At The Art of Applying, we recognize that you have choices when it comes to getting help, support, and guidance with your MBA, JD, and policy graduate school applications. The way that we approach the application process is a bit different than others, and it may not be a good fit for everyone. However, we think that the best way to understand what our particular program has to offer is by hearing about the experiences of our clients.
Our client David V. is one of the most successful clients we’ve worked with. Not only was he accepted to all three of the prestigious business schools that he applied to, but he also received a tremendous amount of funding.
What’s more is that Kaneisha and the team at The Art of Applying helped him discover a new career path that allows him to pursue his passions while making a positive impact on the world.
You can watch Kaneisha’s interview with David here, or keep reading to hear his story:
David’s Story: How He Got to Where He is Today
David grew up in a single-parent household in Brooklyn, New York. As a low-income student and person of color, things weren’t always easy for him. With the help of great mentors growing up, David worked hard and excelled in school. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Economics, he worked in investment banking at Bank of America for two years and then moved to Los Angeles to work with a private equity firm for two years.
While he was in Los Angeles, David’s girlfriend, Jasmine attending a speaking event in New York hosted by The Art of Applying. After meeting Kaneisha and loving her energy, Jasmine thought it would be a great opportunity for David to connect with Kaneisha to learn more about the application process.
Initially, David set up a call with Kaneisha to talk about his goals. He knew it would be a great fit for him because Kaneisha was candid with him about the process and the work that is required to succeed. He was proactive – reaching out to ask for help a year before his deadlines in September 2016 so that he could start working with the team in January 2017. He later received his admission decisions in December 2017.
The results? David applied to three business schools and got into all three: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (where he received a full tuition Knight-Hennessy Scholarship as the first class of fellows), Harvard Business School, and University of Pennsylvania Wharton (where he also got a full tuition scholarship).
Why Get Help with the Application Process?
Like many individuals who are thinking about applying to MBA programs, David knew he needed help and support with the application process. Though he went to an Ivy League university for undergrad and was successful, he recognized that navigating MBA programs was different and so was the level of competition.
“When you’re competing at the MBA level, it’s not just about academics or work experience or your personal story. It’s a holistic approach. And I knew that I had a story to tell that may be a unique from most applicants or at least would help me stand apart from applicants with a similar background in finance,” David says.
“So I knew that I needed to have someone in my corner who understood how I can craft my story and most effectively sell myself and cement the brand that I was hoping to show the business schools. I thought it was going to be valuable and it really was.”
For David, the GMAT was a bit terrifying. When he first contacted The Art of Applying, he had not yet taken the test and wasn’t sure how it was going to go. But the team helped David recognize that his GMAT scores were just one part of the total package. There were many other aspects of his application that were under his control and made him a competitive candidate.
“I had the misconception that I needed a perfect GMAT score. That there was no other way that I could get into my dream schools. Ultimately, I did well. But even before that, working with The Art of Applying put me at ease that there were other things in my story, things that I hadn’t even considered, that would help me stand out.”
More Than Just MBA Consulting
David initially contacted Kaneisha for help with the application process, but ended up getting much more out of his experience with The Art of Applying. When he first started working with Kaneisha, he was considering a JD-MBA. Though the prestige of this degree choice appealed to him, he didn’t have a clear sense of what he wanted to do with his career.
After having a candid conversation with Kaneisha, David started to really think about the path he wanted to take and decided on impact investing, which would allow him to utilize the knowledge and skillset he gained through his finance career to make a social impact, something that was close to his heart. Before they even talked about applications or schools, they talked about him making a transition from finance to the nonprofit world. By helping him with his transition at work from a finance job to a fellowship position at SEO (Seizing Every Opportunity, a nonprofit that helps underrepresented college students get prestigious internships in finance and consulting, of which both David and The Art of Applying’s founder Kaneisha are alumni), Kaneisha and The Art of Applying team helped inform how he thought about the future.
More than just insight into his career choices, Kaneisha gave him the confidence and support he needed to make that jump successfully and still be as compelling, if not a more compelling, as an MBA applicant.
“As I started to work with The Art of Applying, I started to see the benefit of the skillset that I have. I started to see why my story mattered and how it impacted where I’m at today. Through the exploration process and iterations of my story, I transitioned from thinking I’d follow a traditional finance path to focusing on impact investing – which allows me to merge my passions of social change and making an impact through finance.”
The Art of Applying Difference
Receiving funding from his dream schools has changed the way that David looks at his career. Instead of feeling like he needs to go into his job to pay off debt or find a job that offers prestige, he can now focus on making an impact while he’s completing his degree.
When David first became the inaugural fellow at SEO, he initially looked at the opportunity as a step back in his career. In fact, other consultants and MBA consulting businesses told David that his story was now in jeopardy and he wasn’t as competitive as an applicant by transitioning from finance to nonprofit.
But The Art of Applying didn’t see it that way. And neither did David.
“David spoke to other companies, and they discouraged him from doing what his heart wanted to do. That’s a major difference between The Art of Applying and other organizations. We are a heart-centered company,” says The Art of Applying CEO, Kaneisha Grayson.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t operate out of logic or strategy. But we don’t elevate strategy above a person’s holistic wellbeing. What’s the use of getting into a top school if you get there pretending to be someone you’re not? That’s an important value of The Art of Applying.”
David’s final piece of advice for students or working individuals who are thinking about business school?
“It’s never too early to jump into this process. Don’t hesitate if you feel like it’s something you want to pursue. It’s something I’ve always thought about even if half-heartedly at first. But I started early enough that I had time to study for GMAT. It’s never too early to start because at the very least, you’ll find out if this is for you or not. Seeking guidance is always the smart way to go.”