Business Women of Tomorrow

Navigating the Path to Business School: Balancing Priorities with Jasmine Alexander of Duke University (The Fuqua School of Business)

Discover how Jasmine Alexander, a student at Duke University (The Fuqua School of Business), navigated the business school application process while managing her other responsibilities. In this blog, she shares insights into the specialized business master’s (Master of Management Studies) program at Duke and its ability to help her achieve her career goals. We will also explore the differences between business school and undergraduate experiences, the support offered by academic institutions, and advice for aspiring business school candidates. Join Jasmine as we delve into the world of business education as she shares insights from her firsthand experience.

How did you determine the right time for you to apply to business school and how did you balance the admissions process with other responsibilities?

I applied to business school during my senior year of undergrad for enrollment immediately after graduating. Balancing the admissions process with other responsibilities was a time-intensive process at times. First, you have to study for the GMAT or GRE, then schedule a time to take the exam; you’ll also need to gather letters of recommendation and may need to regularly check in with your recommenders to remind them to submit the letters. Schools can also want to see you showing interest in their program by engaging with their events, so you may spend additional time attending virtual events or even participating in an in-person campus visit. In my case, I took a 5-hour drive from my undergrad to graduate school to learn more about the program.

Once your application is submitted, you may then undergo an interview. As a double major, I was still taking a full course load during my senior year in addition to extracurricular involvement/volunteering. To balance the admissions process with other responsibilities, I found it best to segment the work I had to do. For example, after deciding to apply to business school, my priority for the first few months was studying and taking the GRE. Once that was done, I spent the following months asking for a letter of recommendation and writing and revising my essays to the application questions.

Throughout this time, I also made sure to attend virtual admissions events. I recommend looking ahead to see the application deadlines to balance this process efficiently. Based on when you want to apply (Round 1, 2, 3, etc.), this can help you further divide your time so that you aren’t rushing to cram everything and can instead spread your responsibilities, making it easy to tackle everything one at a time. 


How did you determine the return on investment for a specialized business master’s program? What made you decide that this degree was worth the financial resources and time commitment?

When determining if a specialized business master’s program was worth the financial resources and time commitment, I primarily utilized the program’s career reports. For many students, the most favorable outcome upon graduating from their master’s program will be securing a job that is satisfactory to them and in a field of their interest. I looked at all the available career reports for my program of interest to see if companies I was interested in working at consistently hired or had ever hired students graduating from the program. Then, I would look at which roles those students were specifically being hired for at those companies to see if they were roles I was interested in applying to. If you’re a student in a specialized business master’s program immediately after completing undergrad, it can often be seen that companies will only have dedicated recruitment pipelines for business master’s programs that are MBA programs. 

As a result, you’ll be placed in the same pipeline as undergraduate students. An issue that can arise, however, is that you may be able to apply, but a company may primarily be looking for undergraduate candidates graduating with a bachelor’s degree. So, as a specialized business master’s program student, you can sometimes get stuck in limbo between being underqualified to apply for jobs for MBA students but ineligible to apply for entry-level roles geared towards graduating undergraduates despite having no full-time work experience simply because you’ll be graduating with a masters. As a result, the career report can be crucial for not only seeing if graduating students are entering positions that align with your interests but also seeing which companies are open to hiring non-mba master’s level business students for entry-level roles through their undergrad recruiting or a separate pipeline.


What is your favorite part of business school?

My favorite part of business school is the comprehensive exposure to business fundamentals. Within my program, one class is said to be equivalent to a week’s worth of material in undergrad. Given this, it’s not expected that anyone will walk away as an expert on the subjects taught. However, you can at least gain enough exposure so that when you hear a word or topic brought up in your job, you’ll have some familiarity with it and what it means in relation to your role. For example, in my accounting course, it was said that the goal is not to teach us how to think like an accountant but instead to show us how to derive value from accounting tools from the perspective of a business person, manager, etc.


What advice would you give aspiring business school candidates? 

Before enrolling in a program, do extensive research by reviewing as many sources as possible! Read the program’s class profiles, student blogs, and employment reports, schedule calls with current students and alumni, visit the campus, attend admissions events, etc. Also, go on LinkedIn yourself, see where alumni from your program of interest ended up after the program, and ask yourself the following questions: did students indicate receiving a job offer before graduating, or are they still searching for a job post-grad? Is there a consistent trend of graduates going to work at companies you’re interested in immediately upon graduation, or did they pursue additional studies or start somewhere else and then move into those positions?

Knowing information like the questions proposed and how the job process is facilitated (is it mainly student-driven, or does a career management team provide resources?), in addition to understanding the culture/dynamics amongst students, is important to make the best-informed decision before enrolling. Your time in business school won’t just be spent entirely in the classroom or entirely recruiting, so you want to ensure you’re somewhere you’ll thrive academically, socially, and in the job search process.

It can be easy not to ask specific questions as you may feel you’re doing something wrong that will impact your chances at admissions – but even the admissions team would rather you feel satisfied with your choice – so ask the question!

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