Hopefully you’ve been following along with this Unexpected Outcome story – if not, here’s Part 1 (the decision to become a consultant, which eventually led to the decision to go for an MBA) and here’s Part 2 (the value of school research).
One Brave Supplicant’s Journey – the conclusion
It’s been a couple months since making the call to be released from the other waitlists [in favor of the EMBA], but what I wrote when EssaySnark first probed my decision still captures my thoughts:
First off, let me apologize: in the words of French mathematician Blaise Pascal, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”
Next, good news: The EMBA program did not offer me any scholarship money! If they had, I would have been a little concerned about the quality of the admitted students (This is not a self-esteem issue. I know I’m smart and awesome, but I want to learning, working with, and graduating with even more awesome people). This week I’ve had several conversations with professional mentors and close friends, and I decided to pay my deposit for the EMBA Program. I had read your comment yesterday, and did some more thinking, but finally clicked submit yesterday evening! I’m excited about how this is working out, and chomping at the bit to start the pre-matriculation activities and activate my school email. Actually, are you sitting down? I might choose the EMBA over Wharton F/T. Before I explain that crazy idea, however, I want to go back to the first school that I wanted to apply to, because you have raised it a couple of times and I feel that I never really responded directly.
It was the first school I decided to apply to after being declined by an elite consulting firm in early 201x. Before that experience, I did not want an MBA. What changed my mind was the process of networking my way into the firm from scratch, including all the people I met along the way. I decided to go for an MBA because I was not ready to give up, but I need business judgment and confidence to pass case interviews. This school came up during conversations with my networking/career coach because it is well-regarded by consulting firms, and it would be relatively easy for me to be admitted. Like your first high-school crush, I quickly became enamored.
My first practice GMAT score was below 650, so I did not have my sights set very high, and I was becoming enamored with the exotic promise of the school I was considering. Scoring above 750 on the real GMAT opened up the possibility of any number of top schools. My list expanded to Wharton (because of my friends), Kellogg (because of their reputation and consulting placement), and two other schools [omitted to preserver confidentiality]. The work of applying to all those schools took away the time I would have needed to apply to my first crush. This is the practical reason that school was left behind. It’s the only part of this entire process I wonder “What would have happened if…”, but I’m ok with that. It was the first school I decided to apply to, just like [Other School] was the first school I visited in person. In both cases it’s like your first high-school crush—even when you have moved on, you look back with fondness.
Which brings me to why I might turn down Wharton. It boils down to a simple question with no simple answer: is a Wharton or Kellogg, or any other MBA worth $200,000 more than the EMBA? That number is basically 2 years of lost income.
- On the career goals side, I have already shown that it’s possible to network into a top consulting firm without the support of a recruiting pipeline or a top MBA, so going to Wharton just for the recruiting would be the most expensive interview prep course known to humankind.
- Once you get an interview the MBA brand doesn’t count for much compared to performance in the interview. The EMBA program is perfectly suited to help me cross the gap from interview to offer. Wharton would be great, too, but again, there isn’t a $200,000 difference.
I’m afraid those first two reasons may sound like I’m being swayed by dollar signs, but I don’t think that is the case:
- Will the EMBA will be any less transformative that a F/T? Instead of pretending to be 28 again, which would be quite fun, I will be studying, socializing, and networking with CFO, VP, partners, and directors. Instead of being young and smart, my classmates will be older, wiser, and accomplished. Discussions will be at a higher level, both in the classroom and outside of it. Instead of competing with my classmates during recruiting, my peers might be the ones making me job offers. If fruits were transformative, this would be an apples and oranges comparison.
- For the first time in my life, I’m in a long-term relationship, and we just celebrated our first anniversary a couple of months ago. Leaving for two years for a F/T MBA would be quite difficult. By staying here, there will be less stress on our relationship, and I may even be able to help my partner startup his business with my new education.
This has been a surprising journey, but I’m happy with where I have landed and how I got here. (This alone means I’ve grown. Park of me hates ambiguity, and always wants to map out the entire terrain and all courses of actions in order to evaluate which option is best before making any moves. Instead, it feels like exploring a new video game, where I learn along the way, level up, but don’t really see the big picture until the end.)
If Wharton, or someone were to offer a significant scholarship, I would definitely think about it. But I’m honestly excited about the EMBA.
I did not arrive at the outcome I expected, yet right now I’ve very satisfied—the EMBA makes sense from a career goals perspective, financially, and emotionally.
Choosing to join an EMBA program instead of a full-time program is not the first time I have settled on an option that I had initially de-prioritized. In fact, when I first decided to change careers and become a consultant, I didn’t want to get an MBA. Read “Part 1” of this story for the details—basically I networked my way into interview at an elite consulting firm, and the process convinced me that I both needed and wanted an MBA.