My husband and I were waiting at the airport in Budapest, ready to come home after a long weekend break for my birthday. I hadn’t checked my emails much while I’d been away, as I’d vowed to try and be present and just enjoy the holiday. As I connected to the airport wi-fi I noticed some of the usual stuff coming through; new collection being released from Vans (yasss), my latest overpriced gas bill (boo)… And then one email caught my eye. It was from Warwick Business School and it started with the words “I’m pleased to inform you.” I hurriedly opened up the email, scan read it all and then turned to my husband, practically screaming the words:
“I GOT IN”
Dreaming of an MBA
I’d always wanted to do an MBA (Masters in Business Administration), despite being the kind of person that was always set against the education system. I’d not been able to go to school much growing up, as my mum was unwell and I was suffering educationally because of that. Despite getting into a Grammar School, I was constantly being pulled up for my attendance and behaviour. By the time my GCSEs came around, my mum was really, really unwell and so I was only able to attend two exams. I left school believing that education just wouldn’t be the right thing for me and I waved most of my friends off to university with a pang of jealousy.
However, an MBA had always stood out as something truly enticing. Who wouldn’t want to be an actual MASTER of business? So, for a few years, I did my research and realised I was going to have to do some kind of undergrad degree and work my way up to that point. I set myself a target of graduating with my Master’s at the age of 36 (which is how old my mum was when she passed away). I enrolled in a distance learning course in psychology, as I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour, but I quickly learnt that it wasn’t for me.
So, I put the dreams of an MBA to one side and focused on growing my business instead. Every now and then I’d look up different schools offering MBA courses, particularly those that could be done part-time, but I thought that I’d have to file this idea away in the ‘pipe dreams’ folder (it’s quite a large folder, if I’m honest).
Applying for Warwick Business School
One day, as I was looking through yet another list of epic schools offering epic MBA courses that I’d never get into, I decided to click on the Warwick Business School website. They had been ranked as number one in the world for their distance learning MBA and I loved the fact that a UK-based school was at the top. I spent the next few hours going through everything I could possibly find about their distance learning MBA (DLMBA) and I was in love.
From their ethos and modules (the Economics of Wellbeing sung to me) through to the fact they were launching a DLMBA that had several modules at The Shard in London, I knew this was where I wanted to go. But then I remembered that I’m an educational loser with nothing but some English GCSEs to my name, so tried to work out how on earth I could apply for somewhere like Warwick Business School.
And then I just did it. I just applied. I filled in the application form, explained why I had no qualifications, told them all about my business, and just hit send. I actually remember laughing to myself once I’d sent it, thinking admissions were going to have a good old giggle over this unqualified wannabe even bothering to fill out an application.
But then I got an email, a couple of weeks later, asking me for a video interview. I was 99.9% sure they wanted to continue the joke at admissions.
The MBA Interview
I was given exactly seven days to complete the video interview and send it back. Being the Anxious Annie that I am, I decided that the pipe dream had gone far enough and that I should just leave it there. At this point, only my husband knew that I had even applied for this MBA and so I didn’t feel like I was letting anyone down by not doing it. Other than myself. I had that horrible niggling feeling that I would seriously regret not even trying.
So, on the seventh day, as the deadline loomed, I got to my office at 6am to conduct the video interview. I tested the cameras and microphones on several of the computers in my office, only to find them all absolutely useless. My anxiety crept back in and I figured it was the universe telling me not to waste my time. I went outside, had a cigarette and fought with myself for about 20 minutes. I then marched back into the office, downloaded the video interview app on my phone and pressed ‘Start.’
The MBA interview was quite an odd one and I definitely didn’t know what to expect. I was given around a minute to read a question and then a couple of minutes to answer it. As I focused my face into the camera I realised that my hair was still a bit wet and I looked tired (it was early, after all). However, I just went for it. I answered questions about my work, why I wanted to be part of WBS and a few on my experiences in things like change management. When it was over, I hit submit and visibly slumped into my chair. At least I’d done it, but I thought there was no way on this planet I’d be offered a place.
I’m pleased to inform you
Around a month after completing my interview, as I’m sitting in Budapest airport, I got the email to offer me a place at Warwick Business School. For an MBA. Me. With no qualifications. Not only that, but they also offered me a scholarship for my place. After receiving the email, I finally realised it was probably time to actually tell people I had even applied. I sent a screenshot of the email to my friends and it all started to sink in. I could actually be getting an MBA… And before my target age of 36!
Of course, Anxious Annie did have quite a few reservations. The realisation that I hadn’t been in school for 13 years was one. Plus, the resounding voice in my head that says, “You can’t do it” always knocks me down a peg or two. I was quite late replying to Warwick and accepting my place, simply because I couldn’t decide whether I would be any good at it. I didn’t want to let them down, especially after they had offered me a scholarship. However, I finally sent my grateful acceptance and started in June 2019.
Now, full disclosure here… It IS hard. Doing an MBA is one of the most intense things I have ever done in my life. During the first face to face week at The Shard, I drunk so much coffee I actually thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest and all over the pristine white walls. I’ve never felt so mentally exhausted in my life. However, I passed my first two modules with higher scores than I thought and it started to dawn on me that I really can do it.
While this may sound like a less-than-humble brag, there is a moral to this story. Sometimes, you don’t need to walk the conventional route. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of belief in yourself. If I had given up at any point along the application process (like my Anxious Annie brain told me to do), then I wouldn’t be writing this and on my way to graduating with an MBA – with no qualifications! Mind you, I still have to get through the next 19 months first…