Why Most Applicants to Wharton Fail

Wharton is a super elite business school, make no mistake about that.  Note and shameless plug: The Wharton/Lauder program is even more exclusive. Every year thousands of applicants submit their applications in hopes of joining the ranks of Wharton MBAs with a unique life-long access to cutting edge business thought and education, an exceptional and powerful alumni network, very handsomely paid jobs (for the rest of their lives), and a good chance at extreme wealth and power anywhere they go. A Wharton MBA changes one’s life for the better. It has changed my life for the better, and I know my life and career will remain on a steep upward trajectory for very many years.

There is a lot to gain, stakes are high, and people from all over the world spare no effort or expense to get into Wharton.  They take the GMAT over and over until they enter the much coveted 700 points club, they hire very expensive consultants to hold their hand and “improve their profiles”, sacrifice vacation time to visit campus, schmooze with current students, try to befriend the professors, and write hundreds and hundreds of emails to the adcom with questions about the wonderful school life at Wharton.  They also spend days and days in front of the computer on the wonderfully informative GMAT Club forum (I am a regular contributor) and a competing resource on BusinessWeek.com (not a fan at all) in hopes of getting that tiny bit of information, if only a hint, a slight glimpse into the future and what awaits.

However most applicants fail to gain acceptance, and the failure tastes very bitter. There is a number of reasons why this happens, and one of them is bad luck, but everything else being equal, it is the quality of application itself and a lack of the overall application strategy that prevent the email-spewing “profile improvers” from getting in the door.

Below is my attempt at painting a picture of an applicant who will never get in:

Five main traits of an applicant who will never get admitted to Wharton

1. Cluelessness

My experience with dozens of applicants shows that the absolute majority of these people are clueless kittens.  Often people approach me after they have submitted an application to Wharton, and after a few minutes of conversation it becomes clear they have absolutely no clue about the application process or the components of the application itself. Most importantly, they lack any substantial understanding of themselves, and so their applications most certainly revealed that.  Without this understanding they cannot really tell the world who they are and why they are unique in any detail.

Despite the fact that absolutely every book on the topic of MBA admissions out there stresses the importance of self-reflection before you sit down and start writing, few people do it in a systematic way. Most applicants assume they have all the information about themselves stored in their heads anyway, and all that examination of self is for someone else to do.

A very thorough examination of one’s weaknesses, strengths, dreams, aspirations, sins and merits is an absolute must if you want in at Wharton.

2. Low scale

Many candidates are afraid to think big or pursue mega goals. Mega scale scares the living soul out of them, and so they settle on tiny tactical goals, which they pronounce “realistic” and therefore “believable” and “comfortable” when they explain why they need the education. Quite often applicants conceal their true goals and claim other “more interesting” goals in their blind quest for the non-existing magic recipe to get in (many people mistakenly think that candidates with certain goals have a better chance than others). This is exactly the opposite of “change the world” type of aspirations—true and sincere aspirations—one would meet among the Wharton MBAs.

Dream big, aim high if you want in.

3. Fear

The miniscule scale breeds a lot of fear.  I must admit fear is what paralyses most applicants at some point, and I—too—fell prey to that feeling when I was an applicant myself, but I overcame that emotion because I clearly understood its crippling effects. However most applicants just do not get rid of the chills. Looking at the above paragraph, I must say that it is a chicken and egg problem as fear is probably what makes them aspire for the “realistic” and the “comfortable” in the first place.

They are afraid that there is no cure for their lowish GPA in undergrad, that their community contributions were tiny (so they urgently start teaching math to unsuspecting inner-city kids or helping the equally unsuspecting homeless guys hold their bowls at the soup kitchen). They repeatedly ask themselves questions about “the true cost of MBA” and map put “opportunity costs”, i.e. they are afraid to make changes in their “comfortable” and predictable lives, take drastic and powerful turns to change themselves and the world along the way, and continue with the penny counting. These people are scared that their unpaid speeding and parking tickets from five years ago will be a major obstacle, and they also think that deviating from a one-page format of the CV will be a major roadblock on the way in.

A Wharton MBA applicant just like any good businessman or a warrior has to be fearless to succeed.

And by the way, one must actually truly care about community contributions, it comes naturally, and cannot be faked.

4. Lack of strategy

Most applicants that I have had the pleasure of communicating with did not even bother constructing the big picture. At best they just looked at the application process as a recovering alcoholic looks at his life, i.e. “one day at a time”.  In most cases, they discover what exactly the application form contains the moment they decide to populate it with information. Needless to say most of these guys and gals end up on the curb. You can spot these characters early on: they usually post questions on GMAT Club that sound similar to “Do you know what we should write in Section A?” or “My GPA was 3.456, is it OK to round it up to 3.5?” This type of comments just reveals that the candidate has not followed an organized, disciplined approach to the application.

What one really needs is a very detailed strategy, an aggressive and multidimensional plan, and a clear understanding what kind of tools the school gives you to deliver the message you want the school to hear. Of course, this rides on the premise that you do not have Cluelessness (see #1 above) or Fear (see #3).

The better the strategy the higher the chances at acceptance at Wharton.

5. Poor execution

Most people mistakenly think that the application is limited to writing, photocopying undergrad transcripts and performing other types paper shuffling.  Some go as far as writing a blog about how the stapling and the trips to the FedEx office, and some even manage to damage their submitted applications beyond repair by blogging about how the paper shuffling was done in their particular case (yeah, I am looking at you, Chris). This is just one example of poor execution.

I am convinced that visiting the school has a huge impact on the quality of the application. Now, there is visiting and there’s visiting.  Remember, most candidates who visit the school have no plan and are Clueless (see #4 and #1 respectively above) and so they just show up in Huntsman Hall, bounce around from wall to wall, sometimes they sit on classes and generally have the facade of what “should be done”. Of course, they take a tour of campus in a group of equally unprepared applicants, and leave thinking that the “Campus visit” check box is now filled and they have gained advantage over everyone else. Wrong.

Poor execution permeates every step an unsuccessful applicant makes: from misspellings on essays (one female applicant in 2011 wrote about her experience in conSLuting” for example) to using smiley faces as punctuation :)   These people spend hours thinking about the color and brand of the suit to wear for the interview instead of actually preparing for the high-stakes conversation itself, and so on.

Good strategy has to be executed to perfection if you are seeking admissions at Wharton. The color and brand of your suit add absolutely nothing to your success.

So if anything above, my dear reader, describes you in some way, your chances of getting in at Wharton are zero. No need to fret about the seeming unfairness of the admissions process if you have been denied this year. It should help if you can regroup and start from the beginning, i.e. get rid of the Cluelessness, Low Scale, Fear, Lack of Strategy and Poor Execution, and the world might smile at you with its happy Wharton MBA smile.

Wonderful Piece of Advice to Entrepreneurs by Prominent Lauderpreneur

I need to share this hands-on and insightful blog post by Davis Smith, the founder of www.baby.com.br

This post echoes Paul Hynek’s view (see previous post) that entrepreneurs with the Wharton MBA are much better positioned to succeed:

http://thewalnutstreetjournal.blogspot.com/2011/10/value-of-mba-for-entrepreneurs.html

 

Paul Hynek: Think of the two years on campus as orientation for the life-long program.

Paul Hynek, who is the current President of the Lauder Institute Alumni Association, has kindly found time to talk with the me about his experience at the Wharton/Lauder program.  One of the recurring themes that is not difficult to identify in conversations about the Wharton/Lauder program with the alumni is that it invariably has a profound positive influence on both professional and personal development.  Paul’s career success and contributions to communities everywhere he goes speak for themselves.

What’s the magic recipe behind the positive force of the program?  How does one harness the great potential and take advantage of the many opportunities that come with it?  Here’s what Paul thinks about it:

DENIS: Paul, you graduated from Wharton/Lauder a while ago, and back then it was a different program in many ways. Did the program meet your expectations? Did it enable you to achieve all the goals that you had set when you were applying?

PAUL: I have always been a huge fan of the Wharton/Lauder program.

DENISYou mentioned in the speech you gave during the [Lauder] graduation ceremony in 2010 that you saw yourself as a Penn student more than anything…

PAUL:   Yes, that’s right. Benjamin Franklin has always been my hero and Penn has such a variety of outstanding schools:  Business, Engineering, Law, Medical, Dental, etc. It is a fascinating place!

DENIS: What was the particular appeal of the Lauder Institute and why did it shape your choice of a graduate school?

PAUL: I had been a French major in college, and my view of the world changed radically when I left my comfortable suburban Chicago and went off to live in France for a year.  It really taught me to think much more from a global point of view, and I loved learning the language, I loved being in a different culture, being challenged.  And I wanted more of that, I thought it would just be a tremendous way to enhance what I would learn in a more traditional MBA program.

DENIS: In retrospect, what aspect of that education has proved to be most useful and valuable?

PAUL: The combination of what I got from both Wharton and Lauder. Wharton taught me to arbitrage basically anything I come across:  how to find opportunities for financial [gain], information, product or service delivery, how to recognize opportunities to do something more efficiently or provide something in a better way—it’s just to sort of have my antennae out all the time to spot opportunities that may not be obvious had I not gone to Wharton.

And from Lauder:   it did fulfill the promise to give me a much more global point of view of the world and the ability to not just see data points behinds the events going on around the world, but because I have some of the underlying cultural context, I could see the trends that are driving them.  And that could be more important—it is one thing to know where something is, but to have an idea of where it might be going is much more valuable.

DENIS: When you were going through the program, do you remember what were your favorite subjects at Lauder?

PAUL: My favorite subjects? I ate it all up!  I actually saw myself as more of a Lauder student than Wharton.  I really prioritized [Lauder] and I was a very diligent student in all my Lauder classes, I did not skip out of them for interviews and things like that…

DENIS: What was the influence of the Wharton MBA experience on your professional life?

PAUL: I can speak to the extent of that influence:  it is complete and fundamental in terms of how it transformed my career, every single thing I have done since graduation. Most of the things I have been involved with are directly because of Wharton or Lauder, and the ones that aren’t have all been significantly enhanced because of it:  either a better position, a higher salary, and always just better and more fulfilling responsibility.

DENISCan you give an example?

PAUL: Sure, I really see myself as a high-tech software type guy, and I got into that because I was Vice President of the Princeton Review of Japan living in Tokyo, and a very good friend of mine, Richard Sprague, Lauder ’91, was working for Apple Japan, and he introduced to this whole new world of software technology.

DENIS: I know you eventually became a tech entrepreneur. Was your MBA degree of any value there? Was it at all applicable?

PAUL: I’ve had people ask me: “Well, why would you go to business school if you are just going to be an entrepreneur?” And I see it exactly the opposite way—especially for me, I really would not want to be an entrepreneur without the benefit of having gone to Wharton/Lauder.   Apart from the classes specifically devoted to entrepreneurship, which are great, virtually every single class, every person I met, and every event I went to is helpful to me.

DENIS: In what way?

PAUL: Learning some new technique, or another pattern that somebody’s gone through that I can apply in my entrepreneurial career.  Then there are just the basic things; but the most important thing I got out of the program in relation to entrepreneurship is confidence.   I think we are all a pretty confident lot who get into Wharton/Lauder, and you can’t help but leave with a whole lot more confidence.  Next to passion, I think confidence is the most important thing you can have in entrepreneurship. So any program that jacks up your confidence is worth far more than you pay both in terms of the tuition and the opportunity cost for the time that you spend there. Another one is the ability to break down highly complex dynamic situations where you have incomplete information that tend to stall a lot of people into kind of a paralysis.  The program gives you the ability to prioritize and coordinate, to break down these situations into bite-sized actions that you can work on immediately regardless on how the other parts may not lend themselves to action right away, and so that you can keep moving towards your goals.  It is a really nice skill to be able to break these things down into things that you can work on right now.

And then another thing that I got out of it is the rich vein of patterns that you can learn in class, from your classmates and case studies. You can map that knowledge back to your specific problem.  For example, I was getting some funny business from my first Chinese factory.  The problem I had that they sent me $80,000 worth of electronic items that did not work.  Since it was my first factory, I had no experience, and had no experience to draw on, and it was such a foreign situation to me:  the culture, or the subculture of Chinese factory owners that I have not learned yet about. So I have loosened up the definition in my mind of Chinese factory owners screwing me over, and redefined it as overdependence on a single supplier, which is classical MBA speak. By looking at it that way, at that higher abstract layer, I was able to pattern match it to examples that I had heard on campus. Then I shipped it back down to my specific level, and mapped some of these best practices and tips to my particular situation, and I was able to resolve the matter.  First, I fixed the faulty product myself by gearing up an ad-hoc production line in my fulfillment center in the States.  I negotiated a better deal with the factory owner, and lined up a backup factory as well.

It did not hurt that because of Lauder I was completely prepared, and I had my ticket to go to China and tell him that he’d have to tell me in my face that he was not going to make good, and so he knew that, and he did not want me to come there.  As a footnote, he has since become a trusted friend of mine. The first time I went to visit him, I learned a bit of Mandarin, but not only did he not understand my Mandarin, he did not even realize I was trying to speak the language. But being the good Lauder boy that I am, undaunted I went back on my own, and the next time I went back, I was able to make out a conversation in their Ningbo dialect what prices another factory owner was giving my factory rep, and from that I was able to determine what commission percentage my factory rep was charging me.  Because of Lauder I was able to understand the factory owner, and befriend him, and then learn without committing them myself probably the top 100 mistakes that people make in dealing with Chinese factory owners.

DENIS: You are now actively involved with the Lauder Institute Alumni Association. Can you tell us a little about the goals of your involvement?

PAUL: I am the President of the LIAA.  It serves to keep bringing ongoing benefits and enable communication between alums.

We were building on the great foundation that was made before our time (hats off to Norm Savoie and company) and we have just recently started a monthly newsletter, called “The Lauder Times,” and there is a section that is called Lauder Love, where we want to spread discounts on products, job postings, all the kind of things like that. As the first one I offered my software for free, and about fifty people downloaded it so far.

Our goal is to have a whole lot of events; so we are going to have our Global Forum in 2013 and other events… but the challenge with our alumni is because they are spread all around the world, a lot of them just cannot go to various events. We want to come up with things that will be of benefit to people that cannot attend something; and we have several other initiatives we are working on that will be coming up in the subsequent editions of the newsletter.

I am also an admissions interviewer for Lauder, and I enjoy that very much.  It is fun! Wharton interviews shifted to the more behavioral style, whereas Lauder is more classical, and I like it:  I like meeting people.  I go to lots of admissions events as well—for both Wharton and Lauder—and I will be the sort of a Lauder guy at the Wharton admission events, and I’d tell people about why I chose Wharton and Lauder.  I enjoy that quite a lot.

Basically, not a day goes by where I don’t have some form of interaction from somebody from Lauder.

DENIS: What advice would you give the new graduates from the program?

PAUL: The main thing I would say is:  stay involved. It is not a two-year program.  Think of the two years on campus as orientation for the life-long program; I encourage people to adopt that point of reference.

A friend of mine—and I agree with him—said that in the years right after graduation he saw the benefits that he got out of the program split roughly equally between these three things:   one third for classroom learning, one third for Wharton and Lauder relationships that he made at school, and then one third for Wharton and Lauder relationships he made after school.  As time goes by the importance shifts from classroom learning to emphasize more the relationships you made at school and then in particular—the relationships you made after school.  It’s really not enough to just keep in touch with the buddies you have from school, but you have to keep growing your circle and staying active, and meeting more people.   That’s exactly what we want to help people do at LIAA.

DENIS: What would be your advice to those who have just started the program and joined our large family?  What should they be concentrating on and what would help them have a better experience at school?

PAUL: There are two lessons I learned when I got there that nobody had told me about before, and I wish I had know going in:

One was that it is a game, and you have to realize that you will be given more work than you can possibly do.  And if you are a type-A person, an overachiever, it is a difficult realization to understand that you cannot do all the work, and that you have to develop strategies to maximize your coverage.

Do they still have study groups or is there a different term for that?

DENIS: They call them “learning teams” these days.

PAUL: So you need to have a good learning team, efficient time management and the ability to get the tells (you know that poker term: the tells) from the professors to know what’s really going to be on the tests. But that’s just part of the game.

Two: you also have to let the unimportant stuff go, and eventually if you understand that it is a game, that they are giving you too much stuff, and that you have to prioritize, you’ll get on top of it. You will see that you will have time to prepare and be able to do well on the tests, but also to learn things that aren’t test-related just because they interest you.

You are in an Ivy League school, and there a lot of things that you can get involved with.  Perhaps, in a class you take a tangent from a chapter to something else just because it is interesting to you, but you have to get to the point where you feel comfortable playing the game of having what you have to get done—done, and not worrying about the stuff that you can’t get done.  The benefit of this, the nice thing that I learned is that because of the nature of business school, and Wharton/Lauder in particular, you may well find that blowing off reading a chapter from a class that you have to read by the next day to go have a beer with a classmate could actually be more beneficial to you in the long term than reading that chapter.

Striking up that relationship with somebody you do not know that well could pay off much better than just reading some chapter that you’re going to forget in a year.

You know, I was eating breakfast and dinner in the Law School cafeteria, and I met tons of law students: compared to us, they were a somewhat miserable bunch.  You could tell that we were happy about our situation, and one time they asked us what kind of social things we had coming up, and we listed about ten of them. They said, “No, no. Not for the rest of the semester, just this weekend.” And we said, “No, that’s just tonight!”   We had so many things going on that they weren’t used to!  When I got to the point where I could manage my time effectively, and understood the importance of those events, I was a very happy guy indeed!

DENIS: Thank you, Paul!

Lauder Culture Quest 2011 A Success

Miriam Grobman, WG’11, was one of the lucky Wharton MBA’s to dash through Central America with Lauder Culture Quest this year. She wrote this blog post especially for the Wharton/Lauder blog:

Lauder Culture Quest took place on May 19- 31 and took us, 50+ adventurous Lauderites from the classes of 2011 and 2012 across 7 different countries in Central America. Most of us first met in Belize City Airport and took a bus across the border to Tikal in Guatemala.

We faced our first team challenge at the other side of the border, trying to collect all the group members without losing anyone after the crossing process that took around 3 hours. We also ran into a circus that was also crossing the border and one of us (whose name will not be told) had a random encounter with a lion suffering from a weak-bladder.

After many hours, we finally made it to Tikal, Guatemala but not before stopping to see the magnificent sunset over the Laguna Yaxja.

In Tikal, we were greeted by our heroic Kim Norton (Program Manager for Research Projects & External Affairs) who did so much of the planning and organization to make it happen and Professor Mauro Guillen, the man thanks to whom this adventure has come to life. The student organizers, Greg, Davis, Amaya, Amy, Dan, Devon, Johnathan, Joon and Porter, took us through the details of the trip and some important safety precautions and communication requirements and finished by handing out something we will learn to really appreciate in the next several days – bug repellant.

The following day we had a tour around the historical relics of the ancient Tikal city. The place was beautiful and some of the braver among us climbed the pyramids in the scorching heat. I only made it to Tower IV, where we could get phone reception (can someone say Crackberry?).

After the Tikal, it was time to split into our trip groups and venture into the unknown. Most of us headed first to Antigua, Guatemala, a beautiful colonial city, surrounded by active volcanoes. Many more adventures followed across the landscapes of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. These included climbing and sand boarding down volcanoes, riding chicken buses and staying in shady motels in remote towns, visiting local schools, eating local street food, getting in trouble with immigration police, visiting museums, navigating in the middle of the night in unknown surroundings, sailing the waters, interviewing local entrepreneurs about their supply chain and inventory management practices, meeting famous Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran and much more. You can read about all of these in the individual blogs that each team wrote.


Overall, the Culture Quest has been an incredible experience for all of us. We learned a great deal about the cultural, economic and political differences in this fascinating region of the world. We improved our leadership and teamwork skills, having to pass through 7 countries in only 10 days. Some of us got to perfect our Spanish skills, while others had to learn basic communication skills in a new language. We also got to appreciate the wealth and luxury we are accustomed to in our part of the world, while others have only access to basic education and have to rebuild their houses and communities every time a natural disaster hits. It is one thing to read about a place on Wikipedia, but it’s a whole different thing to immerse oneself in the country’s culture through conversation with locals, visiting institutions, eating according to the local diet and listening to local music. Let’s hope we can continue this tradition in Lauder and explore other regions of the world together while applying the cross-cultural skills we already have and the ones the Lauder Institute teaches us every day.

“Lauder Spotlight” featuring Matt Axelrod

Posted by Wes Whitaker (Russian Track, Class of 2012) with Porter Leslie (Portuguese Track, Class of 2012)

Porter and I decided that we should seize the opportunity to run a Lauder Spotlight interview featuring a graduating second-year student before they all slip back into the real world.  Given recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, our choice was pretty simple.  So, as promised, we recently sat down with Matt Axelrod (Arabic Track, Class of 2011).  Matt was the Director for Egypt and North Africa at the Pentagon, worked in the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, and spent two years as a Presidential Management Fellow and eighteen months as a Fulbright Fellow studying US-Egypt relations.  Not only does he have a very interesting pre-Lauder background, but he has been contacted by several well-known media organizations for articles and interviews while a student at Lauder (see links below).

Click here for a recent interview with the BBC.

Click here for a recent interview with PBS.

Click here for an article he wrote for Foreign Policy magazine.

We caught up with Matt at the hip Elixr café right off of Rittenhouse square to get his latest thoughts on current events as well as to look back at his time in the Lauder program.

Quick Facts about Matt:

Hometown: Short Hills, NJ

Undergraduate Institution & Major: Georgetown University – BA in Foreign Service, MA in Arab Studies

Hobbies: Planning Cohort I social events, going to dinner with friends, reading

Favorite Lauder Class to Date: Independent Study about Economic Constructions with Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde – Notable works studied include John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice, and Raghuram Rajan’s Fault Lines

Favorite Wharton Class to Date: Either Stuart Diamond’s Negotiations or Nikolaj Siggelkow’s Competitive Strategy  [Note: Wharton students bid on electives in an online auction system and usually don’t have enough points to take both of these extremely popular courses.  Matt won Siggelkow’s class in a fluke round when it sold for only 100 points as opposed to its usual price of 5,000 points or more, so he was lucky enough to take both!]

Favorite Penn Class to Date: Kenwyn Smith’s Group Dynamics & Organizational Politics (i.e. The “Power Labs” Course) – this highly unconventional course is offered by invitation only to students who are able to pass a few mental “readiness” hurdles.  The chosen students spend entire weekends doing experiential group psychology experiments similar to, although not quite as extreme as, the now infamous Stanford Prison experiment of 1971.  Matt says the course changed his outlook on life!

Wharton Major: Business Development (interdisciplinary major created by Matt along with Department Chairs)

Leadership Positions at Wharton: Chair of the General Management Conference, Social Chair for Cohort I, Non-Profit Board Leadership Fellow

Favorite Movies: The Godfather; Stardust Memories

Favorite Books: Game of Nations by Miles Copeland; Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley

Favorite Food: Cheeseburger from Jose Pistola’s

Favorite Middle Eastern Food: Tarb – essentially it is ground meat wrapped in thick lamb fat (yum!)

Favorite Middle Eastern Beverage: Raki – a liquor similar to Ouzo or Sambuca

Primary News Source: Probably Twitter feeds of The Arabist, Michael Walid Hanna, Stephen Cook, and Mark Lynch.  Other sources include NYTimes, Washington Post, Academic Journals.

Post-Graduation Full-time Career Plans: Management Consulting for McKinsey in Washington, D.C.  First job in the private sector!

GKL Topic: Middle East customer segmentation, brand consolidation, and pricing strategies for a large multinational company

In His Own Words:

How did you first become interested in government work and the public sector?

I remember while in high school reading about President Bill Clinton in the New York Times and learning that he had graduated from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown in 1968, which kick-started his career in politics, even giving him the opportunity to intern for Senator William Fulbright.  I applied to the program, because it ranks the best program for government and international affairs.  At that time, I knew I wanted to work in international affairs and be involved in U.S. policy-making.  It is funny to think now that I actually used a typewriter to write my college essays and physically mailed them to Georgetown.

At Georgetown you earned a Masters in Arab Studies.  What initially drew you to studying the Middle East and Arabic?

Well, choosing a region of study was a pretty easy decision for me.  I come from a Jewish family, and my grandfather is an Israeli Zionist.  I even had the opportunity to participate in the Birthright Israel Program.  As a result, whenever there is news relating to the Arab world, it is always of particular interest to me. The Arab Studies program at Georgetown complicated and enhanced my understanding of the region.

Speaking of the Arab world, what are your thoughts on the Arab uprisings of recent months?

What has happened in Egypt is absolutely incredible.  The fact that until recently Egyptians have been labeled as apathetic about politics has been shown to be patently untrue.   The truth is that they were being realistic and weary of physical repression. What they have achieved has been empowering and what is most interesting to me, and in direct contrast with Iraq, is the fact that, in Egypt, the revolution sprung directly from the people and was not instigated by external Western powers.  It seems to me that imposing democracy upon Middle Eastern nations does nothing but to emasculate them.  The Egyptian model is a far better example of the people empowering themselves.

What would you say to the fear that the next regime might be worse than Mubarak?

I think it is misplaced and inaccurate.  Even if Mubarak happened to be sympathetic to Western ideals and peaceful toward Israel, isn’t it in everyone’s best interest to have a leader who is the voice of the Egyptian people?  It is my personal belief that every country should have a leader who commands the respect and trust of its own people first.  Then, we can go around worrying about strategic alliances.

What about Libya?

To be honest, I’m actually conflicted on the state of affairs in Libya.  Of course I believe that humanitarianism is a good thing, but at the same time, I also fear that NATO is getting a little too mixed up in places it doesn’t belong.  I’ve been to Libya and I can say without a doubt that they don’t want outside powers there.  Not to mention, the West is currently entangled in plenty of other wars and crises.  I’m afraid we might be stretching ourselves too thin.

What is your reaction to the news about Osama Bin Laden?

I think the end of Bin Laden is a victory for the United States, and further validates the painstaking intelligence work that it takes to counter extremist groups, as opposed to large-scale military action.

Changing gears, if you could re-live your Lauder experience, would you do anything differently?

Not too much.  One thing that really helped me was to ask for advice.  So, I would tell incoming or current students that before you do anything ask advice from as many people as possible.  Also, don’t over-commit to too many things and really choose carefully what you want to do and how you want to spend your time.  That way you don’t miss out on anything.  Another piece of advice I would give for those seeking careers in consulting: prepare, prepare, and prepare some more for the case interviews!  I received quite a few rejections throughout the process. I learned that practicing is crucial to building up confidence and having that experience is vital to doing well in the interview process.

Where do you think we might we find you in 10 years?

I might very well be back in government in D.C.

To cap off our interview we tried to stump Matt with some ancient Egyptian history.  We showed him the following two images and asked him to name that pharaoh.  Despite the centuries of wear and tear, he had no trouble.  Take your best shot for next time!

And of course, the trivia responses to Erica’s quandary: Hawaiian roll (left), Philadelphia roll (right).