It’s triple Tuesday… a real treat as people catch up with blogs. With that, this entry is for those with an open mind, still evaluating schools. If you’re super-set on a school, skip this and play computer solitaire for 5 minutes instead.
Application deadlines are right around the corner. The admissions department of every major MBA is out selling their differentiated vision of business school and promoting their brand, and it’s time to narrow your focus.
A good friend of mine told me to go to the best B-school I was accepted to, but I ignored him. For me, it was Haas or bust. I knew for as long as I knew I wanted to go to Business school that Haas was the right fit for me.
People always remind me to examine the culture of the company/school I want to attend. I did that for undergrad and haven’t done it since. I saw Haas as the right school for me based on a variety of factors. I knew “how great” the people were at Haas, but I never attended a class or had lunch with students. I had done so much research, I thought I knew everything they’d tell me. What an idiotic assumption.
When I arrived at Haas, I found out how great the people really are and how lucky I am to be with my classmates. I got lucky, really lucky. I could just have easily chosen another school and gone someplace where I didn’t fit.
Is there more to business school than people? Absolutely. But if you research a bit, you can find out what makes a school tick by looking at their published material and the various rankings like Princeton Review or Wall Street Journal (subscription). You’ll notice that top business schools follow similar core courses and use similar cases, they attract top recruiters, they have great professors and facilities, and they offer great international trips. The formats may vary, the specialties may change, there may be a geographical bias with firms you’re interested in, certain recruiters may pass over a school, or there might be some other intangible factor that captures your interest. So take all that into consideration, identify your top choices, then do something I didn’t: visit schools.
Your application may be perfect and you may think you’ve found the greatest school. You can interview school ambassadors and send e-mails to admissions all day long and you’ll learn a lot. And then you’ll visit and learn more in one afternoon than all your other work combined. Sure, it’s expensive, but you have a job, so support America’s negative saving rate and put that money to use.
I am making a lot of strong life-long friendships at Haas, more so than at any other point in my life (and I’m in the military- where people get close). Surprisingly, my new friends come from backgrounds and walks of life that I never would have foreseen.
Will they be your best friends? Who knows… but you should find out. Visit Haas and the other schools and find the right fit for you. Meet us, see what makes us tick, look for your niche. Hopefully you’ll like it here, but if not, hopefully you’ll find the right fit somewhere else.
Go visit your top schools, see what MBA life is like for a day, meet a few current students and get their perspectives, eat the food, smell the air, sit at a desk. Are the students competitive enough? Are they relaxed enough? Do they laugh enough? Are they introverted? Are there enough international students? Not enough women? Do they surf? Do they have tricycle races? Do they live on campus? What’s it like to me married? What’s it like to be single? Do the ladies fantasize about their professors? Do the evening-weekend folks prank the first years? (see pajama photo below)
Maybe you’ll laugh with me at all the first years running around in their PJs carrying their stuffed-animals with them. Maybe you’ll think it’s stupid. Maybe you’ll realize that you’re a better fit at another school. But you won’t really know unless you visit.
Once you’re accepted to various schools, go back and attend their event weekends to get a sense of what your class would look like and meet the ones you’ll be making a strong and lasting connection with.
At my Days At Haas, a group of folks that had previously met at Duke’s admit weekend got-reacquainted and began to form a bond. For me, Days At Haas was when I knew I was at the right place, which is good, because I only applied to Haas.
And when you start your program, I hope you’ll continue to explore. I hope you reach out beyond your comfort zone and become great friends with someone unexpected. Maybe go to Japan for a classmate’s wedding, join the folks re-living their college years at Tuesday Nights at The Graduate, join a case competition with evening-weekenders, or even find love.
If Haas isn’t the school for you, I hope you find the right school. Get the most value from your MBA program and really enjoy your time at business school.
While I’m learning a lot, I’m having an awesome time. You should too, whether here or elsewhere.