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Real Humans of MBA Students: Vanderbilt Owen MBA Class of 2023

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vanderbilt mba class of 2023Filippos Koleonidis, Vanderbilt Owen MBA Class of 2023

Age: 27
Hometown: Thessaloniki, Greece
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3.5 – Consulting

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
My goal is to break into investment banking by leveraging my consulting, military, and banking experience. There are a lot of ways people make it in IB, but there are two primary paths to enter the industry: either out of undergrad or with an MBA. So, it made sense that I pursue business school, as a career-switcher, to achieve this goal. 

Why did you choose Vanderbilt Owen? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Studying in the US has been a lifelong dream of mine. As all prospective business school applicants, I researched things, such as: rankings, employment reports, and the range of the alumni network. Even more importantly, I wanted to find a school that would fit my personality and allow me to grow as a person and a professional.

Vanderbilt checks all of the above and more. The school advocates “personal scale” and I can tell you that they take this approach very seriously! From the first interaction you can tell that much thought and attention has been given to your application and a myriad of tools and resources are available to you to help you reach your goals.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
There are 27 countries represented in Vanderbilt’s Class of 2023 and I am proud to be part of that group! I would say my multicultural background is my differentiating strength, as I was raised bilingual (speaking Greek/Russian) and was fluent in both English and German by the age of 18. Also, I have worked extensively in Greece, Cyprus, and Germany, and can help realize the underlying potential of international working groups.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I always had an irrational fear of heights. That is until I completed the Via Ferrata at Konitsa, Greece. Now I can’t wait to keep exploring similar treks and hikes!

Post-MBA career interests:
Investment Banking 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Make this a structured process. Keep tabs at what information you have gathered. Make sure to go through the school’s website extensively – most information you are looking for is already asked in the past and most definitely is included there. 

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I could definitely allocate more time in the early stages of the application process. I applied in the first round but could have started my preparation earlier in the cycle. Days go by fast and having all application documents ready before the deadline is essential.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I personally like standardized tests, but I can understand how someone would prefer to apply without the need for a GMAT/GRE. Especially when your score in these tests is an integral part of the process and can make or break your application. What helped me get over the hard points in preparing for the GMAT is always keeping my eyes focused on the goal. You are expected to sacrifice free time and that is normal. It can be a daunting task, but if you stay focused on the big picture and be disciplined with your preparation, it will get easier. In other words, know why you are pursuing the MBA and you can do this.

What is your initial impression of the Vanderbilt Owen students/culture/community?
It is honestly better than I could have ever expected! The size of the entering MBA cohort is smaller than similar top programs and that is a net positive in terms of the overall experience. First of all, you get to know pretty much every one of your classmates. Plus, you get to have a closer relationship with professors and career management staff. A lot of schools claim that they have a “tight knit” community, but that is a true statement here. Vanderbilt’s alumni are quick to respond to questions and offer feedback to us first-year students. A community that goes above and beyond in maintaining close contact with the school is the best sign for a healthy culture. 

What is one thing you have learned about Vanderbilt Owen that has surprised you?
There are two things that have surprised me in a positive way, and they are interconnected: First, the fact that the school constantly expands and has a clear goal of delivering top-notch education. And secondly, I was impressed by how involved Dean Johnson is! He takes his role seriously and you can tell he and the whole staff devote their whole energy in creating a thriving environment for students.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
Regarding my application documents, I was fortunate enough to take my GMAT right before the pandemic began, so I did not experience any of the hurdles associated with that. In the time leading to the application deadline, I experienced a lot of changes in my former workplace, as we had to adjust to this global phenomenon with work-from-home initiatives and the sort. As for the application process itself, I had to do all calls and interviews virtually, but by that point I had grown comfortable with Zoom meetings. I would say the hardest part, if anything, was the time difference between Greece and Nashville!

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I would lie if I said balancing academics with recruiting is not tough. It is a challenge, but a very welcome one! A cynical way of viewing business school is concentrating purely on getting your dream job, but the school’s curriculum has a lot of valuable skills to offer. I haven’t been to school in a long time and naturally this takes some getting used to, but we have hit the ground running and I love the opportunity to learn and grow. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Honestly, getting immersed in the American culture and meeting new people! Everyone is extremely friendly and the fact we have all gone through pretty much the same thing (application-wise) creates a bond that leads to some great relationships. 

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.