Congratulations to all of you once again. For some people December brought multiple admissions offers. Remember being worried that not even one school would say yes? I definitely do, so it feels amazing when two, or three, or even four or more schools see just how awesome you are. It's also just nice to feel wanted. I encourage you to bask in your achievements for a while. However, all good things must come to an end and when it's all said and done you can only enroll in one school. So which one is gonna be?
As many of you know I went through this dilemma last application cycle. While I will never complain about the situation (I felt incredibly blessed and humbled to have the options that I did), having to pick which school to attend caused a lot of internal turmoil. Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know. First world problems. There are people who don't get in anywhere so what am I bitching about. I swear that I'm not pulling a woe is me act. However, I do empathize with this years admits who now feel torn between 2 or more schools. The "Amazing School A vs. Incredible School Y" threads are popping up left and right. It's obvious that for many people the decision is not as simple as close your eyes and pick. What always bothered me wasn't the idea that I would choose wrong, but more the thought that I may not choose best. Also it's difficult to let go of schools that you've become attached to during the admissions process. Unless you went into this process with a clear preference for where you want to go, deciding which schools walk the plank is very rarely cut and dry.
For many people the decision comes down to fit. Fit. Fit. Fit. What does that even mean? Is it the perfect alignment of school resources with career goals? Is it the perfect match between learning and teaching styles? Is it being surrounded by "your people"? Is it the place that feels like home? In my opinion fit can be all of these things. Different schools can satisfy different aspects of fit. However, I think that there is often something that applicants don't consider. Is finding the perfect fit really necessary?
When choosing which school to attend I think that a person needs to ask him/herself what they want out of the MBA experience. Just because a school doesn't feel like a perfect fit doesn't mean that it's not the right school. I like to think of it along the spectrum of stretching. Remember the sit and reach? You sit up straight with your legs together and directly in front of you, shaping your body into an L. Then you lean forward as far as you can and try to touch your toes. For most of us we reach a sticking point where we just can't bend anymore. This sticking point is where our muscles tighten and our body says, "Don't you dare go any further." This is where we're stretched. I think there are some schools that make us feel this way. We're not comfortable, but we're not in pain either. I encourage admits with multiple offers to evaluate schools in terms of this stretch test. Is a school in your comfort zone? Is it at the point in the exercise where everything still feels good and is comfortable? Or does the school feel a bit past your comfort zone? I encourage you to stay away from schools that are so much of a stretch you're pulling a muscle.
So which school do you go for? The one in your comfort zone or the one that feels a bit uncomfortable, but not awful. Well, that's up to you. When evaluating schools based on fit, once they are able to pass the "can I get a job from here" test the next step is to ask yourself what you want out of your MBA experience. Do you want to be in a place that feels like home? Do you want to go to a school that takes you past your safe place a bit to help you stretch your boundaries and perspectives? I think either option works. Entering business school is often a time of great life changes and you may just want to be at a school where you feel like you're around your people. For other people it's about taking two years to do what you normally wouldn't, socialize with people you would never even think to say hello to, or try a new working environment. I chose to do the latter. I will readily say that Booth was not the school that felt like home to me. I didn't walk around Booth's admit weekend thinking, "these are my people!" However, I did like the intellectual energy I felt in Harper Center, the advice I'd received from alums, and the positive endorsements about career services. Although I didn't instantly connect with many of the people who are now my classmates, I determined that making the effort to do so during the next two years would be good for me. I was right. During midterms I was talking to one of my squad mates and we both acknowledged that we would never have naturally gravitated toward one another, but that we're glad that we were forced to go outside of our tendencies because we actually have a lot of fun together.
All of the above ramblings are just some food for thought as you're visiting schools and making your decisions. Remember that it's absolutely wonderful to find your perfect fit school. It's also just fine to go to a school you have to grow into.