Eliya Panchova MiM 2024 Laidlaw Scholar

I rarely trust statistics when it comes to choices concerning future goals. The reason is that last year, my chances of being where I am now were around 0.00000002%.

Statistics is a fascinating science and an incredibly useful tool for decision-making. However, I don’t use it as a realistic criteria when pursuing goals; it is discouraging at best and depressing at worst. To put my words into context, I will present the statistics’ I chose not to believe in when applying. 

Starting first with the application process for LBS, I was aware that the school is prestigious but also competitive. Some unofficial, questionably credible sources online scare you off with an acceptance rate of around 12%. When you see the number, it’s natural to start contemplating whether you’ll be the best one among the other seven applicants competing for this place. However, don’t start doubting yourself; there are two factors to consider, so let’s debunk the myths: 

  1. There is no such thing as “the best applicant” or “the most relevant profile.” Don’t try to make your personal experiences fit into a certain framework, which a bunch of blog posts online market as “the ultimate profile.” I doubt such a thing exists; what matters more is sharing your authentic story and explaining in an engaging way how it led you to LBS. 
  2. The assessment process is holistic, and when I say that, I genuinely mean it. LBS is not about being 10/10 in all possible dimensions out there. There are multiple criteria assessed at the same time, be it academic achievements, extracurriculars, work experience, GMAT score, essays, interview performance, etc. They all matter, and they are all considered in painting the picture. One piece of advice I wish someone gave me a year ago while applying is “Relax; no one cares about your low GMAT score as much as you do.” In that sense, underperforming in one aspect is not a deal breaker and doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. Multiple layers of your performance are taken into consideration, and if you’re exceptional in one aspect but below average in another, you don’t deserve your place in the classroom less than someone with a different experience. 

Don’t let acceptance rates scare you off; trust me, it’s worth the try. 

Having convinced you to apply at least, let’s talk about the funding now. It can be quite a deal-breaker for some people, but don’t worry; I understand. As a first-generation university student coming from a working-class family in rural Bulgaria, financing my education was a significant factor to consider. I contemplated several options, such as student loans, scholarships, personal savings from part-time jobs, work and travel programmes in the U.S. during the summer, and even crowd-funding. I had this Excel table in which I brainstormed worst- and best-case scenarios on different funding options and how each one impacts my potential journey at LBS. 

I started investigating scholarship opportunities, and one option was being automatically considered for merit. Apart from that, there were few opportunities for a student with my experience, but I bumped into a blog post by a Laidlaw scholar. Initially, I thought we had different backgrounds and experiences, but we had visions of the impact we wanted to create. The statistics again looked depressing: top 1% success rate; only 4 out of 300 Masters in Management students were awarded the Laidlaw full scholarship. 

Still, I decided to give it a try against all odds; the process was simple and straight forward just a few essay-type questions and the eligibility criteria were quite inclusive. It was a good return-to-effort ratio, so I again decided to disregard the statistics. 

What I think made my scholarship application stand out was that it was factual. I didn’t make huge promises about transforming the world, but I was honest about my interest in consulting, my target firm, and the change I want to contribute to and see in the next few years in this field.

The second factor, which I think made a difference, was my approach to telling my story. I fully embraced the circumstances that had impacted my academic and professional journey, as well as my background and my motivation for being a Laidlaw scholar. Approaching the scholarship application process open-mindedly allowed me to transform challenges into opportunities.

Lastly, what contributed to my scholarship application was my genuine passion to give back to the communities that I relate to and that have helped me throughout my journey. Being engaged in multiple NGOs related to education and career opportunities prior to LBS, I knew this was where I could make a meaningful contribution. I outlined which are the communities I feel interested in and how I can contribute to them in LBS during term time and after graduation.

Be open-minded about sharing your story and genuine interests instead of thinking about how to best fit into a “framework.”.

Onwards, my journey was heavily influenced by the Laidlaw scholarship, and if it wasn’t for the team that recognised my potential, I wouldn’t have been here. Now halfway through my degree, there are a few milestones worth reflecting on.

I am now part of MiM’s 24 cohort and the Laidlaw community, which is full of extraordinary women with a vision for the future. Reflecting on the recruitment season, being a scholar helped me connect with inspiring women from the network working in consulting. The approximate chance of me joining this firm was around 0.0014% according to my rough estimates, but the Laidlaw scholars encouraged me to apply regardless of the numbers. As a result, after graduation, I will be joining one of the most prestigious consulting firms as a business analyst in London.

Don’t forget where you come from and what you came for. If you collaborate and seek guidance, there will be people who are happy to help.

Looking back, If someone had told me on December 7, 2023, that on the next day, I’d be accepted to LBS with a 100% scholarship, I’d have never believed it. But if someone had told me on the same date that precisely a year later I’d receive an offer from the company I aspired to work for, I’d have thought someone was messing with me. My probability of being accepted, receiving a scholarship, and receiving an offer from the firm I aspire to work for was around 0.00000002%, so…don’t trust the depressing statistics; submit that application regardless!

Written by Eliya Panchova, MiM 2024

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