Pre-MBA Conferences: What I Learned

A few posts ago, I put together a list of pre-MBA conferences that are happening this summer and fall all around the US (and internationally!). I had the pleasure of attending two of these conferences last year and found them incredibly valuable.

So here are some application tips lovingly curated for you from last year’s Forté Foundation MBA Women’s Leadership Conference and Riordan Diversity MBA Admissions Conference.

Forté Conference 2014

The Forté Foundation conference is geared towards women who have already been accepted to MBA programs and are about to enter their first year of school. There’s a job fair and a lot of content about internships, but also general sessions that are more broadly applicable. Some highlights:

  • Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone. This Robert Allen quote came from Cindy Solomon’s great keynote about courage. It’s a reminder to push through the challenges of applying to business school (and of moving, which I’m dealing with now) to find out what’s at the end of the rainbow.
  • Adaptive Competition. From Ashley Merryman’s session about the science of winning and losing. Adaptive competition is about using others as reference points and focusing on your improvement, not on outcome. Note other applicants’ strengths and see how you can elevate yourself to be in the same league.
  • Don’t hold back because you’re not perfect. Another (rather self-explanatory) gem from Ashley Merryman. If you have a low GMAT score or some other red or yellow flag in your application, face it head-on — chances are you will be able to mitigate it.
  • Embrace failure. Angela Guido from mbaMission / MBA Career Coaches did a really wonderful session about failure stories. Failure is hard to talk about, especially for type-A overachievery types, but conflict and failure are how we learn and grow. Focus on your growth.

Riordan DMAC 2014

This year’s DMAC conference is coming up in August at UCLA Anderson. If you’re in the area, I totally recommend going — you’ll get exposure to adcoms from a ton of great schools. These tips are from adcoms and current students; they’re a bit broad but good to remember as you apply:

  • Everyone really wants you to reflect. Self-reflection is a huge part of the MBA application process, and its importance came up in every single session. Take the time to understand your strengths, weaknesses, and ideal environment. And invite adcoms into your self-reflection process through your application.
  • Have questions. I’m not into the “ask the adcoms clever questions to get them to remember you” bit, but I had a few questions going into this event for recon and as a safety net in case I had an awkward silent pause with an adcom. Also a great time to test out questions you could ask during your admish interviews!
  • Go granular. Many many many adcom folks at this event stressed that applicants should look beyond one-size-fits-all rankings info and look at specific resources that each school offers that will help them reach their goals, like cross-enrollment, pre-term quant reviews, and student clubs.
  • Keep an open mind. These events are a great opportunity to casually check out programs you haven’t heard of before or aren’t familiar with. Feel free to explore and meet folks representing those programs — it’s also a great opportunity to practice acting like a normal person around adcoms.

In the Rearview

Awesome info aside, what were the most valuable things I got out of these conferences?

  • Friends! I met MBA students at the Forté conference who kicked off a crazy whirlwind of valuable informational interviews. And at the DMAC, I connected with a recent Indiana Kelley grad who (like me) had an entertainment background and was pivoting back into the industry post-MBA.
  • (But no adcom friends.) I’m pretty shy, y’all, so I had a hard time being a normal (yup, that’s a noun) around adcoms. I reached out to one Kellogg rep but didn’t really build a relationship with him after the event. So if you don’t come out of these conferences with a thousand adcom BFFs, you’ll still be okay!
  • Road-testing my story. Every time you introduce yourself to a current student, adcom, or MBA grad, you are creating an opportunity to test-drive your story and see how people react to your background and goals. I learned that my background is pretty unusual and definitely piques people’s interest.
  • Getting my head in the game. I’m the kind of gal who will skip working out on my own but will show up if other people will be there sweating right along with me. Being around so many aspiring MBAs reminded me why I was applying and gave me the motivation to keep working towards my goals.

Want to experience the magic for yourself? Check out some upcoming events!

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.


2 thoughts on “Pre-MBA Conferences: What I Learned

  1. Jackie says:

    Super late reply but thanks! 😀 A good thing to remember in the first few weeks of school too (and of an amazing new job as well?). So many new things!


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