Saturday, December 29, 2012

Decision Making

As many of you know, I have been fortunate enough to be offered admission at two fabulous business schools.  The question now, is which will I choose? I thought I'd walk through some of the things I'm going to be considering over the next few weeks before finalizing my decision.  The underlying theme here is that I expect that both schools would make me very happy, now I just need to decide which it's going to be. The answer's in the palm of my hands! Hopefully my thought process aids others choosing between two (or more!) great options.

Some of the major things I will be mulling over during the next few weeks are career exploration, class size, alumni networks, and location. I'm going to jump into my thought process so far, but the plan is to reach out to current students and administrators to see what they can tell me.

I am excited about business school first and foremost because of the promised exposure to many different fields, people, and perspectives.  I love working in the education non-profit sphere, but it's all I know (save the miserable 2 years I spent as a cashier in high school).  I am super excited to meet people with different career paths, to experiment in an internship next summer, and to take classes that push me to think broadly (and dare I say it? bravely!).  I honestly don't see any marked difference between Kellogg and Yale in this category. Perhaps because of Kellogg's size, I might be exposed to more options, but because Kellogg has majors I will be tracking myself into disciplines I'm comfortable with.  So in that way, Yale, with its year-long required core, guarantees exposure to things I might naturally avoid. I plan to talk to students at both schools about how their career goals have evolved and how the schools have supported that evolution.

Since the cat's out of the bag (i.e. I've been accepted and don't care if people use the clues to figure out who I am), I can use specifics that I used to leave out.  For example, I went to Wesleyan University.  It's a large liberal arts college or a small university, depending on your perspective.  And that's exactly the confusing thing about business schools.  What perspective should I have when considering what the right size is? Bigger is not always better as it allows students to meet lots of people, but sometimes those relationships are less developed.  On the other hand, when a school is too small, exposure to different people is invariably limited. Yale is planning on increasing its 2-year class size to about 350 over the next few years and Kellogg is decreasing (to an unknown number as far as I know). The current difference is about 275 versus 450. Part of me prefers the larger size but I'm not sure how much of an effect is actually has on the students.  Worth investigating and I welcome people's thoughts on this topic.

Alumni networks are all the rage.  I already mentioned this idea to some extent in my last post.  What I didn't mention is how before I applied I never even considered the alumni network as something worth considering.  Now, I definitely see I overlooked a key benefit of joining the MBA world.  Kellogg is really transparent with its employment reports, which is pretty cool. I am not sure how to approach my alumni network "investigation"; however, since it's such a big part of the degree, I'm hoping that alumni will be at events I attend in the Bay Area over the next few weeks. 

If this were a real estate show, we'd be echoing the words "location, location, location!" after every commercial.  It isn't, but that doesn't mean we should throw it out the window.  I have a newfound fascination with Chicago and I am drawn to the idea of living there.  It's obvious that Kellogg will line me up for a career in the Windy City, but it's not so clear whether Yale will suffer for being in New Haven.  It certainly hasn't kept Yalies from coming to the Bay Area.  That said, location seems pretty unimportant in many ways.  I like the idea of going to school outside a city (something that Yale and Kellogg share) and am adventurous enough to pave my own path regardless of where I go.  If this new chapter included 7 years as a PhD student, I'd be singing another tune, but I can do 2 years anywhere, and I kind of like the idea of being tucked away in a secluded school bubble.

And before I forget: congratulations to my fellow bloggers and forum friends who got in to their schools! Big shout outs especially to Str1der (Tuck!) and MBAover30 (Wharton and Booth!).

4 comments:

  1. Hey Sassafras!

    I read a post that you had written which led me to this blog. I'd like to introduce myself as a first year student at Kellogg, and like you, I too was deciding between Yale and Kellogg Schools of Management. While I am probably biased now, there was a time when I was neutral and going through my own decision making process in my head. I thought I'd share a couple of things I did that made the decision easier for me.

    1. I visited both schools multiple times to "hang out". I guess that gave me a chance to interact with current students and I have to say that both places attract some really cool, fun to spend time with types of people. I made my decision based on observations I made during my time at these schools. Certain characteristics like competitiveness outside the classroom, diversity of backgrounds, sense of community etc. were important to me.

    2. Marketplace reputation - I have a background in CSR though I always did my meaningful work parallel to my day job. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do that after B-School so I kinda went around asking professionals in the field what they thought of both schools. The responses surprised me greatly. If you haven't, I highly recommend you do this extensively. It put me in touch with actual industry perceptions of both institutions.

    3. Alumni characteristics - I wanted to see if fun, friendly and helpful students stay that way after they graduate. So I asked students who had called alums from both schools about their responses. I guess the size of the network and the level fondness associated with their B school experience plays a huge part in the kinds of interactions you will have with alums from both institutions. I'd advise you to probe further into that.

    I'm sure you've done a bunch of research already and may have even done some of the above, so apologies for any redundancy I hope you arrive at the most complete understanding possible in time for your acceptance.

    Good luck with your decision and your business school career! You'll love it!

    Aviv

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    1. Aviv,

      Wow, thanks for the lengthy reply. It's really helpful! The thing that's hard about marketplace reputation is that I have worked in really grassroots non-profits that don't know much about business schools. Yale's reputation really goes a long way and Northwestern's is just so-so. I know that Kellogg has the better repute in the corporate sector, and I'm not sure how that weighs in.

      I've asked the schools to put me in touch with alumni from my industry and am really excited to chat with them. Would you mind emailing me at sassafras@mybreakaway.com? I'd love to ask some other questions about your decision.

      Thanks again!

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  2. I like how you laid out what is important to you. For some reason, I hadn't thought of class size, but might add it into my decision matrix. I actually just wrote a post about making decisions - you might find it helpful: http://mbagirljourney.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/deciding-on-my-top-5/

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    1. Glad you found your way over here. Good luck in your journey!

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