The two important questions to ask
Do I really need to do an MBA? This question plagued my mind since I thought of doing a business degree in early 2022. I had a great job, running my own branding and design consultancy, unbounded by rules and blessed with flexibility. It is not high paying, but I enjoyed working with my clients and team. Besides, people told me that learning about business is done by doing business, not by being in a classroom. In short, if my sole reason for doing an MBA is to gain some business understanding, I would be better off doing a business myself.
Furthermore, if I were to go to school again, I wanted to do it in the best institution in the world. Unfortunately, some of the best options are not the most affordable ones. Which leads to the next question: how can I fund my degree? The scholarship provided by the Indonesian government is a good funding alternative, but after going through their scholarship registration form, my education history - which includes not completing my high school degree - raised doubts about the possibility of getting their grants.
With little to no hope of doing an MBA, especially since I have yet to figure out why it would be worth doing, I casually browsed through the list of 'top universities' the Indonesian government provided, where Oxford sits on top. I browsed Saïd Business School's website and ended up on the Skoll Centre's page, where a video featuring their scholars played. What happened next might be overly dramatic, but I teared up in front of my laptop, listening to them speak about their social ventures. I longed to be surrounded by that kind of company, people who strive to deliver change through businesses. Not all of them are in the business school, but being in the best university will lead me to a group of them all at once.
Does ranking really matter?
I finally found a solid reason to do an MBA: being connected to the best and brightest changemakers. However, crying over a three-minute video alone doesn't justify applying to Oxford. As a wise proverb says, ‘test all things'. I weighed up the aspects of each business school, including the potential funding that comes with every application. Did Oxford score the highest in the business school rankings? Not really, but their current students and alumni that I messaged on LinkedIn were kind and genuine, providing every element of helpful information and convincing me even more to be part of the Oxford MBA community. Every school can present their most polished version of themselves in social media and publications, but it’s the students who are the ones we will be with for the year we spend at school and beyond.
To apply, or not apply?
August came and I got connected to one of Saïd Business School’s admission team, who looked through my CV and kindly advised me to apply for the Laidlaw Foundation Scholarship. Even after our conversation, I doubted that the School wanted me: someone whose background leans more towards the creative side, with a sprinkle of passion in education – do I qualify to be at one of the best universities in the world to study business? Even more, to win a competitive scholarship?
Nevertheless, with much prayer and encouragement from people around me, I began working on my MBA application. My 17-year-old cousin taught me how to do GRE in maths. Two of my clients generously offered to write recommendation letters, while my younger sister and a friend helped me prepare for my interviews. I submitted my application, Laidlaw scholarship essays and Kira video in January. Was it perfect? It could have been better. However, throughout the journey, I was strengthened by confirmation upon confirmation that this is the right year for me to apply to the MBA, that I will get connected to the right people at the right time and that Oxford would be the right place for this to happen.
And so, it happens…
I am now writing this in Oxford, doing the last bit of MBA launch week, which is only made possible by the support of the Laidlaw Scholarship. Having met my cohort and some of the upperclassmen, especially the Laidlaw Scholars, I would've regretted not applying to Oxford. If you are considering an MBA, make sure you find your reasons for doing the degree and overcome your doubts. It doesn't have to look like mine, but it will help you to identify the right school and empower you through the harder parts of the application journey. The Oxford MBA community and the Laidlaw Scholarship were the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of my MBA application journey and I am now more than grateful to call Oxford my home for the year.