Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If The School Fits

I keep getting the same two questions over and over again.  "Have you chosen a school yet?"and it's close cousin, "What's your first choice?"  My answers are always the same. "Nope, I haven't chosen yet," and "I don't have a first choice." I'm starting to think that the latter answer explains the former.

Months ago I blogged about throwing my hat in the ring for Round 2 after being admitted to Kellogg Round 1.  I reasoned that it wasn't because I wanted to go to other schools more than Kellogg, I simply wanted to go to these schools as much as I wanted to go to Kellogg.  Well, the dust from Round 2 has cleared and like I hoped I have options.  Feelings of happy happy joy joy happy happy joy joy have quickly transitioned to an overwhelming sense of dread at actually having to make a choice.  I have three great schools in front of me so as everyone tells me I "can't go wrong." But what if I do choose the wrong school for me.

It's like I'm dating three awesome guys who are each wonderful in their own unique ways and all of them are pressuring me to be exclusive.  I need to make a decision and I need to make it soon or risk losing all of them (well actually just two of them since I already sort of kind of committed to one - wait, am I cheater?).  OMG, I'm like the Bachelor(ette) when it's down to the final three!

Kellogg - I love Kellogg and I've loved it for a while now.  I wouldn't say that Kellogg got my first impression rose, but the school definitely grew on me.  I observed from afar for a while, but it wasn't until I visited for the first time back in November that the attachment was cemented.  When I'm at Kellogg I feel like I'm home.  Those are my people.  I have yet to meet a Kellogg(er, an, ie?) that I didn't like.  I heart the Minneapolis Kellogg crew, the Bullwinkle section is awesome (Eggs-cellence, what's up!), and the KDPW bunch had me at hello.  What other people criticize about Kellogg I absolutely love.  I love the emphasis on teams.  I think that consistently working amongst other high achieving people develops excellent leadership skills.  I also tend to like being around people who like to play nicely with others.  Kellogg is also the school with the best resources for my career goals.  I'm kind of an oddball who wants to do something off the beaten path (partnerships between private and social sector orgs) and from what I've seen Kellogg has the best classroom and career services support for me to get where I want to go.
So why don't I just go to Kellogg and be done with it.  Well first, there's the money.  I haven't received my financial aid package yet so right now I'm dealing with financing 100% of the education.  While I am willing to do so (I didn't apply to any school I wouldn't be willing to pay for), I don't think I can justify turning down significant scholarship money at two comparable schools that I also like a lot.  However, my even bigger worry is that Kellogg is almost too comfortable.  For nearly a decade, I've worked at a company with a very similar culture to Kellogg's.  In my corner of CPG land we are all about teamwork and a work hard/play hard mentality.  In fact my company sends a lot of people to Kellogg every year. Heck this year I'm one of three admits with my exact same profile (gender, ethnicity, and work experience).  If my company had its own university it would be Kellogg.  And I know that's why K feels like home; because it's very much so where I've always been.  Kellogg is the guy you've dated since high school.  You know what you're getting and you like what you're getting but you just keep thinking that maybe you should try something different.

Booth- I gave my first impression rose to Booth.  Like I said in in my previous post, Catching Up, I've been enamored with Booth from the beginning.  It's different and a bit mysterious, but gosh it looks gorgeous (hello Harper Center).  My name is Cheetarah1980 and I have a confession to make.  I am a nerd.  I'm the chick who got geeked when my GMAT instructor went over logic statements during his intro to Critical Reasoning (it reminded me of my 9th grade math class and I kind of miss 9th grade math class).  Booth is all about ideas and thinking.  I think that's why their application was my favorite to do.  The Power Point presentation let me use my own ideas to show them who I am in whatever way I saw fit.  During my tour of Harper Center last fall I felt a palpable energy at Booth that's hard to describe, but very infectious.  But I think what sold me on Booth the most was the alums.  When my doubts about whether the school could provide what I needed to reach my post MBA goals began to creep in I found alums who were not only willing but eager to talk me through them.  They acknowledged my concerns (because they are valid) and if they couldn't answer my questions they put me in touch with someone else who was more than happy to do so.  I think it says a great deal about a school when alums are willing give their time to people who haven't even applied to the school yet.  That's important to me since I will likely have to do a lot of "off campus recruiting."  A school can tout a network with the population of China, but it's of no consequence if the network isn't connected and responsive.  Booth's is, and that's a huge selling point.  Another really big selling point: Booth put it's money where it's mouth is by offering me a scholarship for more than half of tuition.  Way to make a woman feel wanted.
However, the reservations that I needed alums to talk me through so that I would even apply still linger.  Out of all of three schools Booth offers the fewest obvious resources in my area of professional interest.  Yes, there is a Net Impact Club.  However, unlike Kellogg and Wharton, Booth has no established social impact/enterprise concentration/major.  I was recently told by an alum a social enterprise institute will be opening next year, so if that comes to fruition it definitely helps assuage my concerns.  Still, most Boothies don't choose my path and even those who are interested in social impact go into very traditional corporate sector roles.  I am really not interested in heading to MBB or banking (or god forbid back to CPG to do brand management) just for the check.  At Kellogg, I got the distinct impression that I could find the type of role that I want that can also provide the level of compensation that I would be happy with. I'm just not sure if Booth has the career services and network in this particular area that can give me what Kellogg can.  What all Boothies tout (and I firmly agree) is that Booth's educational philosophy is about teaching people the disciplines of business.  Fundamentally, all business is the same.  According to alumnus Michael D. Lockhart (this dude is freaking baller so check him out on Forbes), it all comes down to marginal revenue meeting marginal cost.  And while I only vaguely remember what that means from days in Microeconomics 101, I totally understand his point.  Basically, if I have the right fundamentals, I can apply them to any job in any industry.  Sounds great in theory, I'm just a bit worried about the practice. Ultimately Booth is like that guy who would make a wonderful husband and father, but you just aren't sure if he's the right wonderful husband and father for you.

Wharton - I have had the hots for Wharton from Day 1, but I've been weary of it too.  Wharton is that guy who has it all: good looks (literally, the student body is ridiculously attractive), success, charm (check out any of the Wharton Follies videos on YouTube), and pedigree.  And unlike a Monet, Wharton looks just as good up close as it does from a distance.  I visited the school last September for Explore Wharton, the school's diversity event, and I loveded it.  I sat in on a managerial economics class and to my great surprise I wasn't bored.  I'm not the biggest fan of economics but the professor made the coursework interesting by relating it to real world examples.  Seeing that the entire class was engaged was a major positive as well.  I also liked the students and professors I met over the course of the two day event.  They were warm, welcoming, and willing to help me out in any way.  I got the feeling that they were rooting for me to not only apply, but to gain admission as well. The highlight of Explore Wharton was the Iron Prof competition, where a group of Wharton professors each presented their research to the student body in the hopes of being voted the Iron Prof.  This was far from being a boring academic orgy.  The professors injected their research with wit and humor to boot.  I got the distinct feeling that the school has a self-deprecating, sarcastic sense of humor that meshes well with my penchant for smart ass comments.
My issues with Wharton come not from my personal experiences with the school (which have all been very encouraging), but from what other people tell me about Wharton.  I like to call them the Wharton Warnings. Numerous people have said to me, "Wharton's not the right school for you."  In fact one co-worker said, "Stay far away from Wharton.  It's not worth the misery." Seems like Wharton's got a reputation and it's not a very good one.  Many people have told me that Wharton is full of douchebags.  While I can be a sarcastic asshole at times, I wouldn't consider myself to be in the douche category.  I'm not overly competitive, do not have a win at all costs mentality, and am not an elitist snob...three of the hallmarks of douchebagdom. I have very little tolerance for these kinds of people and would prefer not to be surrounded by them for two years. I will say that in all of my interactions with Wharton people I have yet to meet the stereotypical Wharton douchebag, but having heard the warnings so many times I can't help but think that there is some truth to them.  Wharton is like that guy/girl who everybody in the house warns the Bachelor/Bachelorette about.  "He/she isn't here for the right reasons." "He/she is all nice in front of the Bachelor(ette), but is horrible around all of the girls/guys." And for weeks, the bachelor(ette) says, "Everyone tells me that Courtney/Bentley/Vienna/Wes are not good for me, but I just don't see it. We are great together." So the bachelor(ette) chooses that person only to find out a few months later that everyone was right.  That great guy/girl is really hell on wheels. Unlike Bachelor couples, I can't just break up with a b-school after 1st semester and I realize that it really is as bad as everyone said it would be. Fit is so important to me and it really worries me when people who know me and either know of Wharton first hand or through working with alums tell me that it's the wrong place for me.  When I've voiced these concerns to some friends and my mom they assure me that no matter where I go I will find my niche and group of friends.  The thing is I'm not worried about making friends.  I'm more concerned about the time spent in the groups of people I can't choose.  I don't want to dread going to class or learning team and club meetings because I can't stand working with the majority of people at the school.  I want to leave b-school with fond memories and to feel like my alma mater represents me.  As my homie LadyRoadWarrior put it I want to be able to say, "Those are my people." I felt that way during Explore Wharton.  I also had that feeling during my interview when my interviewer and I waxed poetic about our mutual love of Chick Fil-A. But I'm also wondering if it's all too good to be true and the other shoe will drop and I'll enroll only to be confronted with a Wharton that more than meets its reputation.

Those are my final three.  I'm in the middle of the overnight dates with the fantasy suites (i.e. Admitted Students Weekends).  I've already had my dates with Kellogg (DAK 1) and Wharton (Spring Welcome Weekend).  This Thursday I fly to Chicago for my final overnight date with Booth (Admitted Students Weekend).  I'm hoping that after 2-3 days with each school something becomes clearer.  I like each of the schools for different reasons but I need to figure out which reasons matter most to me. And I need to do it before April 27th.


Anonymous said...

love your blog cheetarah...as an avid gmatclubber, i really value your insight. your career goals resonate with me, but i wish you'd chosen to apply to the school i'll be at this fall, Yale SOM! Best of luck on your choice!

healthcareguy said...

Great post, Cheetarah! Keeping with the bachelorette theme, it's not uncommon for the girl to flirt with the more charming, pedigreed, goodlooking types but in the end, it is the high school sweetheart that wins her heart. My prediction for you is Kellogg :)

LadyRoadWarrior said...

Find where your people are. Period.

Swati said...

Hey Cheetarah, your blogs have been super enjoyable to read. As an MBA applicant myself, on several occasions I've found your posts mirroring my emotions during the entire process.
Congrats to you for a successful application season! and I also agree with Healthcareguy - looks like you'ev made your choice already! keep us posted!

Sanket said...


My post on my experience with Kellogg would be useful to you, pls check...