You may have noticed EssaySnark’s blahg post about IESE recently – and you may have noticed that we were lucky enough to get an actual IESE alum contributing a comment to clarify about languages in Barcelona. Well guess what? We’re thrilled to be presenting a Guest Post from him, explaining how he came to choose his schools. This is from a graduate – his MBA experience is over and done with – as far as we know, he never even read the blahg while he was applying, so this is by no means our attempt to claim any credit whatsoever for this particular success story! But we thought many of you would find his story useful and we’re very pleased he chose to share it with us.
So without further ado… we introduce you to Gonzalo, IESE alum!
Three MBA students, one at LBS, one at Columbia and another at IESE, walk into a bar…
Sounds like the start of a cliché, but in reality it was just two friends and I catching up in a pub in London after having endured the whirlwind that is “the MBA experience”.
At the start of our programs, it had initially struck me as odd that we had each ended up in such different schools (it was IESE for me). We had so much in common, came from similar backgrounds and, yet, ended up choosing different paths to pursue our MBAs.[Read-on if you want to learn about the framework I used to choose my schools. Fast-forward if you want to know why I chose to go to IESE].
I remember the stress of having to choose a school, and I feel your pain if that’s what you’re going through right now. The bad news is that you really do have to do your homework, and make sure you are applying to the right schools. The good news is that it turns out this isn’t that hard after all.
There are two main problems one faces when choosing a program. The first problem is one of ‘similarity’. There are so many schools out there offering MBAs that at times it can become challenging to identify what makes onebetter than the other. The second problem is one of ‘differences’. Each school is in fact different and you have to figure out what each one brings to the table, and how that plays into what you are looking for post-MBA. So how does one sift through the noise to find the right program?
Many applicants simply look at rankings and stop there. This is not an effective system, because if you look into matters in detail you’ll notice that there is a great deal of subjectivity in the ranking system. For example, ‘the Economist’ has ranked IESE the #1 business school in the world three times (in 2009, 2006 and 2005). However those same years the FT ranked LBS, Wharton and Harvard as the #1 Business School respectively. They both can’t be right, can they?
Turns out they can, because each ranking methodology is different and has its own metrics to determine their rankings. If what you want is to go to a top school, then look at the rankings in aggregate, and this way you’ll build a better understanding of which schools consistently make it to the top 10. The key here is to make sure you’re applying to good schools, without getting blindly swayed by a single ranking methodology.
However, even within this smaller pool of schools to choose from, there is still the problem of determining the differences. Your driver here should be what you are personally looking to get out of the program. For example, my friend who went to Columbia was looking for a great MBA without having to leave New York City. My friend attending LBS was looking for a two-year program but with a much more international mix than one would typically find in US-based schools, and which had a strong bias towards finance. As for me, I chose IESE because I also wanted an international two-year MBA, but one in a smaller-sized school (so I could truly form a close bond with my class-mates), and focusing on general management in order to help me develop the tools for diving into the entrepreneurial scene. On top of this I was attracted by the fact that IESE uses the case method, which is especially effective within the context of the diversity of professional and geographic backgrounds of IESE’s students.
My friend who graduated from Columbia is now a New York City based i-banker. My LBS friend did an internship at a Private Equity firm, and then landed a job in South Korea. As for me, I followed the siren’s call of entrepreneurship and ended up in the start-up scene of Berlin. My two friends and I continue to have much in common, but it is also true that our particular MBA experiences created different opportunities for us going forward.
Choose your schools wisely. Don’t just apply to where everybody else is applying, even if they’re your close friends. Don’t just apply to a school because that’s where your Managing Director at work went. Think about where you want to end up post-MBA, and move forward from there. The more flexible you are in terms of mobility, the more options you’ll have to choose from. Consider schools in Europe, or Asia(ever heard of CEIBS?). Lastly, the best bit of advice I can give is to make sure you are reaching out to alumni from the schools you are considering, and riddle them with questions. The more you know about the different programs, the better your chances of getting in, and more importantly the easier it will be for you to determine if it’s the right school for you.
Back at the bar none of us could look back with regret on our choice of schools. When choosing programs, we had each done our diligence, thought long and hard about what we wanted to get out of the MBA experience, and were able to clearly communicate our ambitions to our school’s respective Admissions department. In the end, it was the fact that we had made this effort that got us into our programs.
— Gonzalo Arenas [IESE ‘11]