How Courage and Scholarships Led this MBA to Michigan Ross
I was 30 years old when I finally pressed "send" on my application to the Ross School of Business, but I had thought about applying to an MBA program several times before.
I felt that a deep dive into a rigorous business education, a chance to grow my network with like-minded peers, and a moment to reassess my career goals was important. However, as a first-generation college graduate, I was hesitant to chart yet another new path — and about my ability to afford it.
Feeling like an outsider in undergrad and the business world
My parents always urged me to set my sights high in life, but as non-college graduates themselves, I was also brought up with a cautious approach to life. They wanted me to reach, but they could only help me as far as they knew. Without knowing many successful business professionals growing up, I attended college with aspirations to be something I could understand. Thankfully, I received a full-ride scholarship to my undergraduate institution, which began the process of opening doors to my educational and career aspirations.
However, it was the first time I understood feeling different. Meeting my classmates, to whom all doors in life seemed open, whose parents could guide them and answer questions, caused me to open more doors tentatively. I started thinking about all the things I could do that I had no frame of reference for and started dreaming of a life that was outside of the world I knew. However, I crossed that threshold cautiously, knowing that I had less runway and a much smaller network to rely on.
After my undergraduate degree, I spent eight years pretending to fit in. I pursued a career in real estate finance, a historically very traditional sector of finance, and did my best to learn the flow of the business world. And, I succeeded. I worked with major banks, Blackstone, and big developers, and I managed to blend in enough to rise in my industry. Still, I always knew that I was an outsider, that my parents couldn't contextualize what I did, that I was living in two worlds.
Coming to power in my post-MBA chapter
And that brings us back to pressing "send" on my MBA application. I wrote my essays to Michigan Ross about who I was, all the times I felt like an outsider, and how I desired to come into my power in this next post-MBA chapter. Like most of my career, I was outwardly confident, but inwardly, the voice of younger me felt doubt. Should I leave the career I had worked so hard to build? Was more student debt a prudent move? Would I actually achieve any of the lofty goals I had declared?
These questions lingered until decision day. Of course, Ross called me at the end of the day. I picked up the phone, excited to hear my fate, and I was told not only was I admitted, but I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship through the Related Scholars Fund. I heard my application resonated for its authenticity and my perseverance and that I was in. Needless to say, celebrations were had, phone calls were made... It was an amazing day.
Doors opened through my Related Scholars Fund scholarship
As the celebrations subsided, and I began to plan for life in Ann Arbor, something bigger dawned. Thanks to my financial award, I realized all the doors that were open to me. I was no longer that 18-year-old without a survey of the world. I was a 30-year-old, with experience, and contacts, and confidence, and now, the opportunity to reach for and open doors that I had only dreamed of.
Being a Related Scholar has allowed me to access the full network of opportunities within the real estate space at Michigan Ross. I’ve also been able to opine on what opportunities I would like to see through the Weiser Center for Real Estate. My particular interest is in the future of real estate spaces — and I’ve been able to conceptualize panels and educational experiences that cater to my interest to share with the student body. But most importantly, I’ve felt seen for all of my identities, and being able to bring my true self to these conversations about this industry has been very freeing.
Mom and dad, look at me now.