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Real Humans of Washington Foster Business School’s MBA Class of 2023

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washington foster mba class of 2023Aubrey Prado, Washington Foster’s MBA Class of 2023

Age: 26
Hometown: Johns Creek, GA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Systems/Aeronautical Engineering, United States Air Force Academy
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Air Force Acquisitions Officer – 4 years

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Being in the military, I moved around a lot. I started buying a house at each of my bases, which led me to do a significant amount of self-educating on Real Estate investing. Through that I discovered a passion for business and financial analysis and was eager to turn that hobby into a full-time role. I am also a big believer in taking daily consistent action in terms of progressing towards your goals, so there was no better time than the present to take the dive into business school. 

Why did you choose Washington Foster? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I am passionate about sustainability and environmental issues. Foster has incredible resources at its fingertips with the Clean Energy Institute as part of UW, as well as being located in a city known for its environmental awareness, proximity to major employers, and everything outdoorsy that the Pacific NW has to offer. Foster’s flexibility with courses in terms of building your MBA curriculum enables me to take classes outside of the traditional business tracks, catering my degree towards my future career ambitions. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
All of us are so different! My background as a program manager in the Air Force might help me interpret a particular case or question from a government frame of view, while others who have background in HR or grew up in another country may be able to frame the question in an entirely different way. As a whole, our strength as a class comes from having vastly diverse backgrounds and therefore well-rounded class discussions, and my unique experience is a piece of that.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I am both a licensed skydiver and scuba diver. 

Post-MBA career interests:
I want to be a pivotal player in converting America into a renewable-energy based country. Although I am not exactly sure what form that will take down the road, in the near-term I hope to work in the financial sector/financial analysis space and help open doors for companies in the renewable-energy world to receive funding for continued technology development.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
Breathe! Applying for an MBA program (or in many of our cases, several MBA programs) is a long process. I encourage everyone to step back and take the time to decide what is most important to you to get out of your MBA experience, and then find the schools that can best provide that. And if that best-fit happens to be Foster, highlight those specifics in your application. For me, Foster was the perfect fit because of access to sustainability and environmental resources. For others, it might be the robust professional development we undergo as part of the curriculum. But wherever you end up picking, make sure it is the school that will put you in the best position to make your dreams happen.

– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Write the essays early. I went through many, many iterations of my essays before I officially submitted them, and it helped me feel much more confident in my application when I finally did hit the submit button.

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would apply to fewer schools and spend more time talking to current students to get a strong grasp on the experience offered through each of the different programs.

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have skipped the GRE if I could. In the months prior to sitting for the test, I laid out a day-by-day study plan that I followed religiously to minimize procrastination and eventually be able to present as strong of an application as possible. 

What is your initial impression of the Washington Foster students/culture/community?
The community is extremely welcoming. Everyone is enthusiastic to build relationships with each other and meet new people, which has resulted in our class becoming very tight-knit very early in the program. 

What is one thing you have learned about Washington Foster that has surprised you?
Many MBA programs advertise that they are a collaborative environment, but I did not realize how seriously Foster took that until I arrived here. During orientation we were placed with our academic teams, and since then most of our schoolwork and class discussions have taken place within this group. I come from an engineering background and was not immediately enthusiastic about the prospect of so many group projects, but the up-front groundwork and structure that Foster had us put into team development has resulted in an extremely rewarding and productive team environment, and has potentially been the highlight of my academic experience at Foster thus far.  

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?The most notable impact of COVID-19 on the application process was the conversion of so many pieces to virtual. I took the GRE virtually, interviewed virtually, and even took virtual tours of campus. In many ways this actually reduced the financial and time burden of applying because travel was not an option, however I am very glad that we have been able to attend classes in-person for the academic year. 

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Plunging into an entirely new field of study – I do not have academic background in any of the courses that I will be taking as an MBA student, so beginning the school year I was unsure how quickly I would be able to absorb the material.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Meeting new people! Environment is so important when trying to do something hard or out of the ordinary, and I love constantly being surrounding by all my classmates who also have big aspirations and are working hard to make their dreams happen. It is inspiring to learn about their different backgrounds, hear diverse perspectives on challenges that we might be facing, and make connections that I would have never had the opportunity to if Foster had not brought us together. 

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.