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MBA Student Interview by Juno: John From Columbia Business School

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MBA Student Interview: Columbia Business School

Juno’s MBA Student Interview Series aims to bring transparency to the MBA application process. In these student interviews, we’ll talk with MBA students about their paths and decision-making process. The subject of this piece has asked to remain anonymous, so we’ll refer to them as John.

Deciding on an MBA

For John, financing is playing a big role in his decision-making process. After receiving need-based scholarship from Columbia Business School, he was able to commit to program, which was also his top MBA choice. “From Columbia, I received about 75% of my tuition, $120,000. We haven’t heard back regarding merit scholarships, that was just a need-based scholarship.” He is also a finalist in the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and is waiting on a few more scholarship applications to get back to him. John hopes to use these funds to cover the rest of his tuition costs.

Balancing Obligations, Finances and Student Loans

John has more trepidation about taking on big loans due to experiences from his undergrad. Going into undergrad, he didn’t have a lot of guidance when it came to financing his education and his parents were a little reluctant to disclose their financial information. After he and his parents learned more about merit based versus need based financial aid, he went from having to take out around $25,000 in loan during his first year to receiving assistance from Pell grants.

Now that he is about to enter an MBA program, he has a lot more knowledge and experience about financial aid under his belt, but he is still nervous about loans, especially since he is a major contributor to his family’s finances. “Being the first of my family to go to and graduate from college, there’s a lot of reliance on myself to contribute financially. So knowing I won’t have a stable income during my MBA, and also knowing I still have undergrad loans to pay off, I definitely wanted to limit as much as possible what I borrow for my MBA, because I know I still have other financial priorities I need to stay aware of.”

Before applying to MBA programs, John worked in accounting and banking, but quickly realized that he was not passionate about the industry. He made the decision to go into education and take a position with Teach for America and was placed in a Mississippi school where he taught sixth-graders math. While he loved being in the classroom, the compensation wasn’t enough to pay his student loans and help his family.

Eventually, he started working with Education Pioneers. While working at a charter school in New Orleans, he was able to work on several different teams before becoming the Director of Data and Operations. After five years with Education Pioneers, he still misses being a teacher, but feels rewarded by the fact that he is able to improve the educational environment for both students and teachers.

MBA Program Spending Habits

When it comes to spending, John tends to splurge on trips and experiences and spoil his niece and nephew, but he is now focused on saving more than ever as he prepares to enter his MBA experience. All it took was one visit to New York to realize that the cost of living was going to be more expensive than New Orleans, but John has a plan in place.

“I’m trying to make sure I have a solid foundation before I move, I’m aiming to save around $20,000.” While he wishes that he could continue to contribute to his family, he takes comfort in the fact that it is a temporary situation. Some sacrifices now will result in more opportunities and a higher income. As he considers how frugal he will have to be during his MBA program, he is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. He doesn’t know exactly what to expect, but he does want to make sure that he is able to travel, build networks and splurge every once in a while. His splurges may just have to be once a month rather than every weekend.

Advice for MBA Applicants

Looking back on his application experience, John wishes that he would have invested more in GMAT prep in the hopes of earning more money from merit scholarships, especially from his dream school – Columbia. He was spending hundreds on applications, test prep and application consultants. At the time it seemed like the costs were adding up, but part of him wishes he would have worried less about that at the time and really gone all out on the application process to help him get the best GMAT score possible and secure more funding.

John recommends that other students invest as much as possible in the application process so that hopefully, you aren’t faced with tough decisions. “You are only going to apply to grad school once. You’re only going to do this experience once. Investing time and money is definitely going to pay off.”

Click here to read more student interviews and to learn more about affording the MBA cost with Juno.

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