Susan Cera, Senior Admissions Counselor

Susan Cera

Academic Background

Dartmouth College, AB
Fuqua School of Business, MBA

Area of Expertise

Admissions process, software development process, consulting, and product/project management.

Work Experience

Prior to joining Stratus, Susan worked on the Admissions Committee at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business for nearly a decade reviewing thousands of applications. She was responsible for identifying top candidates out of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and thirty-plus Asian nations. Susan also served the read team for the Indian candidates for over five years and evaluated applications for Duke’s part-time MBA programs (GEMBA, WEMBA and CCMBA).

Susan has deep experience in technology product management having worked for several software and eCommerce companies. After completing her MBA, Susan learned the ropes of product management at Lotus Development prior to its acquisition by IBM in 1996. Susan joined Open Market, a VC-funded eCommerce startup highlighted in HBS case Open Market Inc.: E-Commerce Wars, as a product manager working closely with customers to understand user needs related to selling their products and services on the Internet. In 1998, post-IPO, she served as director of consulting services developing customized solutions for B2C and B2B companies integrating their back-end infrastructure with internet-based sales platforms. She was one of the first ten employees at UPromise, a start-up about which there are several HBS cases, where she identified customer needs and worked hand-in-hand with the development team to craft the initial direction for the service that has helped thousands of families save for college.

Susan earned her AB in economics modified with computer science. During her time at Dartmouth, she participated in varsity soccer as well as Varsity Track and Field. For three years out of Dartmouth, Susan worked at Charles River Associates, an economics consulting firm focusing on anti-trust litigation work.

While earning her MBA, Susan founded Marketing Week in Boston, was captain of the MBA Soccer Club, chaired corporate fundraising for the MBA Games for Special Olympics, and served as an Alumni Liaison.

A little more in-depth

What I like most about being a Stratus MBA Admissions Counselor:

Gaining the trust of my clients, so that I can tailor my coaching/mentoring style to meet their individual needs and helping them identify the MBA program that will set them up to successfully meet their goals.

One piece of advice I would share with someone who is applying to business school:

I encourage clients to look beyond the rankings for a program that offers the culture, curriculum, and clubs that will help them build the knowledge, skills, and relationships to get them from where they are today to where they want to be post-MBA.

Highlight or greatest accomplishment while working with Stratus:

I was thrilled to learn that one of my clients, who came to me with a list of about fifteen programs, pared the list down and applied to four schools and was admitted to her top choice school with a Dean’s Fellowship covering full tuition.

3 Random Facts:

  • After watching Charlie’s Angels and Agent 99 on Get Smart and visiting the FBI building in 8th grade, I wanted to be an FBI agent. I actually interviewed with the CIA out of undergrad before withdrawing my application when I accepted another job (at CRA). Just one letter off.
  • I watched the US Women’s soccer team win the gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
  • Before starting business school, I drove around the US for three weeks visiting twenty-eight states and taking cooking classes in New Orleans and Santa Fe. Chicken Creole anyone?

Blogs by Susan

CPA to MBA: Conduct a Pre-Business School Audit

Every year, thousands of young accounting and audit professionals apply to top MBA programs. Having a CPA or having been promoted multiple times after successful client engagements is not sufficient to secure a seat in a top program. Here are 8 areas for assessment and potential repositioning as you prepare to apply to business school.

9 Tips for International Candidates Applying to Top US MBA Programs

International candidates submit more than half of MBA applications, yet the international student population across the top 20 US MBA programs is roughly 35%. Do the math - it is SUPER competitive. Below are nine things to consider as you prepare to submit your MBA applications. Timing Most top MBA programs have three admissions rounds.

October Tips to Get Ready for MBA Round 2 Submissions

As many aspiring MBA students are wrapping up Round 1 applications or anxiously awaiting a coveted interview invite, perhaps you haven’t even started yet! Don’t worry. If you use your time wisely, you can have several applications complete and ready to submit before Christmas. Here’s what you need to be doing in October. 1. Create

2.7 GPA – Show Stopper for an MBA?

If your undergraduate performance is dismal (read: under 3.0), is there ANY hope of being accepted into an MBA program? Do the math. Stanford’s Class of ’18 has an average GPA of 3.73. If they were to admit you with a 2.7 GPA, they would have to admit FOUR applicants with a perfect 4.0 to

5 Tips for Indian MBA Applicants to Build a Leadership Profile

Top US MBA programs value leadership which, for candidates with just a handful of years of work experience, frequently is a result of involvement with community organizations. While community engagement is engrained in American students, many international candidates struggle to present a strong leadership profile. While many Indian MBA candidates have outstanding GMAT scores and

Duke Fuqua 25 Random Things: Do’s and Don’ts

(Updated for 2020-2021) Not surprisingly, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business is asking for the same 25 random things again this year. Having read this essay for more than a handful of years, I have seen a broad range of responses, some terrible, some brilliant. Through this ‘essay’ Fuqua wants to get to know who YOU

MBA Preparation Spring Clean Up – Seven Tips for April

Now that spring is here, time to do some cleaning up! Take a moment in-between dusting and vacuuming to organize your MBA applications as well. 1. Articulate Why MBA? And Why Now? Earning an MBA should be a transformational experience. For two years, you grow your skills, knowledge and relationships to take your career to

Am I Too Old for an MBA? Four Reasons to Consider Alternative MBAs

The average age of a first year MBA student is 29 - roughly the same as the average of starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Yet, at 39, Tom Brady recently led the Patriots to his fifth Super Bowl win. If Tom Brady can be a successful outlier, so can I...right? If you are more than

Six Things to do in March to Prepare for MBA Applications

Six months may seem like a long lead time to prepare for applying to business school, but there is a LOT more than just writing essays that needs to be done between now and September submission deadlines. If you weren’t following along last month, check out our February tips. Think back to when you applied

Build Your MBA Leadership Profile Through Community Involvement

Young professionals are constantly reevaluating their goals. If one of your goals is to apply to business school and get an MBA, NOW is the time to build out your leadership profile! Although giving blood, participating in charity runs and making financial contributions to worthy causes are noble endeavors, they are not viewed by top

Top Six Things to Do While on an MBA Wait List

Round 1 decisions are out and you are not in. Bummer. The good news is that you were NOT denied! Here are six tips for what you can do while you are on an MBA waiting list. 1. Breathe. Relax. Seriously, you are still in play. Celebrate! There is SOMETHING about your application and profile

How the Admissions Committee Builds a MBA Class

Find out who you are really competing against One of the most popular questions that I get from MBA applicants is how do admissions committees create a class? To answer this question, it is most easily explained with one of my favorite hobbies, cooking, and one of my favorite meals, jambalaya. For those of you