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Short list v.2 – dilemma

June 27, 2008

Warning – long post.

I am really impressed with the amount of thinking I’m putting into my school selection. However, I’m still not sure whether its fruitful enough. The list continues to evolve. I want to end this exercise and finalize the list, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The reason is that I’m attracted to most of the schools, and most of them match some of my criteria.

To prepare the shortlist, my first step was to identify my reasons for doing an MBA and the returns I expect post MBA. There are 3 broad aspects which I feel makes up an applicant’s profile –

the stats (GMAT, GPA, academics, background),

the thought process (reasons for pursuing an MBA, short term and long term vision),

the fit (need I explain that ?! ).

All the above are obviously interlinked, and they come across through your application, essays and the interview.

The thought process tells you why the heck are you getting involved in all this, the numbers (the different bullet points on your resume) bring in some quantitative parameters against which you’ll be compared with others whose thought process bring them on the same path as yours, and the ‘fit’ lets you make the right decision.

Why am I ranting like this ? Cos even though I have perfect clarity on my reasons for an MBA, I’ve been jumping from one aspect to the other in preparing the short list of schools, and I must say I haven’t gone too far from where I started off.

Let me mention how I measure up against each of these aspects –

Statistics – 6.5 yrs of WE in IT by matriculation (age 29), 1.5 yrs global experience, leadership role since the last 2 years,multiple awards and promotions, GMAT 770, Engineering, good academics, decent ECs. Indian. Male.

Thought process – need an MBA for these reasons – Personally – to move out of comfort zone, to further challenge myself intellectually, to develop and utilize my potential on a much larger scale. Professionally – to learn about business, see the bigger picture, CREATE the bigger picture, lead and make a difference. More specifically – focus on strategy. Would like to take some subjects on tech + supply chain as well, but the focus has to be on strategy. Begin with mgmt consulting in the short term with a concentration on strategy and work across industries, or a role in business development – strategy and change. Short term : function – strategy, industry – multiple (preference – tech.) Long term – India. Lead the corporate strategy of an IT firm with an interest in operations & technology.

Fit – the kind of guy I am. The kind of people I’ll get along with. The kind of learning environment I’ll thrive in.  I feel this cannot be answered in words, and need not be answered in words. You need to follow your gut feeling here, and ask your gut what kind of learning style and group size and people type will it be comfortable with. This is where your research will help you. And you’ve got to trust your gut.

Based on my stats, I decided to consider only the top 20 schools. At all cost. Eliminated Harvard due to my age, and no stellar undergrad or academics (they are good, but not stellar).

Based on my reasons and post MBA goal – I liked ALL the following schools –

Chicago, Wharton, MIT, Kellogg, Haas, Ross, Tuck, Fuqua, Darden, Yale, and.. hold on !! Thats already 10 !!! I’m also applying for a Stanford scholarship, and also looking for some 1 year MBAs outside US – Insead, Oxford, Judge. I’m ALSO applying for some Indian schools – ISB, IIM C, IIM A. Now before you think that I’ve lost touch with sanity (which in fact I now think I did, to have embarked on this journey), let me bring in another aspect, a Personal criterion – This is my final shot at pursuing an MBA and its a now or never for me. I am married, will have a kid verrry soon, and need to stabilize things for my family asap – this is a very important factor that shapes my decision.

I would have loved to have 6 US schools in my list, and not more. But now begins my dilemma. The more I research about a particular school, the more I get attracted towards it. All these top schools will get me to my professional goal. All these schools will guarantee an environment full of intense learning. All these schools belong to the elite or ultra elite !!! Ideally, I would have liked to select 6 schools ONLY, with 2 Ultra Elite (top 5), 3 Elite (top 15), and 1 trans Elite (15-20). But given my numbers and my reasons, on one hand I do not want to miss out on a better college, and on the other I do not want to end this year with no admits !

As for the fit, I see a fit with all the above colleges. At least from the research I’ve done, which is only based on information in terms of programmes and courses, career possibilities, and blogs and the net. I cannot visit any of these colleges to get the real feel, and perhaps that would have really helped a lot. But I know the strengths of each of these colleges by now, and also the weaknesses, and I know that saying Wharton & Yale have the same fit is crazy, or Chicago and MIT is crazier. This is where I think I need further research to understand whats the ‘best’ fit colleges for me.

So coming back to my list, I added a few filters to eliminate schools –

Filter – No ‘no cosignor loans’ – Eliminate – Haas. (Although I still prefer Haas cos of its strength on other filters, yet I had to let it go. )

Filter – Good for family – Select – Wharton, MIT, Kellogg, Ross, Tuck, Fuqua, Darden, Yale (not so sure about Chicago)

Filter – Type of program (Collaborative) – Eliminate – none.  Not completely case-based – Eliminate – Darden. (This is again tough, cos I am not completely against case-based teaching, but neither am I completely pro, and I liked Darden for the above filter)

Filter – Higher WE – I’m well above the average WE for all colleges. Darden again has a slightly lower WE avg., but I don’t think thats a good criteria for elimination.

So there. The list is almost the same. I’ve just removed 2 very good colleges (Chicago, Darden), but also added UNC Kenan Flagler, cos if you notice, my list had NO safe schools !! (Don’t get me wrong, I feel UNC is as good a school as those in the elite list(if not better), but ‘safe’ just cos its lower ranked than the others).

So, my final list (and I’m still divided) –




And I do not think thats my final list. A few more points that I need to consider – 

  • I absolutely love what I’ve researched so far about Chicago, with just one core course, the innovative slide presentation in the application, the testament of students (on the net of course, none in ‘reality’). Its ironic that I found it to be the best college amongst all and now I’ve gone and removed it from the list. Maybe I think somewhere that I won’t fit ? Or am I aiming too short ?
  • Darden’s complete case-based methods and presenting their students to the recruiters as MBAs who are GOOD at articulating & communicating things is a big draw, though I’m not sure how comfortable I might be with only this mode of learning.
  • How stretch are my stretch schools ? Should I trade off either Wharton or Kellogg with another college in the elite category ?
  • I am not able to understand my fit at some of these schools – especially those at the top – Kellogg, Wharton, MIT. Have done a lot of research, and I’d love to be a part of any of these schools, but I’m just not sure about the ‘fit’ part. Not that I feel I won’t fit, but some more inputs from current students or alums would definitely help.
  • Most of my perceptions can be called e-perception. Yes, a lot depends on how informative the websites are, how well each school is projecting itself, how much I’ve managed to read between the lines, and glean off from the blogs and brochures.
  • Is UNC the right choice in that list ? I feel so. Though its early action round will mean a decision well before all other colleges send out their admits.
  • I have NOT gone ahead with the general perception about each school, else it’d have been very easy to eliminate them. e.g. Kelloggs for Marketing, Chicago for Finance, MIT for tech., or for that matter the generalist schools such as Tuck, Ross, Duke. The list of recruiting companies and the general reputation plus the percentage of students moving towards consulting give all of them a place on my list.
  • Is there any school in the list above which does not favour the pool I belong to (Indian IT Male), though I think this is immaterial as long as I present a strong application.
  • Is there any other school which SHOULD be there on the list ? If yes, which school does it replace ?

As you can see, though I have my list ready to an extent, a more informed insight into one or any of the above points, or on the whole post would be more than welcome. A lot of thought has already gone into this, but I just want to be sure of my college selection as I won’t get this chance again. If you have managed to read so far, I presume you must be associated with the process in some way (applicant, current student, adm. consultant, adcom (!!) ), and would love to hear your valuable & honest comments.  Thank you !


7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2008 8:16 pm

    Hi mate,

    First off kudos for the level of thought and preparation you are putting into this important decision. I think you are asking yourself the right questions and even though it is painful right now, there will be benefits in the future.

    I am happy to share some of my thoughts … ping me whenever.


  2. June 27, 2008 10:21 pm

    Hi Ahembeea!

    Thanks for your support. Why don’t you share us how you prepared for GMAT?
    Btw, what an informative blog you have here. I’ve added you as one of my favorite blogs ^_^

  3. June 27, 2008 11:05 pm

    From what I’ve heard, MIT Sloan is not particularly friendly to Indian Male applicants. It’s somewhat friendly to U.S. Indians (citizens, maybe perm res) but not to techie applicants directly from India.

  4. June 28, 2008 12:37 am

    That was a gr8 post… And yet another of your posts that echoes my state of mind.. The more schools you explore, the more schools you start loving.. I mean right now I don’t remember a school that I explored and excluded because I didn’t like it.. 🙂

    BTW, I’m surprised that u filtered out Haas on non-cosigner criterion and selected UNC..
    Both of them provide loans w/o cosigner upto Full Tuition only (not upto cost of attendance) Is it the Costly living at Cal that went against Haas??
    BTW, U may have seen this from UNC Extra Loan:: “An origination and guaranty fee equal to 8.5% of the approved loan amount is deducted from each loan disbursement.” For me,UNC is another one that joined the ranks of schools that I researched,liked and had to exclude due to loan conditions..

  5. ahembeea permalink*
    June 28, 2008 7:34 am

    Hi Shobhit, among the elite schools, I wanted to choose at max. 4 so that I can include one lower ranked school in my list. I compared Haas only with Tuck, Ross, Duke, Yale in terms of loans and had to exclude it. Though I knew that UNC’s and Haas’ loan conditions are similar, thats an interesting point you’ve pointed out – thanks.
    In particular, Soni’s comment is very relevant – if there are schools which are traditionally unfriendly to Indian IT applicants (non-IIT), I would rather test waters where I can swim rather than those which have a higher rate of drowning ppl like me.
    If this fact about MIT turns out to be true, I’ll chuck it out and bring Haas back in.
    At the outset itself, if not all colleges that are to our liking can make the cut, then I’m worried whether the same condition (international student – visa issues) will begin to cause problems during recruitment as well. I guess there’s a high risk we are all willing to take considering the high returns.

  6. YaddaYadda permalink
    June 29, 2008 1:36 pm

    I got to Haas, and I am taking out loans, both fed and supplemental and do not have cosigners so if that was your main reason in eliminating Haas, I would think twice.

  7. ahembeea permalink*
    July 1, 2008 12:06 am

    @YaddaYadda – congratulations! I still think Haas requires a co-signor for extending loans to include your stay. Please correct me if this isn’t right ? Would love to know your profile, & hear your views on whether Haas is traditionally unfriendly to Indian IT applicants (non IIT) ? Thx.

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