One Student's Journey to William & Mary

It’s really a big move to go back to school after working for 7 years in the offshore oil & gas sector. The MBA application process is not only about submitting written materials online, but also a unique experience, especially for an international applicant just like me. If you are interested in pursuing the same path but don’t know where to start, I hope my tips below will be helpful.

Do Your Research

Do not fight the battle unprepared. It’s irresponsible (and impossible) to apply for a business school that you know nothing about. Dive into the school website, join online forums in your country, and reach out to school alumni to get more information. To support my search, I built an Excel document that included school ranking, tuition, reputation, location, class size, employment statistics, average TOEFL/GMAT score, international student composition, and unique program features.

Attend MBA Events in Your Home Country

After you have finished your homework on schools, it’s time to meet the admissions directors and other prospective students. Bring good questions, get information that you cannot find online, and show your passion and personality thorough your face-to-face conversation. A well prepared candidate always leaves a great first impression. Believe it or not, after 2-minutes of conversation with an admission director, you will find out whether you belong there.

Reach out to Alumni

While there is an abundance of information from official sources, alumni will provide a genuine “user experience” from another perspective, including campus life, peer review, and in general how it feels like to become an MBA. If you are still having trouble to select your target schools, this is a good way to narrow down your list.

Standardized Test Scores

In general for standardized test scores, the higher the better. However if your scores are not competitive, you can still leverage other strengths. Remember that it’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play your hand. Show your passion, vision, and determination! Grab every opportunity to let the school know that you are uniquely different from other applicants. Share your leadership and eagerness to explore!


Draft your essay early and ask people from different professional backgrounds to review it and give their feedbacks. Unlike writing an academic paper, composing a perfect-written essay is a process of self-scrutinizing and an overhaul of your life journey. It touches your soul to the extent that every time you read it, you feel vulnerable but gain a clearer vision of what kind of life you want, and who you want to be in the future.


Show time! After all the preparation you’ve done, you are on the big stage now. Be confident, and emit your warmth, energy and personality! Think it not an application interview but a conversation with a new mentor. Tell him/her about your ambitious life journey and why you prefer the rough road, the adventure by choice. Also prepare some good questions with you, because the interviewer will know that you’ve done your homework and that the program really means a lot to you.

Mutual Fit

Last, but most important, is the mutual “fit factor” - what can this MBA program give you, and what can you give back to the MBA program? Hopefully you have answered the first half of this question in your school research. About the second part, ask yourself these questions: What skills/experience/mindset/diversity can you bring with you to infuse into the program that you are applying for? Why are you exactly the right candidate that the business school desires?

Fun Fact about Carl

I cycled to the Tibetan Plateau, twice (2014 and 2016). Each journey was over 1,300 miles, with 10 mountain passes over 13,000 feet. Though I suffered from both altitude stress and ultraviolet radiation, I described my trip as "body in the hell, eyes in the heaven". Sunburnt may have been my skin, but never burned out was my passion: those experiences unlocked my perseverance and passion, which I have incorporated into my academic and work life ever since those journeys. The world is ahead!