Last year when I attended the Forté Forum, I was at the beginning of my journey for an MBA. I had registered for a few fairs to get my toes wet as I began the process, and Forté’s event was first on the list by the time I signed up. I was a bit unnerved given that, unlike in high school, this process would pit me against overachievers like myself and I had no idea how that would affect such a large event. The Forté Forum was what I did not expect – in a good way. The staff greeted new arrivals with a gift bag and a smile, as though they were genuinely happy to see me. I found out later, they were. I had no idea about the numbers of women who simply chose not pursue an MBA. Thus, the schools were as engaged as the greeters. The fair provided a great opportunity to go around and ask questions and begin to develop interest in schools. At least 30 schools were present, most had sent their admissions office representatives, while nearly all the schools had alumni present. I was also able to network with ladies in various stages of the pre-MBA journey: from just getting started, like myself, to those who had graduated from programs I aspire to attend. They offered valuable advice, such as when to look for essays and GMAT prep resources, as well as information about their respective schools. Meeting with the various admissions officers allowed me to learn about opportunities such as Forté MBALaunch, which would prepare me for the MBA application process. I never would have discovered the programs in time for the deadlines without their pointing me in the right direction. I attended one of the admissions Q&A sessions. It was the first time I received information regarding what top schools expected from applicants, and it invited me to dive deeper. They emphasized that they were looking for candidate who they felt could succeed and who needed the school for their continued success. The bogeyman, also known as the “GMAT,” became less of a brick gate and more of a hurdle that I had to clear. While important, I gathered that it was not the only thing that mattered. If I showed who I was successful, I could be more than just a number and being unique would serve me well. As a first generation college student, the graduate school process felt over-whelming and intimidating. For years, I had an “opted-out” feeling like there was no way I could compete against those all-stars that everyone reads about. Of course they go to grad school. I was normal, however, so were the women I met in the large conference rooms for the fair. All these normal women were exceptional in different ways, and I learned to look for impact – my own and others – something I had never thought of consciously prior to attending. With the help of the admissions officers and supportive women present, I was able to formulate my plan to prepare to apply during the next admissions cycle, and feel prepared to have even more meaningful and engaging interactions at this year’s Forum. The Forté Forum encouraged me to take time to learn to value myself and to see myself in a different light.