MBA - Application Process

From CPA to MBA: Leveraging Your Expertise to Showcase Your Passion

Kelly Ling Forté Fellow

Kelly Ling
Forté Fellow

What are you passionate about?  For some, that’s an easy question to answer, but for many, it’s not.  Bringing your passion alive in a business school application, however, is necessary to draw the application reader into your story, and truly convince them that you are a perfect fit for your dream school.  This becomes increasingly difficult if you are part of the “typical applicant pool” of bankers, consultants, and even accountants.  Below, I’ve shared an abridged version of my path from CPA to MBA (Candidate).  The insights here are applicable to any future applicant, especially those who may find it difficult to differentiate themselves and bring out their passion in a sea of similar applicants.

After graduating from undergrad, I joined a Big Four accounting firm as an external auditor.  This was a great way to gain technical accounting skills, as well as learn the client services landscape.  About two years into the job however, and after celebrating obtaining my CPA license, I felt like I needed to apply my skills in a different way, where I would have more influence to decide what projects I worked on, and more importantly, to decide how to utilize my skills to impact an industry that was more relevant to me.  Shortly thereafter, I become a financial analyst at beloved chocolate company, whose history spans over 160 years in America, and whose name brings about fond memories for every chocolate consumer- it was the perfect job!

After two years as a financial analyst of chocolate, while I still loved what I was doing, I knew in my heart it was time to apply for my MBA, and broaden my management skill set.  And my path from auditor in a client services firm to financial analyst in a tasty and relevant industry, truly set me up for success as b-school applicant.  Specifically, I could showcase how I utilized my accounting and auditing skills from an accounting powerhouse firm, to make a personally meaningful impact in a company whose product and industry truly resonate with me.

To turn this into a more general take away, my thoughts are as follows:

  • Assess your technical expertise- What are you great at?
  • Consider where else can you utilize these skills:  Is there another job or industry that you are passionate about, that values these skills?  Is there a volunteer group or nonprofit that can benefit from your knowledge?  Bring them to the table!
  • When you apply to school, your skills and your passion will be explicit in your experience

Cheers, Good Luck, and try to have fun with the application process!


Kelly Ling
Forte Fellow & MBA Candidate 2015
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business

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