This article originally appeared in the Financial Times.
Victoria Michelotti, MBA Class of 2016
I was sitting at my favourite neighbourhood coffee shop when a hauntingly familiar four-letter word caught the corner of my eye: GMAT. An instinctive wave of panic washed over me. I glanced up to find a studious young woman scribbling equations on scratch paper. It was hard to believe that I was in her shoes exactly one year ago.
“So, when’s the moment of truth?” I asked her. “Excuse me?” she responded, with surprise.
I introduced myself and explained that I had recently been through the MBA application process and was well acquainted with the pile of study guides scattered in front of her.
“Oh, are you in business school?” she asked.
“I am,” I replied. “I just started at NYU Stern.”
To the delight of my new school spirit, she replied that she was considering Stern, and that it was one of her top choices. “But,” she qualified, “I come from a non-traditional background and am still on the fence about whether or not business school is the right decision for me.”
Our stories were similar. I had chewed on the idea of business school for a while before I felt certain that I should pursue it. I knew why I wanted an MBA, but I wondered why an MBA programme would want someone like me, a humanities major who had worked in the arts for years?
I researched, talked to students and alumni, and deliberated for a year or so until one day I came across an article in the Financial Times that discussed the growing number of arts professionals applying to business schools. It was just the momentum I needed to finally schedule my GMAT exam and begin attending admissions events.
That was 2013. Today, I’m a few weeks into my MBA journey and if there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far it’s this: business school is a perfect melting pot of disciplines. If you think you’re from a non-traditional background, you’ll quickly learn that “non-traditional” is a label that does not really exist. My classmates are not only bankers, marketers and consultants, but also doctors, designers, politicians, Olympians, lawyers, veterans, actors, and more. Business schools love candidates from diverse fields. What matters most is the unique perspective you’ll bring to the classroom and the relationships you will build with those around you.
I shared this with my new friend at the coffee shop because I wish it were something I’d learned earlier on in the process. Your educational background and work experience are assets, not liabilities. Don’t let stereotypes and labels discourage you. Be confident in what you’ve accomplished, understand why an MBA is the right path for you, and then go for it.