Consultant Interview

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Mengdan ChuMengdan Chu
Mengdan, a former MBA admissions director at a top-ranked US business school, brings tremendous insight and expertise in the MBA admissions process to her role as an experienced and returning admissions consultant at AGOS. With her most recent eight years of tenure on the admissions committee of a top US business school, Mengdan has reviewed and made decisions on thousands of applications from bright and aspiring professionals and students, among them many hundreds of promising Japanese professionals. Mengdan has visited Japan several times as an admissions officer attending MBA forums and tours in Tokyo, conducting presentations at AGOS, and conversing with Japanese students. She holds a BA in English Literature and Linguistics and MBA in Finance and Corporate Accounting.

Hey, Mengdan, tell us a bit about yourself.

As a first generation Asian American, I personally took the journey that many international students undertake: pursuing top graduate education, achieving personal and professional goals, cultivating a broad international outlook, and solidifying a mature philosophy of life.

Having worked in diverse sectors from a global banking giant to a high-tech powerhouse, a leading environmental organization to a world-class business school, I find my paths converging at this focal point, where I choose to continue my impact on a very personal level with each student who works with me, who aspires to get into that dream school of hers/his. Looking back, I was all on my own when I applied to and studied at the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester, where I got my MBA with a concentration in finance and went on to work in the finance arenas. It is therefore truly rewarding for me now, to be able to leverage my various professional experiences to help guide a prospective student as she/he starts that journey of great learning and growth, right at the first step of applications.

Why did you decide to join AGOS and what has your experience working with Japanese students been like?

I relish the opportunity to communicate with and to provide guidance/advice to a student, thus making a difference in her/his once-in-a-lifetime chance of educational, professional and personal development. AGOS is an ideal platform for me to do that. Having worked closely with AGOS staff when I was an admissions director, I truly appreciate the mission and culture of this organization.

My experience working with Japanese students has been humbling and inspiring. I worked closely with many Japanese students and alumni in my admissions career. I was the first to invite Japanese students to admissions review team, and have worked extensively with Japanese alumni and students to plan for and execute receptions and various admissions events in Tokyo. In addition, I have profound appreciation for Japan and Japanese people. In the globalized world today, Japanese people offer some of the most insightful success examples of merging cultural, historical and economical advancements of mankind. Each Japanese student is distinct and unique while sharing many creative traits and wisdoms.

And you are now a admissions consultant at AGOS. What do you like best about your work?

Having the opportunity to learn about the experiences and ambitions of a highly driven person, and the subsequent opportunity to assist her/him to achieve her/his goals, is something I deem very meaningful.

As an admissions officer, too often I said to myself: “I wish this applicant had told me more about that and spared me on this.” It is therefore quite exciting to now have the opportunity to say that directly to the applicant before she/he clicks the send button to the school.

Furthermore, the relationships that I build with my students always go farther. I love to hear from my students after they’ve been successful in their applications, and even as they prepare for their programs and careers, and beyond.

How would you describe your admissions consulting style?

The application process always is and should be a demanding and time-intensive endeavor. So, I strive to be both thoughtful and direct when working with my students.

The decision to apply and the following application process should be one that is very personal and requires a great deal of introspection. I therefore encourage you to figure out your own personal answers to many seemingly basic and simple "what," "why," "how" questions. You have to convince yourself that the school you apply for is a great fit for you, for the admissions committee to be convinced that you will be a fit for their school. Hence, serious thought and research given to those questions can lay the foundation for a thoughtful and likely more attractive application on the desk of the admissions officer. So please do expect that you will go through that exercise with me as we work together.

I also encourage you to make a plan for the application process and to manage it like your project at work. We need to set clear goals and deadlines to make our work successful, and to not wait till the last minute. We absolutely need to communicate honestly and directly so our work is effective and efficient.

What advice do you have for students who decide to work with you?

Treat your application process as a business case. Strategy-wise, know yourself and the schools; operational-wise, know the requirements and deadlines, the procedures and resources available to you; marketing-wise, know your audience, not necessarily the admissions officers, but the questions they asked of you, and your most suitable story themes and answers; finance-wise, know your priorities and your expected returns. You need to truly know all those aspects.

It is entirely critical to take the perspectives of the admissions officer. Why should I admit this person compared with all the other equally qualified applicants? Does this person give me the answers that I want to hear? Do I l know this person enough from this application? Can I see this person in class and contributing to our school?

You absolutely need to spend the time to jot down all thoughts, to write and re-write your essays, to sharpen and re-sharpen your interviews. It takes a lot of efforts to make your application shine. Knowing yourself will help us in making your sessions productive, your essays and interviews flow, and in ensuring you are on your way to fully realizing your potential.

Any final comments?

Congratulations on your decision to apply and to work with us to achieve your goals. You’ve taken the right step to seek professional guidance. Do not hesitate to ask questions to us, to your friends, to the schools and to yourself, and to take up all the resources out there. A high level of introspection and interaction with relevant people will really pay off. I look forward to assisting you as you start your journey.