What I’ve learned during my MBA Application  

Finally the “introduction chapter” is coming to an end. The results so far have matched my expectations, especially when I made it all in the latest round. I got admitted with scholarships to all four schools I’ve applied:

– Beedie School of Business (Simon Fraser): MBA: Admitted with $
– Schulich (York University): MBA in Arts & Media Administration: Admitted with $$
All are top 10 business schools in Canada


– Lindner School of Business (University of Cincinnati) with College – Conservatory of Music (CCM): MBA/MA in Arts Management: Admitted with $
– COX School of Business (Souther Methodist University) with Meadows School of the Arts: MBA/MA in Arts Management: Admitted with $$$ + Forte Fellowship + $ (last minute)

( FYI: CCM has also become one of the largest repositories of Steinway pianos outside the company’s Long Island City, N.Y.-based factory.In the most recent rankings by U.S. News and World Report, CCM was honored as the sixth top university program in the country for pursuing a graduate degree in music. In 2011, CCM was recognized as Ohio’s first Center of Excellence in Music and Theatre Arts by the Ohio Board of Regents.

SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, together with SDA Bocconi, offers a Master degree covering the arts market, marketing for cultural enterprises and strategy. Students spend 3 terms in Dallas, and a term in Milan.)

I hope to shed a little much-needed honesty on something that gets massively overlooked in the application books. Excuse me for no tactics here, just the mere ramblings when reflecting on my application journey :) .  

  1. Know your strong Why and stick to it

Aim for what suitable, do not aim for what sounds impressive. By the time I applied, I was already crystal clear about my greatest “Why”. I’m not delusional or manipulated by US News Rankings, Forbes, Poets and Quants, The Economist, etc. I wasn’t pulling my hair to scrutinize reviews after reviews. I knew the deciding factor was the major of Arts Management and the job market. The truth is: I didn’t even know how the rankings of the schools I’ve applied vary over these years. To be honest, I didn’t care about the admission tendency of those schools. I don’t see the degree as simply a quantifiable, financial investment (like buying bonds or stocks), which I will elaborate later on. Still, I don’t believe in making up a reason to sound noble. Any reason is perfectly fine, as long as your WHY is strong enough. In my case, top-notch facilities and location matter a lot (Art students have a high expectation of the facilities, which is reasonable). When you’re certain of what you want and where you stand, you can effortlessly quiet all the background noises: your peer pressure, your relatives’ gossips, other schools’ attractions, etc.  Life is made easy :).

  1. Be resilient, but Move on with what “good enough”

In other words, strive for excellence, not for perfection. I wasn’t lucky with the GMAT score. The low score tore me down, but I didn’t have time to get upset and delay any longer while the final deadline was very near. I knew my essays could be better but by the time I hit submit, I believed I did my best and released myself from the pressure of holding too long on something unfinished. The perfect essay is the essay you actually submitted, not the one that was rewritten endlessly in-your-mind.

  1. Take it very personal

I couldn’t stress enough on the importance of this. It made all differences for me. I took time to have conversation many times with the Admission Committees and alumni of Schulich and SMU (my top priorities). In the conference “Make a difference” in Hong Kong on early February, I had the opportunity to attend the speech of Rick Lowe, who happened to be a professor in Meadows School of the Arts. His sharing about Community Art in Dallas shredded some light to my essay of Why School. I wrote almost a new essay to every single school I’ve applied to. Yes, that sounds crazy I know.  The copy-and-paste method may work for lots of stellar applicants  since the choices of School do not differ much, but my case doesn’t apply. Besides, as I held strong focus in limited number of schools, I treated every application with highest attention.

  1. Don’t go left or go right, just go straight

There are times when I felt like drifting away: the documents process screwed up, the time didn’t work in my favor, but I was so fortunate to have met with very helpful Admission Committees. I went ahead and self-reported to the schools how I regretted that my low GMAT score wouldn’t allow me to apply in January 2015. I immediately notified them of my next appointment to retake the GMAT. The admission committees were of tremendous help, and even agreed to waive my GMAT score. Another time when my online LOR couldn’t make it to the school at the given date, the Admission committee was so helpful to put it on hold. I’ve learned that if any issues arise, don’t beat around the bush, don’t get paralyzed, just go straight and reach out to the schools for assistance!

  1. Set your heart right, everything else will fall into places

I didn’t get caught up in other people’s stories. I didn’t read many Essay books or join many MBA talkshows. I knew that preparation is another form of procrastination. Will preparation ever be sufficient? I doubt this.
It may be my shortcoming not to project my plan onto any benchmark. Indeed, in the two art schools, I’m the only Vietnamese applicant so far. But I was also grateful not to dismiss myself from the potential and the promises of the new opportunity I were presented to.
I was fortunate to start by choosing my dream major. That choice leads me to appealing locations and lastly leads to prestigious schools’ names. Had I not follow my calling, I wouldn’t have ended up with that much luck. I would have entangled myself in endless possibilities forever. It’s not about the degree, it’s about investing 2 years of my life, youth, energy, and hope to walk the unknown, and land the uncertainty. While money can be earned later, nothing can buy back the sense of belonging into 2 youthful years of your life.

Just once in awhile what sounds too good to be true, actually can turn out to be too good to be true. Don’t bounce back!

I may not follow any common-sense advice, but I’m happy that in the end I pulled it through. Well, what I most want out of this application journey? I want it to finish so that my life will pick up a new pace. I’m glad to carry on with choices, not to mention mistakes and coincidences that imply a brand new beginning. Again, it’s just the very beginning.

Swim on.




  1. Congrats and all the best on this journey!! :)

    1. Thanks Jer, the road ahead is so much interesting :).

  2. Thanh Pham says:

    Thanks for sharing and congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you! :)

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