Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why I Am Fighting for Admission into MBA

I will never, ever  sell myself short. I will never feel too desperate as to succumb. I will never put too much importance on other people's opinions that come from uninformed assumptions of who I am. No one knows me but ME. In my darkest times of self-doubt, I stood my ground and triumphed.

Is this a humble brag piece? Yes. Because I need to do this right now...
Image courtesy of

I received dispiriting feedback on my MBA application last week. After waiting nearly a month for response post-submission of all requirements, and doing my own follow up, I was told I am not accepted because my cumulative average in College did not meet the minimum grade requirement. Wait...what?

There it was, in one short email. All 2-3 sentences, coming from an impersonal email address.  I had been waiting anxiously for weeks. I started 2015 with goals; this being one of them. So hopeful! I started to arrange my personal schedule around anticipating class schedule. At that moment, I felt like someone has done the "Ice Bucket Challenge" on me.

First off, I graduated in 1989. That was a long time ago. While I did not receive all A's, I was no slop, either. I earned As and B+s on subjects that mattered -- major subjects toward my double degrees in Communications and Marketing Management. Not just in academics, I was also active in extracurricular activities, heading a few Clubs and a duly-elected Officer of the Student Council. I was one of the more visible students.  While I was not a Cum Laude grad, I had the privilege of delivering our Commencement Welcome Address.  That was a feat! Other than the Cum Laude who delivered the Commencement Message, I bested others who were graduating with more distinction.

Second, I have a fruitful career and have grown much as a professional since then.  My work, reputation and network, both in the Philippines and now in the US, speak for my qualifications. Eleven years after graduating, I started my MBA in Manila, paying my own tuition, and earned grades no lower than B+.  I was one of the top 10 in the qualifying GPA exam prior to starting.  Career-wise, I was then Asst. Vice President for a medium-sized IT VAR. A year later, I left for the US and have been looking for an opportunity to finish my MBA since finally re-establishing myself professionally.

Fast-forward to 2015 and I now have an opportunity to do so. Why an MBA? Why now when it does not seem like I have anything to prove?  Well, I do. As an immigrant, it is my first opportunity to study in a US institution. I believe earning this MBA proves to myself, foremost, that I have what it takes to break the perception of not being good enough or at par with my peers.  I want to break the proverbial "bamboo ceiling".  I want to add another layer of credibility to my professional accomplishments. Truthfully, it may also help me break though the salary barrier.

The most important part is this MBA is part of my employment benefits.  I am technically an employee of this university as I head a department of their non-profit.  Thus, the studies are nearly free.  I will not have this opportunity elsewhere. I can never afford it. I know that now after working here for 12 years.

This MBA degree is a part of my life goal.  If I had a shortlist of 5 before I kick the bucket, this is ONE of them.

I am appealing this feedback. My credentials need to be re-evaluated as a whole and not for its parts.  The students of this MBA program are mostly fresh graduates.  They may have A's but I certainly have a lot of value to bring to the table. I know the decision was not personal; the Admissions person just went through the motions. Yet, what of the post-grad Transcript? What of my references from Presidents of US businesses, no less? What of my Statement of Purpose? What of my own job performance in my current role?  I simply feel that I was not evaluated on the entire qualifications set.

I have always been proud of my attitude towards learning.  I spend for short courses, register for certificate courses online, attend free work seminars on personal and leadership development; anything that will help me sharpen the saw. I have a hunger for learning.

Last night, I saw a 2008 documentary entitled:  "Pressure Cooker". In it,  students of Philadelphia's Frankford High School compete in a city-wide culinary competition to gain scholarship to pursue College. Every single one of the students is deserving. Every single one has a strong reason to go to College.  I, however, identified with the African immigrant, Fatoumata Dembele.  In the competition interview she was asked how she compares school life at Frankford with that in Africa. Getting a bit choked up, she shares that in Frankford, she enjoys bus tokens, fee lunch food and good education. Why would she not make the best of these privileges she did not get in Africa?

I feel the same way. In my job, I get this special privilege, this benefit that comes from my employment. This benefit that enables me to fulfill one of my life goals. Why would I waste it? I will probably earn it more than most of the students getting into the program.

So help me God.