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Ask the Expert: Essential MBA Lessons From a Ross Graduate

We had an e-coffee with admissions consultant Will Zupan to learn about his time in Michigan Ross, the essential lessons he learned and the valuable tips he has to help students in the MBA process.

 

Born in California, Will has spent time in the West Coast as well as in Arizona and Rochester, NY. In college, he majored in History with an emphasis on Latin American Studies at Santa Clara University. When he graduated, he wanted to see some of the countries he had studied and also wanted to become fluent in Spanish. So he came to Argentina with the plan of teaching English for one year. Yet, in 2019, 5 years later, he was still living in Buenos Aires (a common expat storyline that many Merchant employees know all too well).

 

Fast forward to 2021: Will has just finished his MBA at Michigan Ross. He loved the campus from the first day he arrived. “The town is based on the university, so you have all these bars and restaurants, it’s a college town. A huge university population,” he says. 

 

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

Back in 2016, after my year teaching English in Buenos Aires, my business partner and I took over the company Road2Argentina Immersion Programs. Road2Argentina is an experiential learning organization located in Buenos Aires, that offers immersion programs for international students including: internships, volunteering, university semesters/study abroad, and Spanish language classes. After negotiating the acquisition with the company’s founder, my responsibilities as co-owner involved building and managing business partnerships with both Argentine host companies and external universities in the US, UK, and other countries. We placed more than 1,600 students from 41 different countries.

 

Our business in Buenos Aires was doing very well. We had taken over a company that had zero profitability. We’d already identified parts of the business that could be improved and made more efficient. And we did very well implementing these changes. But we reached a point where, because of my background in History and my partner’s background in International Relations, we weren’t growing as fast as I thought the business was capable of.

 

I wanted a proper education in business, to know more about marketing, to build my quantitative skills, data analytics, finance, etc. I had also been in Argentina for 5 years at that point and I wanted to be closer to family and friends back in the US. Getting the MBA was a combination of those factors. 

 

What was the biggest challenge as an MBA applicant?

I think putting together my stories and finding unity throughout the whole process was really challenging for me. It helped having a consultant, someone who could see everything from the outside and give me guidelines to make my application stronger. 

 

What was the biggest challenge as an MBA student?

 

Once I started the program, the recruiting process was very challenging. As an MBA student, 50% of your energy is dedicated to networking, interviewing, learning about opportunities, etc.

 

You are always doing that while you perform your academic duties. It was a little overwhelming at the beginning but in b-school you also learn an important skill: prioritize tasks and organize your time efficiently. 

 

How was your experience with the internships?

At Ross, in the 4th quarter of the first year they connect groups of students with companies. There are a lot of action-based learning opportunities and that is another reason why I chose the school. I worked with a rental car company, a clothing company from Uruguay, a medical device company from Denmark; I was all over the place! The rental car company was part of what is called MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Projects) course. The other 2 were summer internships. It is a little unusual because students generally do 1 summer internship, but I wanted to experience all I could! I’ll remember many things from the classes but what I’ll remember most are the things I applied in these projects. 

Regarding the recruiting process and interviews, there is a crucial feature of Ross: its collaborative aspect. Even though you are competing with each other for jobs, everyone helps each other. When I was looking into internships and doing case interviews, I practiced with my peers, we gave each other advice, and we exchanged points of view. 

 

How was your involvement with clubs?

When you first start, they tell you that participating in 3-4 clubs is ideal. I took active part in the Consulting Club, the Latinamerican Business Association, and the Soccer Club mainly. I signed up for 6 or 7 clubs but those I mentioned are the ones in which I participated the most.

 

Professional clubs are very important because they help you with interviews and the recruiting process. Socially speaking, outside of the classroom, clubs are the top way you meet people.

 

I think it’s a good thing to spend the summer before starting the MBA thinking about the clubs you are interested in, the classes you want to take, etc. because once school starts you get bombarded with all this information and everything looks amazing. It’s hard to decide how to allocate your time.

I was lucky because I did my first year before Covid hit, so I made a lot of friends and connections before lockdown and staying in touch was very easy. The social aspect may be a little challenging for this year’s cohort. 

 

As an Admissions Consultant, what would you advise to our students?

 

I think that networking is the most important step of the process.

 

You have to talk to current students of the programs you are interested in. They will tell you what the distinctive features of each program and school are. Even if it might be a little odd to talk to a stranger, it is good to keep in mind that people who are going through the experience have been in your shoes before, so, generally speaking, everyone wants to help. Alumni and Admissions Representatives are also good sources of information in order to choose the schools that best fit your personality and your goals.

 

 


If you need help with the GMAT or the admissions process we can help.  For more information on our different GMAT products see:

  • GMAT private classes – see the stories of Will, Teddy, Jessica and Nico and how they approached their GMAT journey with Merchant.
  • Merchant Academy – a GMAT teaching innovation that makes taking the GMAT, like an MBA. Click to find out more about the Merchant Academy format.
  • Merchant GMAT Hall of Fame – a gallery of some of our clients over the last eight years.

For admissions help see some of the client stories on our admissions page.

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Tim Jackson

Director of Student Success

- "Preparing for the GMAT and applying for an MBA requires a tremendous commitment, and that doesn’t take into consideration the personal challenges our students must face when deciding if they want to leave their friends, families, and native cultures behind to advance their careers abroad. An MBA is not for everyone and that’s precisely what makes this advanced degree so valuable. 

For these reasons, we at Merchant only work with students we are confident have what it takes to succeed throughout the preparation and application processes.

Given an increased demand in our services, we do not have the ability to offer free consultation services to unserious applicants. If you are interested in learning more about Merchant, please fill out this form. After reviewing your LinkedIn profile, our team will be in touch with you if we feel you are a good fit for our services."