10 | 2 0 1 7 A C T U A R I A L J O B S E E K E R AMERICAN ACADEM Y OF AC TUARIES
you get a question correct, the next question will be a bit
harder. The GMAT is currently a 3.5-hour examination
and is a critical part to gaining admission into the top
business schools. Note that if you want to start early with
the GMAT, that’s fine—scores are valid for five years.
Similarly to the actuarial education process, there are
third-party providers, like Manhattan GMAT, that provide
study guides, tutoring, and other helpful services.
Once you have scored well on the GMAT/GRE and
have decided on a program and school, the next step is
actually applying to schools. The application process has
three distinct phases.
Step 1—Recommendation Letters
While you won’t be writing the recommendation letters,
it is still important that you choose the right people to
write your recommendation letters. A piece of advice
that resonated with me was that you shouldn’t choose
the most famous person or someone with a great title, but
rather the people who know you best. In other words,
titles of recommenders mean less than the story they are
able to tell about you. A close manager will likely be able
to write a better recommendation letter than the president of your company.
You will also need to help your recommenders, as they
have busy careers and your letter of recommendation
is likely not the top priority for them. To get them to
write the best letters for you, explain to them why you
are applying to certain schools and talk through various
examples that you believe would be best highlighted for
certain schools. Set up recurring meetings with your
recommenders to keep them on task and offer your
assistance in answering any questions. After the process is
completed, don’t forget to thank your recommenders for
all the time they took to help you.
Step 2—Business School Essays
While your recommendation letters are in process, start
writing your essays for each school. It is important to
start this process early—if nothing else, read the ques-
tion prompts so that you can brainstorm some potential
responses to each. Each school will ask different ques-
tions, and you’ll need to customize the responses to these
essays for each school. Typically, there are questions that
are forward-looking—“What are your career goals, and
why is an MBA essential to achieving them?”—as well as
questions that are retrospective in nature—“Tell us about
an obstacle that you’ve overcome.”
Keep in mind that the admissions officials at each school
read thousands of applicants, so you will want to create
a unique essay that tells your story. Business schools are
looking for diversity, and I believe that actuaries can add
to that diversity, so I would recommend highlighting this.
Also remember that readers may not understand what
an actuary is or what we do, so avoid including technical
jargon. A helpful way to eliminate technical jargon is to
have nonactuaries review your business school essays—if
they can’t understand certain concepts, it is likely that the
admissions department won’t either.
The culmination of the application process is the interview process. Some schools offer interviews to every
applicant (Kellogg does), while some schools only offer
interviews after the review of your initial application
(e.g., Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley). The format of these interviews varies
by school; some are offered only on campus, while some
schools offer off-campus interview options. Other differences may include who will be conducting your interview
(a current student or admission staff, for example) and
the types of questions that are typically asked. As with job
interviews, it is important to be prepared, on time, and
have questions prepared in advance. Being excited about
the school and doing your “homework” will help differentiate you from the competition.
Although this may seem like a considerable amount of
work, if an MBA makes sense for you, you will have sufficient motivation to perform all of the hard work associated with an MBA application. Receiving admissions into a
MBA program is a gratifying experience similar to finding
your candidate number on the actuarial examination pass
Plus, that’s only the start. The MBA program is an
eye-opening experience in which you will interact with
professionals from a variety of industries and cultures,
have the option to travel the world, and learn new skills
that can provide dividends in the short and long term.
Last but not least, by being a brand ambassador for the
actuarial profession, you can help to ensure that actuaries have more opportunities in the future to work as risk
professionals across many different industries.
NATHAN POHLE, MAAA, FSA, CERA, MBA, is a manager at Deloitte
Consulting working primarily in the life insurance sector. In his time at
Deloitte before Kellogg, Pohle focused on audit and consulting engagements in the valuation and financial reporting areas for life insurance
companies. In addition, he was a key contributor in Deloitte’s predictive
analytics initiatives, which help insurance companies combine different
data sources to develop analytics solutions. Pohle is interested in how
Big Data and analytics can be applied in the sports industry.
The Value of an MBA to an Actuary
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