Choose Bravely

In just about a month schools are begging to get their hands on your deposit money. Many of you are in the fortunate position of being able to choose which schools to attend. But how do you choose wisely? Factors include:

  • Location
  • Class Size
  • Ranking
  • Fit
  • Scholarship Situation
  • Partner Input
  • Recruiting
  • Career Services
  • Brand of the School
  • Alumni Network
  • Other

Any reasonable business person is weighing most (if not all) of these options in making a decision. When it came time for me to choose I made my choice based on “fit & feeling”. I already know some of you think I’m nuts for turning down money from Kellogg plus a virtual living stipend, but while I hate to disappoint you folks, money was NOT at or near the top of my list for selection. Why? Well aside from computing the economics of the whole situation (on avg. we will make $3.5 million in our post-MBA life – $200K on an education – so $3.3 million) the experience and friends I’ll have post-MBA is worth more to me than tuition.

A Real World Example

Last year I had a friend who got into Tuck, Wharton, Harvard and Yale. Tuck offered her a full-ride and Wharton gave her a pile of cash too. Her career aspirations were either Non-Profit or Private Equity (couldn’t be dissimilar right?) Something inside of her said Harvard because of the name, but another part of her says Yale because that’s where she felt she would thrive the most. Dartmouth and Wharton were top-notch educational institutions but she was at the point were she felt like she’d be “meeting expectations” by taking the money and and being satisfied.

She decided to go to Yale SOM. At the end of the day, she concluded it would be in her best interest to go to a school that fit her intellectual interests, allowing her to maximize her grad school experience. Yale ultimately fit with her smart but humble personality and the international name brand of ‘Yale’ would go further for her if she decided to take her talents back to her native India. Harvard felt to stodgy for someone who had spent a decade in semi-laid back San Francisco and she felt Wharton was pumping out finance robots. Finally, she considered Dartmouth’s network ultimately too small and unrecognizable for her to get her foot in the door on the West Coast and abroad – which left her at Yale.

I asked her about ranking and she left some lasting tidbits with me. Her words summarized: If you’re at a Top 10 to Top 15 program the academics are generally going to be the same with 80-100% confidence. Some schools have a reputation for a softer curriculum but it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day you’ll have near identical functional tools if you go to a School Ranked #1 or a School Ranked #11. But, she contended, this was actually part of the reason she choose Yale. She went on to tell me the distinguishable academic experience was a prevailing draw for Yale SOM. Btw, if you haven’t checked out Yale’s Integrated Curriculum, you should, it’s a very dynamic forward-thinking learning model. (Just to add, I think Yale is bound to crack into the Top 5 at some point – they’ve moved inside the Top 10 with breakneck pace.)

Choose Bravely

Anyways, my friend who is at Yale right now helped me put things in greater perspective when I made my final choice. Choose because that’s what you want – not because that’s what others expect. For everyone the reasoning is different. Some people want to choose a school that offers a great scholarship close to their family. Their want is driven by their family and not necessarily because they want to be at the University up on the hill. Whatever it is, we all have unique reasons and it’s OK to be a bit selfish and rock the boat. Maybe you got that scholly to a great school that you’re having second thoughts about because it doesn’t fit you as well as the next? Maybe you feel like the school that’s ranked #12 is actually a better fit that the school that’s ranked #4?

This is two years in your life that you cannot give back. It’s also an experience that you’ll never want to look in your rear view and say, “What if?” It doesn’t matter what your reason may be, at the end of the day if you ‘feel it’ make it happen. And whatever your choice may be, choose bravely my friend.


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