Meet Brooke Wheelan featured admissions consultant

A former Associate Director of Admissions at Harvard Business School, Brooke served on the HBS MBA Admissions Board for 13 years. In addition to reviewing more than 10,000 MBA applications, she traveled globally to conduct face-to-face admissions interviews while overseeing candidate evaluation, online application and academic credentials-verification processes.

Prior to working at HBS, Brooke was a case team leader at Bain & Company, focused on retail and consumer goods clients. She earned her MBA degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with highest honors and her bachelor of science degree in commerce from the University of Virginia with highest distinction.

As a Master Consultant at The MBA Exchange, Brooke’s answers to the following questions reveal the candor, professionalism and dedication she brings to every client engagement.

1. What prompted you to pursue an MBA education in the first place?

I was admittedly on the professional “treadmill” and attending business school was the typical next step.  I recall having a conversation with my mentor who told me that as a woman, I would never regret pursuing higher education, as it would keep doors open throughout my career.  Today, as a professional and a mother of three children – ages 7, 10, and 13 – I can honestly say this was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.

2. What was the biggest surprise you encountered at business school?

I was surprised by how much the culture and community of the school defined my MBA experience.  I was attracted to Kellogg as a well-rounded school with smart students who don’t take themselves too seriously – and that was exactly what it was.  It’s so easy to get caught up in which school has the highest test scores or the most famous professors, but it’s really the day-to-day encounters that make an MBA education, and Kellogg delivered on its promise.

3. How did you go about choosing the business school you attended?

When considering various MBA programs, Kellogg was one of the only schools with a legitimate 1-year degree option.  I already had an undergraduate business degree and broad industry exposure in management consulting.  As I also had important personal considerations, Kellogg’s 1-year program was the only place I applied to and it proved to be a perfect fit for me.

4. What was the most enjoyable aspect of being an MBA student?

I enjoyed getting out of my management consulting “bubble” and realizing there was an entire world of interesting people doing other incredible things.  My best friend and classmate was a female entrepreneur.  Without realizing it at the time, hearing amazing stories from her and other peers was inspiring.

5. Which part of your MBA education has proved most valuable to your career?

Most of all, I value the intangibles – learning by osmosis and gaining confidence in my own professional intuition. I started my MBA feeling like a naïve professional just entering the business world and emerged as a graduate with a newfound sense of legitimacy, purpose, and perspective.”

6.  What first prompted you to become a business school admissions officer?

I had spent almost a decade in management consulting and was ready for my next career move, one that would support me as I started my own family.  As I learned more about it, I became intrigued by the “business” of admissions – e.g., how to market an MBA program to applicants, how to develop a process for analyzing 10,000 applications and producing 1,000 admits.  I also derived a ton of energy from being back on a college campus. The Kellogg community meant so much to me during my consulting career, and I found a similar “home” working in admissions at Harvard Business School.

7.  What was the biggest surprise you encountered serving as an adcom?

When you’re an applicant viewing the MBA admissions process from the outside looking in, you assume the adcom is looking for a reason to ding you. But the truth is they want to admit you.  Their primary job is to fill next year’s class with quality students, and they need lots of qualified, motivated applicants to do that.  Especially early in the season, adcoms are fresh, excited and rooting for you!

8.  What did you enjoy most about reviewing MBA applications and interviewing applicants?

It was an incredibly voyeuristic process where every day I got to read about fascinating people doing incredible things.  I was constantly learning about different companies, industries, countries and cultures.  My colleagues and I used to always joke that these applicants “walk on water” while we must have been the MBA admissions “mistakes!”

9.  What was the most challenging aspect of evaluating MBA candidacies?

Getting to know the authentic person behind a written application.  It’s easy to review GPAs, test scores, and resumes, but the individual underneath it all is what matters most.  In some cases, that felt easy, and in other cases it was hard to find the applicant’s voice, either on paper or during the interview. However, that was my primary goal with each candidate.

10.  What motivates you to guide and support clients today as an MBA admissions consultant?

As a counterpoint to my answer above, I’m incredibly motivated by understanding who my clients are at their core, helping them come to their own personal epiphanies and realizations, and then guiding them in telling their unique story.  That’s what adcoms want to see.  They truly just want to get to know you as you, what you think, how you feel.

11.  Which three words best describe your approach to admissions consulting?

Honest, supportive, demanding.