A Golden Ticket

Graphic: Chris Morris for The Washington Post.

What would you do to get into a top MBA program? Would you climb Mount Everest? The guy who did is your competition

That was the sub-hed on an August 2011 feature I wrote for The Washington Post about prospective MBA students who were charting win-at-all-costs strategies like starting up their own businesses or traveling the world to make themselves stand out from other business school applicants.

I came across the story idea while visiting New York one weekend during my internship at The Washington Post in summer 2011. I was at a house party with a friend of mine from college and because he worked in finance, the crowd skewed toward MBAs and prospective MBAs. When the inevitable “what do you do?” question popped up, I told one of them that I was a journalist, and he proceeded to tell me of a nonprofit he had started to increase his chances of getting into business school. The nonprofit’s mission seemed secondary to its ultimate goal, which was to get the prospective MBA into the business school of his dreams.

I told him I wasn’t going to write about his non-profit. But the conversation stuck in my mind me because it seemed like a lot of trouble to go through just to get into an MBA program. When the Post’s Sunday Business editor and I sat down to chat about feature story ideas for the paper, I mentioned it and she instantly saw the story’s potential. Over the coming weeks, she helped me shape it into a colorful feature that included all sorts of bizarre, daring and outlandish things young people were doing to get into the MBA programs of their dreams.

It was one of the most fun features I’ve ever worked on. Big thanks to my editor, Kelly Johnson, for seeing the story’s potential and helping me land it in the paper’s Sunday Business section just before my internship ended.