After receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS), Shaifali Aggarwal ’98 returned to her finance career in investment management. While she was strong at crunching numbers and analyzing financial statements, she felt that something was missing.
“I always felt there was a creative side to me that I wasn’t able to express through finance,” she says.
She began helping friends and family members with their business school applications on the side. As a student at HBS, Aggarwal was vice president of the women’s student association, working closely with the admission office to create a link between current and prospective students. There, in addition to her own successful application, she gained insight into what top business schools are looking for among applicants.
Aggarwal decided to take an entrepreneurial leap and launched a start-up called 24 Ours, an online media company featuring simple lifestyle tips geared towards women. While she was running that company, her MBA admissions consulting business simultaneously began ramping up as well and became a source of financial support.
A few years later, when 24 Ours’ run was coming to an end, Aggarwal realized she enjoyed her consulting work so much that she decided to devote a full-time effort to making it a success. The Ivy Groupe
“It’s rewarding to work with people globally, to help applicants think of their strategy and their story,” she says.
Aggarwal works with clients in person and remotely via Skype and phone calls, and helps them hone in on telling a personal, authentic story in admission essays.
As the admission field has become more and more competitive, Aggarwal says schools are looking for applicants to convey a unique story that shows how they approach problem solving and what personality traits they will bring to the school.
“If you have a strong GMAT or GRE score and strong professional experience, schools still want to see how you are as a person and understand your values and perspective,” she says. “My role is to bring out their best stories and their true selves.”
In addition to in-depth conversations, Aggarwal has developed a set of exercises to help clients identify and tell their personal stories.
“[Admission staff] want color around your life,” she says. “The why and how is really important versus the what.”
Back on campus for her 20th reunion this spring, Aggarwal says she recalled the experience of how learning around a Harkness tables helped her find and use her voice, an invaluable skill she continues to use to this day.
“Being encouraged to state your viewpoint in an environment with really smart people…not being afraid to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, was an important aspect [of Lawrenceville],” she says. “Sitting around a Harkness table you can’t hide. That was a really important part of my journey.”
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