professionally, and financially. The program kicks off with a summer welcome prior to your first semester that includes two core classes and weekly corporate visits.

The program allows you to hone your immediate post-MBA goals, get in some extra networking before school, knock out two tough classes, and free up your schedule by three credit hours in the fall semester to help you devote more time to recruiting. I’ll be eternally grateful to the Fertitta family, and to Stern, for the opportunity to participate in the program this past summer.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
As cliché as it sounds coming from a vet, I think my most valuable contribution will be my leadership skills. Yes, I’m exactly what you would expect from a former Army infantry officer. I’m a Ranger School graduate, I’ve led combat patrols in Afghanistan, and I’ve led organizations at the department-level. It should be a given that I can lead a small team, take charge of a project, or give a corporate presentation (and do those things well). What I really hope to accomplish, however, is to guide some of my classmates along over the next several years while they develop their own distinct leadership styles.

Many of my classmates, who come from startups or family businesses, will have had the same type of leadership responsibilities that I had at a young age in my career in the military. But many others will come from a career in engineering, equity research, or some other specialized field where they may not have had those same types of opportunities.

I was fortunate enough to serve alongside some great peers and role models who influenced the type of leader I grew to be over the past few years. I would love to serve as that helping hand and guide for my classmates at Stern this year, and for next year’s first year students as I move into my second year.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I’m a fifth-generation Arizonan and third-generation ASU Sun Devil. My mother’s side of the family homesteaded in Peoria, AZ in the 1800s to farm cotton. We’ve got a very strong connection to the state and I’m proud of where I came from.

Post-MBA career interests?
Investment Banking.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Start your search as early as possible and talk to as many current and past MBA students as possible. I investigated just about every school and every program out there from dual-degree options with schools in Europe to joint JD/MBA programs at several different universities. There are tons of great options out there. Don’t put the blinders on too soon.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have taken the GMAT and the GRE diagnostic tests before committing to studying for and taking the GMAT. I did well on the test but I had to really work had to bring my quant score up to snuff. I think I would have done better for the same amount of prep time had I gone the GRE route.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have tried to skip all of the worrying and stressing I did about whether or not I would be accepted, once the apps were in and the interviews were done. I know that this sounds like an impossible task, but there really is no point in worrying about something once it is out of your control. I try to live my life that way.

What is your initial impression of NYU Stern’s students/culture/community? 
Stern has completely met my expectations. I was blown away by my peers and by the professors teaching my summer classes in the Fertitta Veterans program, and I’ve been consistently impressed with just about every student I’ve met during orientation. I’m in the right place.

One thing you have learned about NYU Stern that has surprised you?
Stern is much more connected with the greater NYU community that I would have expected. When you include international campuses, NYU is the largest private university in the world. There are tons of opportunities for cross-discipline study and collaboration. I hope to take advantage of some of those opportunities during my second year.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
Recruiting, of course! If anyone who is recruiting for banking or consulting gives you another answer, he or she is probably not being completely truthful. I know that I am in the best possible position to be successful this fall with recruiting, but I can’t help but be anxious. The key is to use the anxiety as fuel to put in the work required to be successful.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
My summer internship (assuming I secure one – knock on wood). I felt the most professionally fulfilled in the military while we were deployed. I was working on a small team of high-performing professionals, contributing to meaningful work that we read about weekly in the Journal or the Times. We worked long hours, seven days a week, but I grew to love the grind and the work. I’m looking forward to returning to the same type of meaningful work, hopefully during an investment banking internship next summer.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.