Student Profile: UC Davis, Graduate School of Management |

Student Profile: UC Davis, Graduate School of Management

By Niamh O

Updated October 1, 2018 Updated October 1, 2018


Jiayi Zuo, originally from China, will graduate with her fellow University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management classmates in 2019.

Before embarking on her MBA journey, Zuo was an auditor at Ernst & Young, Shanghai, with over three years’ work experience.

Zuo spoke with about her experiences on the MBA program so far.

What were you doing before starting your MBA program?

I worked as an external auditor at Ernst & Young, Shanghai. I led a team of between three and five professionals who performed audit procedures to ensure client financial statements were stated appropriately. I assessed internal controls of client companies and provided suggestions to improve the efficiency of their operations. I also worked in the investment banking division for several months to assist a client company going public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

What were the key factors that led to your pursuit of a graduate degree?

During my IPO project, I collaborated with investment bankers, attorneys and senior management, and helped the client company go public. The client procured advanced equipment, increased production, and expanded its market with the funding raised in the stock offering. It was rewarding to serve as an agent, helping companies raise enough funds for their business expansion. However, having an undergraduate degree isn’t enough to break into the investment banking division. I majored in accounting for my undergraduate degree, so one of my goals is to enhance my expertise in finance.

What factored in to your final decision on your current program and school?

UC Davis MBA program’s national reputation and the advantages of the University of California, Davis as a world-leading research university were really important to me, but the Northern California location and weather were big factors too.

Davis is only about a two-hour drive to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. There are many companies across the Bay Area, big and small, established or startup, and it's also very convenient here to network with alumni, visit companies and meet executives.

California is a nice place to live and study; people on the West Coast are really friendly. Nearby there’s state and national parks, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa wine country which are great weekend getaways.

What do you most love about this school and your program?

The UC Davis MBA program is small, so our class is very close. In every project, I collaborate with different people and learn from their diverse backgrounds and experience. Alumni from the MBA program and UC Davis are also willing to help, they share their career paths, offer insightful suggestions and can open doors.

What do you plan to do upon graduation?

My “Plan A” is to join a Big Four financial advisory department. My summer internship is in the internal audit department of Bio-Rad Laboratories, a global supplier of life sciences and clinical diagnostics products located in the San Francisco Bay Area. At Bio-Rad I’ve found a passion for data analytics and data-driven decision making.

Given US policy for international students, my “Plan B” is to return to China and join a securities firm. In the Mergers & Acquisitions course at UC Davis, it became clear that the rising tide of M&A deals will become commonplace, opening up many opportunities in the M&A departments of securities companies.

Would you do anything differently if you could research and apply to business school all over again?

I would have waited another year to prepare. I decided to pursue an MBA in September, which was late as I hadn’t taken the GMAT or TOEFL yet. I only had four months to prepare to apply in the second round, and the peak season at Ernst & Young was close, which meant I had to work 60-80 hours a week.

During the application process, I decided to resign from my job which was the worst decision. If I’d done more research, I would have seen other applicants commenting in forums who were staying at work while preparing their MBA applications.

I didn’t get an ideal GMAT score in the end. Although GMAT scores aren’t the only factor when schools consider applicants, I believe for international students, a higher GMAT score helps you stand out.

What do you think is the biggest myth about applying to business school?

The criteria. You can find the average work experience, average GMAT scores, average GPA, industries and functions, gender balance, percentage of international students, etc. on school websites but this information has limits.

Schools say they admit applicants based on overall qualifications and background, but you still can’t figure out why some are admitted, and others are rejected. I had interviews I thought went well, but then I wasn’t admitted.

This article was originally published in August 2018 . It was last updated in October 2018

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (;, creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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