Somehow it's already mid-February, which means that it's been a year since I was in the midst of the application process for the MSMS program. It's a cliche, but so much has happened since then. It's easy to forget how nerve-wracking applying can be, and it can seem like you're risking an indictment on your whole self.
When I applied last year I was at the halfway point of my MBA, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to break away from finance, and had become increasingly interested in human capital and social equality, but what did that really mean? Sitting on the Diversity Council at my previous employer had opened my eyes to the opportunities I could pursue in that realm, but I didn't feel I had the depth of knowledge or even knew what knowledge I needed to go down that path. The only thing I was certain of was that I needed to learn more. Cue the MSMS program. When I came across it, it seemed too good to be true. A customised curriculum according to what I wanted to learn, the opportunity to work with incredibly smart people to create a (hopefully) original and useful piece of work, and in the US, where I had always wanted to live.
I sent off an enquiry about the program to the Admissions office. I remember having a terrible cold and answering the phone while sick in bed, thinking it would be one of my classmates. In fact, it was a lovely member of the admissions team who told me more about the program, the environment, and answered my many croaky questions. Having applied to MBA programs around the world, the whole process thenceforth was contrasted to my past experience. The admissions team wanted to get to know me as a person, not just as a CV or a profile. My interview in London was similar. The questions weren't about what jobs I'd had before my MBA, what technical skills I wanted to add to my toolkit for a specific job after the program, or even about my thesis idea. Instead, they focused on who I was, what made me tick, how I had been with the people I'd worked with and responded to difficult situations. I think it can be easy to forget that the admissions team, at every school or workplace, comprises people just like us. I know the pressure is on to put your best foot forward, to pre-empt what you think others might believe your USP is, or to come across as confident and charming, but the people in this program value authenticity.
Our class profile is quite different from my MBA class profile. The MSMS is a small and highly diverse group, and I don't think there are any two individuals who can easily be categorized into a bucket. While there are some themes such as being hard-working, another palpable value is that we are all straightforward about who we are, and I think this is part of being mission-driven. It may sound trite and reminiscent of those MBA admissions-help sites out there, but make sure who you are comes through at every opportunity. It's not all about the thesis topic or the firm you want to work at!
Finally, once you get here, you can look forward to the winter. The novelty for me still hasn't worn off, and I gawk, taking tourist-like pictures of MIT campus in the snow to send to my friends back in Sydney. I still relish crunching through the fresh snow and the snowflakes that land on my face. I was afraid of -10C weather before I got here, but the winter also has unexpected outcomes. There is a snowstorm flourishing right before my eyes, which has led to my afternoon MIT classes being cancelled and voila, I've had the newfound time to write this post! Unfortunately my Harvard class is still on and this is the craziest snow I've ever seen but I will have to brave it, like the budding Shackleton I am...
If you have any questions at all on the admissions process, the program, on life in Boston, on how to travel and get groceries in the depths of winter., drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of luck!