By Mark Skoskiewicz
Jason Velkavrh (pictured), graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2014. Early in our careers, Jason and I worked together as strategy consultants at for Marakon, and we recently became colleagues again, joining forces to provide consulting services as part of a boutique consulting firm called TRC.
Originally, Jason attended Booth to switch careers, which he did, for a while—after the MBA at Booth, Jason spent several years as an equity analyst at Robert W. Baird. I interviewed him to find out what drove him to business school, and what advice he has for other MBA applicants for success.
Why did you decide to go to business school? Was getting an MBA an obvious or tough decision?
I was a management consultant for five years before attending Booth. My decision to attend business school was driven by a desire to broaden my business education/knowledge (I was not a business or finance major in undergrad). Additionally, I wanted the opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of finance to position myself in either an investing role or general management with a finance focus.
Getting an MBA was a difficult decision for me, primarily because I was already in a post-MBA role at my consulting firm and the total cost of attending (including opportunity cost) was pretty high. Am I glad I went? Yes—I enjoyed my time in business school, learned a lot, made some great friends, and expanded my view of the types of opportunities that were available to me.
Did it make financial sense? I’m five years out and I think it's still too soon to tell, although payback for someone coming into Booth from outside of consulting, banking, or private equity could be much faster.
What schools did you consider applying to in addition to Booth?
I applied to Booth, Kellogg, and Wharton, and I was admitted at Booth and Wharton.
What did you find unique about Booth that attracted you to the school?
I chose Booth for a variety of reasons—firstly, I liked its reputation for rigor in its finance curriculum. I also felt that I fitted in better with the students I met at Booth; preferred to live in Chicago; and received a generous scholarship package.
But the flexible curriculum was a particularly big selling point. Booth does not have rigid core requirements, and I was able to take classes that were more interesting to me from day one.
I was interested in pushing myself with courses that were difficult and/or in completely new areas for me, and Booth’s grade non-disclosure policy (students sign an honor code that forbids disclosing GPA to potential employers) made me more confident taking risks with my coursework.
Finally, its particularly strong brand and alumni network in Chicago, where I wanted to live after finishing my MBA, mattered a lot to me.
Do you believe Booth is looking for a particular type of applicant? Any recommendations for future Booth applicants as they write their essays?
My class at Booth was very diverse in terms of work experience and background before business school. That diversity is an important selling point for the program, so I don’t think Booth is targeting a particular type of pre-MBA background.
That said, success in ANY role you had pre-MBA, and a demonstrated passion for what you want to do after earning the MBA, are very important for admission.
My advice for the essays would be to make sure the following questions are answered in a compelling way in your application:
1. Why an MBA?
2. Why now?
3. Why Booth?
It’s very important to keep those three questions in mind as you answer application questions, write essays, or get recommendations. You may have incredible leadership skills, 99th percentile test scores, global experience, and a clear career plan—but if it’s not clear why you need an MBA or why you need one from Booth, you probably won't get in.
Did anything surprise you about your time at Booth? What activities did you get involved with?
The biggest surprise for me was just how busy I was from day one!
I had heard that the MBA can be a 'break,' and in some ways it was, but recruiting-related activities for internships start pretty early-on—and this is in addition to getting involved with clubs and a rigorous class workload.
My most pleasant surprise was just how much I learned from classmates who had very different pre-MBA experiences than I did. I hadn’t realized how much of a 'bubble' I had been in after five years working at the same management consulting firm. Just speaking with my peers who had taken different career paths before Booth was very helpful to understand the broad spectrum of opportunities outside of consulting (although I ultimately ended up back in consulting…).
I was heavily involved with Booth’s Investment Management Group (IMG), which was the largest student group on campus focused on careers in asset management. IMG is responsible for bringing speakers to campus, organizing networking events, planning and hosting Booth’s annual Investment Management Conference, and facilitating interview preparation for 1st-year students. In my 2nd year, I was selected to co-chair this group.
About the Author
Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a provider of customized tutoring and test prep. Prior to founding MyGuru, he earned a BS from Indiana University and an MBA from Kellogg-Northwestern and was a strategy consultant. He is a founding member of the leadership team at TRC Advisory.