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Real Humans of MBA Students: Rochester Simon MBA Class of 2023

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rochester mba class of 2023Sophia Leung, Rochester Simon MBA Class of 2023

Age: 32
Hometown: Queens, NY
Undergraduate Institution and Major: City University of New York Hunter College, Geography
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 2 years in education and 7 years in design and merchandising.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
While working as a designer at a hospitality tech startup, I seized the opportunity to step into a managerial position on several of the company’s larger projects. I loved the experience of presenting my ideas to the Chief Operating Officer and seeing my recommendations put into action. Inspired to further develop my leadership skills, I spoke with a close friend about her own MBA experience. I came to the conclusion that business school was an investment that would advance my career, so I applied myself and strived to get accepted to a top business school.

Why did you choose Rochester Simon? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I chose Simon Business School because of its student community, rigorous analytics curriculum, and idyllic setting. I was especially drawn to its prominent community of first-generation college students. Like me, several of the students and alumni I spoke with were the first in their families to go to college and pursue an MBA, so I knew that I wasn’t going to feel alone in navigating business school. On the whole, Simon brings a diverse community full of empathy, selflessness, and candor to the table. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I think my previous career sets me apart. I’ve always been a self-starter and first found success by starting a design consultancy career before pursuing my MBA. I’ve also always been community-oriented and I carry that over to my studies at Simon. I try to stay involved and am helping my classmates prepare for interviews ahead of career fairs, like Consortium and Forte conferences. I do all this with the belief that if you contribute to one’s success, we as a community will be ever better for it. Or as we say at Simon, “

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
Whenever I travel to a new destination, I enjoy renting a bike and touring the city – either on my own or with my partner. I have cycled in six different cities on three continents. It’s the best way to become familiar with a city’s geography and architecture.

Post-MBA career interests:
I plan on pursuing Marketing and Pricing Strategy.

 Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
While GPAs and test scores can be helpful, essays are truly your way to take control of your narrative. I treated each prompt as if it were an invitation to show who I am and how I think – and I’d strongly encourage applicants to do the same. Don’t get caught in the trap of merely reciting your list of achievements. Your story is just as important to your application as any resume. 

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I think I would have simplified the process for myself. From the start, I sort of knew what I wanted, but then I casted a wide net and looked at as many business schools as I could. And left feeling overwhelmed, I should have listened to my instincts and stuck to my list of non-negotiable qualities in an MBA program. It’s important to be honest with yourself and trust your gut.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
In the earlier stages of the application stage, I experienced imposter syndrome. I would have liked to skip that phase. Though testing your limits and challenging yourself is always scary and I came out feeling stronger.

What is your initial impression of the Rochester Simon students/culture/community?
My initial impression is that they are 100% willing to help and answer any questions. It really is a community that cares about their students’ success.

What is one thing you have learned about Rochester Simon that has surprised you?
Having gone to a large college in New York City for undergrad, I never had the picturesque collegiate campus experience and wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Rochester. However, I immediately fell in love with U of R’s gorgeous campus!

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
I worked in an industry hit by the pandemic so it left feelings of ambiguity. But I learned to adapt and take this opportunity to pursue my MBA, and consider myself privileged to be able to take a two-year gap in order to grow exponentially.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Having never taken coursework in accounting or finance in my undergrad program, I was pretty anxious about finance classes. I often remind myself to be patient with new subjects. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
There is so much to be excited about: making new friends from all around the world, case competitions, and getting involved in clubs I’m passionate about. The list goes on. I am most excited about becoming an expert in marketing and product management. I love the rate at which I’m growing. I’m learning to apply new frameworks each day.

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.