After pursuing rigorous undergraduate degree programs at both Wellesley College and USC, one of our students sought admission to some of the most selective and impactful MBA graduate programs in the country. Our student, Sarah Ifrah, found her business school admissions process eye-opening, transformative, challenging, and rewarding. Sarah was happy to share her story with the Rainbow Tutoring family, providing us with a generous and illuminating interview about her process. See below for her unique insights, personally-tailored preparation experiences, key observations, bold choices, and advice for other students seeking admissions to their dream schools.
Rainbow has had the privilege of mentoring Sarah throughout her MBA admissions trajectory. Sarah’s steadfast commitment, perseverance, creativity, self-awareness, and authenticity have all paid off! She’s having a stellar first semester at the University of Chicago’s Booth School.
1. What was your biggest fear going into the MBA application process, and what helped you to overcome it?
My greatest fear by far, was whether or not I would be able to weather the storm of difficult events in my personal life to be able to remain focused on my goal of bettering myself through getting into a top MBA program. I lacked the confidence in myself and in my own abilities, and at the time I had hit a mental roadblock due to personal traumas I was dealing with. I was unable to focus on my GMAT studies, or even to write essays. I like to call both Cindy and Avriel my ‘Zen Masters’ because they helped me to overcome the emotional pain and dark place I was experience and to truly discover who I am and what I want. They taught me that I must find the answers and motivation in myself, no one else. They were patient, compassionate, and not only talked me through my obstacles, but helped me realize that the best cure for my situation was to bring the focus back to myself.
2. What was your dream acceptance program and why?
The Chicago Booth MBA program. I had read quite a bit about Nobel Prize winner Eugene Fama who was a University of Chicago Graduate and now teaches there. I learned about the way he thought, and the incredible breadth of his intellect, I realized that I wanted this kind of intellectual stimulation, and to be taught by professors like him. Chicago Booth is known for its intellectual atmosphere, high number of Nobel Laureates and Mathematical thinkers who have changed the world of Finance.
3. What did you do to prepare for your MBA application season?
I studied relentlessly, in fact three years for the GMAT, and took a long break in between when I hit my emotional roadblock. I created an excel schedule of deadlines for various applications and letters of recommendation.
4. What kind of help did you get, including from your counselors/parents/Rainbow Tutoring/etc. What was the most helpful advice/guidance that you got and why?
I worked with both Mike (GMAT tutor) from Rainbow and Avriel, who helped me create an excel spreadsheet of my university choices, with columns for professor correspondence, as well as tuition costs, essay questions, and so forth. She also gave me the greatest gift: rediscovering my passion for writing. By planting this seed of inspiration within me, Avriel helped my inner writer come out and to write uninhibited, honest essays. She herself is an incredible writer, and she made the essay writing process so enjoyable! Cindy gave me advice and positive support, becoming one of my life mentors. My parents gave me tough love: My mom told me she wanted a set deadline for the GMAT and the applications no matter what. This deadline is one of the essential elements I kept in mind and helped me to commit to my goals. The guidance and advice I got was this: while everyone would try to help, I was the only one that could truly help myself. Too many girls are taught that they need the ‘prince’ from the fairytales to rescue them. One day I just woke up and thought to myself: the ‘Prince’ is just a literary symbol; the princess needs to rescue herself. Once others see that you are willing to help yourself, and rescue yourself from a difficult situation, they will be inspired to be your mentors and help you along the way. This idea of helping myself gave me the drive and discipline I needed to run the homestretch in my MBA race: whip through GMAT books and write essays by deadlines and in the end to submit everything in a very short period of time.
5. If you were to give advice to someone who also wants to get into an MBA program, what would you tell her or him?
You will have those who are going to help you along the way, as well as books that tell you what to do…but in the end, the choices, and the answers are within you. Meditate, spend some time thinking about what you want and how you want to achieve it.
6. How has working with Rainbow Tutoring transformed you?
Rainbow Tutoring has given me the academic and personal tools to make me stronger as a person, to love learning, and to find the joy in every academic endeavor.
7. What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome while applying, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle was testing anxiety and fear of failure. I kept thinking I would not get into any school I applied or that I would not even be able to finish the GMAT. I overcame it through positive thinking, meditation, and mindfulness. I had been reading many books on Zen meditation at the time, which taught me to conquer my thoughts and stay in the moment, focusing on the next step in front of me, not worrying whether I would fail or not. Besides, what did I have to lose?
8. Now that you’re in, how have things been going for you at Chicago Booth?
I am thrilled to be here at Chicago Booth. This was my first choice school to attend and I’m loving every minute of my experience here. I was worried that I wouldn’t keep up, but the tools that I learned with my Rainbow Tutoring educators have really helped me to keep my focus and drive. The teachers here are also incredibly talented and giving. I’ve also joined a study group, which has helped me to stay motivated and clarify any questions that I have had in class. I feel like I really fit in here and have found my home. I’m so grateful to Rainbow Tutoring for giving me the courage and strength to keep going when I didn’t think it was possible. I’m so lucky!
*Name has been changed to protect student’s anonymity so that she can continue her focus on her studies.