Business Casual: How To Apply To (and Then Pay For) Business School

Kendall is a former fashion editor who has written for NYmag.com, Lucky, InStyle, and NBC. She recently scrapped that glamorous life and is pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan, in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. Hey guys! Business Casual is back! This time, I’ve got tips for applications and, by commenter Shyema A’s request, ideas for financing your MBA, too. Let’s imagine you’ve just finished the GMAT, pressed enter and—voila!—your score pops up instantly. You’re either elated or deflated. Being the-Céline-shopper-is-half-full-types, we’ll assume it’s the former. You head home and over the next few days, catch up with friends you missed during your sad GMAT studying and soak up some Bravo marathons. Life, it seems, returns to normal. (Insert the sound of the other Theyskens’ Theory wedge dropping).
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Kendall is a former fashion editor who has written for NYmag.com, Lucky, InStyle, and NBC. She recently scrapped that glamorous life and is pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan, in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. Hey guys! Business Casual is back! This time, I’ve got tips for applications and, by commenter Shyema A’s request, ideas for financing your MBA, too. Let’s imagine you’ve just finished the GMAT, pressed enter and—voila!—your score pops up instantly. You’re either elated or deflated. Being the-Céline-shopper-is-half-full-types, we’ll assume it’s the former. You head home and over the next few days, catch up with friends you missed during your sad GMAT studying and soak up some Bravo marathons. Life, it seems, returns to normal. (Insert the sound of the other Theyskens’ Theory wedge dropping).
Photo: Martini/ BeyondBostonChic.com

Photo: Martini/ BeyondBostonChic.com

Kendall is a former fashion editor who has written for NYmag.com, Lucky, InStyle, and NBC. She recently scrapped that glamorous life and is pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan, in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur.

Hey guys! Business Casual is back! This time, I’ve got tips for applications and, by commenter Shyema A’s request, ideas for financing your MBA, too.

Let’s imagine you’ve just finished the GMAT, pressed enter and—voila!—your score pops up instantly. You’re either elated or deflated. Being the-Céline-shopper-is-half-full-types, we’ll assume it’s the former. You head home and over the next few days, catch up with friends you missed during your sad GMAT studying and soak up some Bravo marathons. Life, it seems, returns to normal. (Insert the sound of the other Theyskens’ Theory wedge dropping).

Far too quickly, it’s application time. These are beasts, and I didn’t do myself any favors applying to seven schools (fashion editors like options!). So I’ve asked a couple potentially wiser friends to weigh in here as well. Learn from them!

The big points to consider with applications are: where are you applying, recommendations and essays. As for the first step, Jessica Zen, formerly of Madewell and now at MIT Sloan, explains, “I first thought that I'd want to apply to roughly five billion schools—don't make that mistake! Hone in on what you want to get out of the program and what schools can offer that.” A smaller number of schools means you can spend more time perfecting each application. Email current students or alumni, sit in on a class—get a good read on the school. Plus, as Jessica continues, “The people you ask to write your recommendations might faint if you hand them an intimidatingly long list of tasks and deadlines.”

Unlike people in fields where going to business school is quite common, our bosses may not realize just how much work recommendations are (spoiler alert: a TON!). To make your boss’s life easier, pass him or her a list of your work accomplishments and important anecdotes. For extra busy bosses, it’s worth writing an outline that they can tailor to their liking (which basically means an extra essay for you—hurray!).

Speaking of essays, spend as much time framing what to write about as you do weaving the words together. You want to be creative and original, but everyone else does, too. You may have run a marathon, but there are other candidates that have too…three times…raising $10,000 for a children’s charity…they founded...living in Namibia. You get the idea. You’re competing against a talented, global pool. Don’t immediately default to the grandest things you’ve done and instead consider the most personal.

You’ll also need to clearly map out your future plans. Admissions committees want to see drive and purpose. So your answer to the question why do you want an MBA is crucial. Becca Aronson, Lucky magazine’s former Associate Accessories Editor and current Wharton student, notes, “There is not always a clear connection between the fashion world and an MBA. Focus on what an MBA can do for you and to show why an MBA is essential for you to realize your career goals. Many schools are starting to embrace the retail industry and are welcoming students with this background, but you have to demonstrate why you NEED an MBA.” Even if you don’t think you’ll actually stick with your proposed plan, fake it ‘till you make it. Once accepted, you can sample any number of paths.

Now for the money talk. First off, there are awesome executive business programs. You can keep working and get your degree. Otherwise, know that essentially all of your classmates will be shouldering student loans. The hope is that you spend the money now and make up for it in spades down the road. Still, you can catch some breaks like getting a merit-based fellowship. Check every box on the application that asks if you want to be considered for them. The Forte fellowship, for instance, can pay for up to half of your tuition. Also, some schools financially reward good grades. MIT gives a huge chuck of tuition compensation to students who earn top marks after the first year. Plus, some institutions forgive your loans if you work at a non-profit after graduation. Another available and not terribly time consuming option is being a TA. Those jobs go fast so go after them early in the fall.

As for me, school is officially in session! I already feel very fish-out-of-water with the accounting and data modeling (whatever that is??) and name tag wearing. Come back next month and follow me on Twitter (@kendall_to_go) for updates on how first semester is going. And please post any questions in the comments!