The President of the Wharton African Students Association shares with The Savvy Madam what you should be looking for in a business school and how to prepare for the GMAT.
Name: Uzo Idigo
Current City, Country: Philadelphia, USA
Undergraduate: University of Delaware
Graduate School: MBA, Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania
For Uzo Idigo, business school was the perfect opportunity to move her career to the next level. After graduating from the University of Delaware, she started her career in sales and marketing in the consumer products and later healthcare industries. After a couple of years she wanted to focus on the strategic high-level work and putting together the plans to drive the company’s initiatives. In order to make that transition into more senior management roles she knew that an MBA was necessary to make that happen.
When it came to deciding which masters program to pursue, business school was a simple choice for Uzo. “I always had an inkling for business and I finished undergraduate with a major in marketing,” Uzo tells us. “My mom ran a few small businesses when I was growing up and I was always drawn to the work.” So when it came time to choosing a business school she looked carefully, at which school would provide her the most access, opportunities, and career choices down the line. She also knew that with strengths in soft skills such as communications and marketing, she wanted a school that would provide a very rigorous quantitative curriculum so she could balance out her areas of expertise.
She found all of that at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. When evaluating schools Uzo looked carefully at the brand, prestige, and reputation of the program especially in Africa. She wants to get more involved in business in Africa and Wharton has one of the largest African student populations at a US business school. Access to programs and extracurricular activities were also very important, as she wanted to gain real life experience while in school.
For other young African women interested in attending a school like Wharton, Uzo had some advice for us. “I am a firm believer in having a plan, mapping it out, and focusing on the main things that you need to do,” she says. The basic information for schools is on the website so use that as a tool to gather initial information. Uzo suggests you tackle the GMAT or any other entrance exam first. Everyone has a different studying style so it’s important that you figure out what works best for you. Uzo then recommended focusing on the essays and understanding that is an opportunity to sell yourself and make yourself unique. “Don’t write the story you think the admissions committee wants to hear, tell your authentic story,” she advises. She recommends that you have a few trusted people read your essays and provide honest feedback to your essays but don’t have too many people edit it or you will lose your voice. A point that many people seem to forget: manage the recommendations process and make sure that you are presenting a coherent story through your essays and the message that your recommenders send. Finally Uzo recommends that you be realistic and set reasonable expectations by looking closely at your exam scores, grades, work experience, and what you want to get out of graduate school to find the best schools to apply to.
Back at Wharton, Uzo is active on campus as president of the Wharton African Students Association. When asked what surprised her most about starting school she told us that the quantitative reputation for Wharton isn’t just reserved for the economics or finance classes, it is in almost every single course you take. While that initially surprised her it has taught her to look for facts, be very analytical when approaching problems, and improved her critical thinking skills. She was also excited to find the diversity of her classmates and the interesting and exciting students she was able to get to know. From a former Olympian to a performer in Cirque de Soleil, you can find people from every corner of the world.
For young women not yet ready for graduate school or focusing on your career, Uzo had some great advice for you too. She believes it is important to get mentorship right away. She tells us to “surround yourself with positive people who will be invested in you and your success.” Sometimes being smart isn’t enough. Uzo shares that “when you’re first starting out you just don’t have the lens to figure out exactly what you want to do so even if you’re really smart it will take you longer.” Her advice is to gain learning from mentors who can show you opportunities and will be your champion in the workplace.
So what will this young African leader be doing when she finishes her degree next year? During her first year at Wharton her career path evolved from brand management into consulting and she spent her summer working on an international development consulting assignment with Accenture in South Africa. She loved her experience and will be pursuing a career in strategy consulting immediately after school. In the long term she plans to eventually work in private equity and venture capital and some day even politics.
We can’t wait to see all of the great things Uzo will do! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us. We aim to provide our readers with behind the scenes news on the top graduate schools around the world. If you would like to be featured or would like to nominate someone, email info @ thesavvymadam.com.