As a former Associate Director of MBA Admissions for Columbia Business School, Jennifer LaRusso-Leung reviewed applications, interviewed applicants, and was a member of the admissions committee. She also led the outreach and recruitment team responsible for all on-campus events. Through her work with a non-profit, Jennifer has extensive experience coaching students with disabilities on the recruiting, disclosure and accommodations process. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Holy Cross and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. Jennifer is also a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. As a Master Consultant with The MBA Exchange, she provides expert guidance and support for a wide range of applicants targeting top-tier business schools.
To help prospective MBA applicants get an insight into what makes Jennifer such an outstanding advisor, we asked her to answer the following questions:
1. What first prompted you to become an MBA admissions officer?
I had been working in recruiting at a large, corporate law firm where I oversaw the summer internship program. I was responsible for meeting with students on their campuses, planning their summer events and assignments, and overseeing all events. I loved that role but my favorite part was getting to know the summer associates and facilitating their first professional experience.
At that point, I wanted a focus that was more “student facing.” I wanted to interview candidates and really get to know them. The more I realized what I loved about that job, the more I knew that a role in admissions was what I was really looking for. I applied to Columbia Business School, was hired and it was absolutely a wonderful fit!
2. What was the biggest surprise you encountered serving as an adcom?
The biggest surprise was how amazing the applicants were as people. I was awed by the candidates’ experience, intelligence, and aspirations. It was fascinating not only to read applications and peek through that window into their lives, but also to meet them in-person at information session.
3. What did you enjoy most about reviewing MBA applications and interviewing applicants?
I love getting to know people. When you meet me, I’ll ask you a ton of questions! I’m naturally curious and love to know a person’s backstory. So, the most interesting thing to me at Columbia Business School was seeing the different paths that people took — how they got to their current jobs, the challenges they faced, their fascinating hobbies, worldly travels, etc. I often found myself asking nearly endless questions about an especially interesting tidbit!
4. What was the most challenging aspect of evaluating MBA candidacies?
I was always disappointed if a candidate I felt was a strong fit didn’t get admitted or chose to attend a different school. There were people whose stories drew me in, or who I met at an info session, and I said to myself, “THIS person would be great for our school!” It was hard not to take it personally, after I invested so much in such a candidate, when they didn’t enroll. But, at the end of the day, I knew there are a lot of great business schools and I just hoped they were happy wherever they attended.
5. What motivates you to guide and support clients today as an MBA admissions consultant?
First, when I’m paired with a client, I feel an immediate responsibility to do right by him or her. It’s a huge responsibility to help guide someone through such a challenging and important chapter in their life. So, I take it very seriously. Secondly, I see the application process as an exploration – probing not only why they want an MBA, but also what has motivated them up to this point, and what they want to achieve in their future. I enjoy analyzing someone’s strengths and limitations, identifying what makes them truly unique, and then helping them craft their story in a way that sets them apart from a crowded pool of similar applicants. I really love being an admissions consultant at The MBA Exchange and I believe that shows in the working relationships I develop with my clients.
6. Which three words best describe your approach to admissions consulting?
Committed. Engaged. Strategic.
If Jennifer LaRusso-Leung sounds like the kind of advisor who you’d like to help guide your MBA admissions campaign, contact The MBA Exchange to learn more about her background and confirm the match.