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MBA Applicant Voice: Searching For The Business Of Real Estate

Annie Fulton is searching for an MBA that specializes in real estate – giving her the chance to blend her design background with business acumen, hears Alice Riley.

Thu Jul 31 2014

What makes MBA applicants tick? We meet Annie Fulton, an architectural solutions manager who hopes to move into real estate development. She is in the process of applying for the MBA program she hopes will get her there. 
She tells BusinessBecause about her career so far, choosing the right business school, and the MBA application process. 
What did you study for your first degree, and at which university?
I received a BS in Architectural Studies with a minor in Geography from the University of Arkansas, graduating in 2011. 
How has your career progressed since then?
After a brief stint working for an energy efficiency non-profit in New Orleans, I became a sales trainee for a building products manufacturer, CertainTeed. I was attracted to the company’s sustainability initiatives and the potential career opportunities at its global parent company, Saint-Gobain. 
After six months’ training at headquarters, I was promoted to territory manager for the New York City metro area. In this role, I was responsible for managing six distribution partner relationships, and generating demand for our products on the architectural level. 
After just over a year, I was recruited to join a different division of CertainTeed as an architectural solutions manager – my current role. I work with architects, educating them on key building science issues and product solutions. My territory expanded from metro NYC to the entire Northeast – Northern VA to Maine.
Why did you decide to study for an MBA?
I figured out that I wanted to be a real estate developer – blending my design background with business acumen. I want to work on projects from conception to completion, shaping our cities on a more direct level. 
I chose an MBA instead of other real estate graduate programs because it provides the managerial training and analytical rigor that I currently lack. It also opens the door to more career and networking opportunities.
What factors did you consider when choosing business schools?
I primarily considered location, real estate resources, ranking, leadership focus, and fit. I wanted to be in or near an urban area, and preferably on one of the coasts.
Many top programs don’t have concerted real estate programs, so I researched their real estate clubs, career statistics, and tried to talk to students to determine whether there would be sufficient real estate resources at that school. 
In terms of ranking, I only considered top-20 schools because I felt that they were the only ones that would justify the cost of tuition and lost earnings. 
For fit, I visited schools, leveraged my network to speak to current students, and purchased school guides from a couple of admissions consultant websites. 
Which business schools are you applying to?
For my first round of applications, I am applying to Stanford, UC Berkeley Haas, Harvard and Wharton. I chose Stanford for its innovation focus, flexible core, global requirement and location, and UC Berkeley Haas for its Real Estate Certificate, sustainability focus, culture and location. 
I am also considering Kellogg, UCLA Anderson, and UNC Kenan-Flagler. 
How are you preparing for the GMAT test, and did you consider taking the GRE instead?
I had taken the GRE in college and found the verbal section to be incredibly frustrating, so I decided that the GMAT played to my strengths. I took a Princeton Review Live-Online GMAT prep course last autumn, and took the test in December.
I was satisfied with my score so I decided to not pursue retaking it, or trying the GRE again. 
What have you had to do for the applications so far?
I have revised my CV for business school, focusing on my accomplishments and demonstrated leadership. I have written drafts for some essays, including my personal statement and goals. 
For the essays, I have been writing when I feel inspired. I think about the essay prompts a lot and if I think of an approach to one, I will spend some time writing it out.
I have chosen my recommenders and will be requesting recommendations soon. I have started looking at the Stanford and Harvard written applications, which recently came available. This helps in figuring out what is left out, that I need to highlight in essays.