Being accepted for (and on the winning team) the McKinsey Challenge

Guest post by Stefanie Dickinson

Last fall, as I entered my third year at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business, I applied for a competition I was not sure I would get into: the prestigious McKinsey Challenge.

This is an annual case competition event held by worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey. It is open to students from UBC, BCIT, SFU and UVic, and only about two dozen are selected from hundreds of applications.

Because this challenge is so competitive, and I had little experience with case analysis, it was not something I would have thought to apply for. However, I knew someone who competed last year (UVic economics student Maxwell Nicholson), and he encouraged me to apply.

Maxwell has had incredible experiences with McKinsey as a competitor in the challenge as well as an intern. Before applying I researched consulting as a career and was excited by the idea that I could problem solve in a team setting as a career.

So I applied, and to my surprise I was accepted. Applicants are evaluated on work experience, grades and extra-curriculars. My grades were nothing special, but I am very involved on campus as a co-captain of our JDC West case competition team last year, and I’m on the UVic synchronized swim team.

I also coach swimming, and I had my own painting business over the summer. Leadership, teamwork and an entrepreneurial attitude – important qualities of many Gustavson students – are all important to being selected.

I, and my fellow Gustavson student Timothy Longley, was among the 24 students chosen to compete. We were placed on teams and spent the weekend of November 16-17 at McKinsey offices in Vancouver, analyzing and then presenting a solution to a business case.

The weekend was an incredible, intense opportunity to be a consultant for a couple days. We got to learn how a top consulting firm like McKinsey works, from meeting with a real client to problem solving as a team and eventually presenting a proposed solution to the client and senior analysts.

I worked as part of a team of impressive competitors who all had a variety of knowledge and experiences to bring to the team. In addition, McKinsey consultants often popped into our room to give us comments and ideas for consideration.

Part of the prestige associated with competitions like McKinsey’s are the potential career opportunities that come from the experience. Getting an internship at a top consulting firm as a student can be next to impossible, but the winners of the McKinsey challenge are granted interviews for summer internships.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get a spot, however, even after winning the challenge. Sometimes one or two interns will be hired – and sometimes none. However, it is still an amazing experience as well as an opportunity to make incredible connections and learn more about consulting.

To other students considering consulting as a career, but who might feel a bit intimidated by their chances of getting their foot in the door, I would say don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Ask me or anyone who has experience with consulting or case competitions for advice so that you can have the best shot possible. Also, don’t be afraid to apply for things that you are interested in, even if you think you won’t get in. Grades are not everything, and you shouldn’t underestimate the valuable skills you have gained through your extracurriculars. I almost did and would have missed out on this great opportunity.

Read more about Stefanie: BCom Student Comes Out on Top in Prestigious 2018 McKinsey Challenge

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