Masters Success Story - Business Analytics (Duke, UT Austin, UC Irvine)
My name is Maryum Ahmad. I am a student of MQM: Business Analytics at Duke University - The Fuqua School of Business. I am sharing my profile and story solely for it to serve as a motivation for the future aspirants. Before that, I would like to thank the people sincerely who I would call as my team because it was really a team effort. All of them have helped me through the process and kept me motivated when I needed it the most; my family; Faisal Khan who is running ScholarDen single-handedly, a stranger who turned into a great mentor and was always available to answer any questions that I had or help me whenever I asked for it; Yusra and Kashif Khan, two seniors from my undergrad school – you don’t find such gems easily who go out of the way to motivate/help you; Waqas, , my junior; Dr Shoab Ahmed Khan, My FYP supervisor, It all started with him encouraging me when I met him before coming to US. He said, ‘Maryum, you should only apply at the top schools’ and that kept ringing in my ears until my last application; Ayaz Khan, for especially handling my US related queries; Saman Hussain, another Alumnus and a GradAppLab mentor, currently doing PhD in Biology; Sir Umer Huzaifa, teacher at undergrad school and a mentor for NUST Alumni; my friends and/or colleagues Jehanzeb, Asma, Keyla, Ana, Anju, Ly Thi, Vera who have been with me through and through and nothing would have been possible without their constant help, support and mood boosters. So, my profile is as follows:
- Education: BE Electrical Engineering from EME College, NUST; CGPA: 3.81, Major GPA: 3.88
- GRE: 320; Q 163, V 157
- TOEFL: 110
- Professional Experience: 4 internships; 1.5 years full-time job in Telecom Sector
- LORs: Strong; FYP Supervisor, Maths Professor, Manager
- Duke – The Fuqua School of Business (Merit-based Scholarship) (Business School Rank #11)
- UT Austin – McCombs School of Business (Merit-based Scholarship) (Business School Rank #17)
- UCI – The Paul Merage School of Business (Merit-based Scholarship) (Business School Rank #42)
- NCSU - Institute for Advanced Analytics
I applied as a domestic applicant because I currently reside in US. The application process for Master’s started for me in May 2017 and ended in April 2018. I prepared for GRE for 3 months (my story for GRE preparation is shared separately so I wouldn’t repeat that here). I was doing 3 jobs in parallel at one point in time with countless sleepless nights. It was a long journey, I can’t really talk about how much I have worked hard during this time because words alone can’t do justice. I don’t exactly give credit to my hard work, I truly believe Allah had a better plan for me, He answered my prayers and it came to me, the harder way.
I had detailed conversations with people who I trust and was convinced that data analytics is exactly the field that I am passionate about. It’s really important to be passionate about your career goals because that will be reflected in every aspect of your application. The more genuine you are, the more chances you have to convince the admissions committee why you are suited for the program and why you need a Master’s degree at this particular phase of your life. Once I finalized the program that I needed to apply to, I shortlisted the schools where I envisioned myself to be, even if the average profile of those schools had a higher GRE score than mine. It didn’t matter to me, I was willing to take the risk. I didn’t think one test score could decide my destiny or undermine other strong aspects of my personality. I had so much to tell about myself to the admissions committee; my strengths, my passions, how I overcame my weaknesses, my accomplishments, my work ethics, etc. What was more important than all of this was to really find out more about the schools and see where I fit culturally. I really value teamwork so collaborative culture has been an important factor for me in the decision-making process both at the time of application and when I had to decide between multiple offers. Having said all this, I did have a plan B; I had an additional list of schools to apply to in case I didn’t get admission in any of my top list of schools but Alhumdulillah, I didn’t have to execute it.
Between the offers that I had, it really came down to deciding between McCombs and Fuqua. The Fuqua School of Business is #11th best Business school in the US (source USNews). Duke is often referred to as Ivy League Plus along with others like MIT, Stanford, and University of Chicago. McCombs’ MSBA program is the 2nd best program in the world (source QS ranking). Like I said earlier, I really value teamwork and team Fuqua spirit is recognized globally which made it easier for me to choose Fuqua (Duke).
The applications process is like one big project with numerous small tasks, where you have to share as much information with your recommenders as you can to ease the process for them, constantly follow up with them and be available to offer your help and finish your own tasks in time as per the deadlines for individual applications. So, your project management and time management skills would help you here. You really have to be organized and focused on the end goal. It really helps to share your resume, list of projects that you did and what aspects of your personality you want to be included in your LOR. This gives you an opportunity to get endorsed for different and some common strengths in all your LORs while also making it easier for your recommenders because they wouldn’t necessarily know what kind of personality traits your schools or program is looking for. Sometimes they would get exact instructions from schools in a recommendation form, but not from all of them. Don’t shy away from talking about your weaknesses. May it be a low grade, low test score, gap in experience or any other struggle that you went through. Admission committees love to hear your unique story. Be sure not to leave any point for them to assume, you wouldn’t get any benefit of doubt. But be genuine, don’t lie. It will be reflected in your interview if not in the application. Background checks are also common so make sure you don’t lie. Also, it is important to tailor each and every material of your application as per the school and program you are applying to. For Business Analytics, you wouldn’t really find similar essay questions for the schools you are applying to, so set aside days to finish each individual application. Even if there is some common question, identify what is unique to the school and if you fit in, talk about the relevant skills in your application. You might have to request for changes in your LORs too. Also, if you are applying for Business Analytics, make sure you get your essays reviewed by people who work in your area and who don’t, both. This will give you an idea how to avoid jargons or terms that are not self-explanatory.
In the end, I would say that there are no shortcuts to success. I have worked really hard at every point in my life and would recommend the same to every single person as hard work always gets rewarded, sooner or later.