“Additionally, I want the clout of the Columbia MBA to establish credibility…”
So ended the first paragraph of a BSer’s career goals essay.
Let’s step back a moment.
Why do three initials after your last name mean you’re credible?
All it means is that you jumped through enough hoops to get an adcom to say yes to you. It says nothing about your merits as an individual or your character. It might say something about your accomplishments in the world and in academics, since that’s what admissions officers value in the process. But all it means is you’ve been rubber-stamped by The System.
The school that you go to matters. Yes. It does.
But it most definitely does not matter nearly as much as you think it does. As MBA holders from Esteemed American Business Schools ourselves, we can tell you: It does not matter.
You want an MBA to go to Silicon Valley and raise some funding for your startup idea?
Did you know that the MBA is seen with scorn among many old-crusty techies? That anyone having an MBA is instantly viewed with skepticism? Especially the young whipper-snapper types?
Guy Kawasaki, UCLA Anderson grad, says that when he’s valuing a startup, he adds $500,000 to the valuation for each engineer on the team, and subtracts $250,000 for each MBA.
Yes, the tech industry is now hiring massive numbers of bschool grads each year. But that’s only because the tech industry is now a behemoth. It’s matured. It’s not the scrappy nimble red-blooded thing that it used to be. If you’re wanting an MBA in order to go into Big Tech, then you are NOT about braving a risky path in life. You’re not asking for others to take a risk on you. You’re playing it safe. What’s the need for getting vouched for? This idea of the MBA from a certain school bestowing credibility is faulty.
No – please do not say this. At least not in your apps. You may secretly believe this to be true of the world, that an MBA from A Certain Important School will pave your way to success later on, but it’s not going to add even a whit of value in your application process. You need to be pitching them on YOUR abilities and how you will do good in the world. The school’s reputation is NOT what you should be pitching back to them.
If you want to go to School #1, or School #10, on whatever system or in the eyes of whichever judge whose opinion you care about, because you feel that you need to impress that person based on your credentials, then fine. Do it. But don’t talk about it in your apps.
And just because it’s a priority for you to go to an Important School does not mean that that school is the right one for you.
How do you know you’re a fit to the place? How do you know you’ll be happy there?
It’s two full years of your life. We can assure you, the school’s reputation and ranking will matter NOT AT ALL when you’re in the experience of going through the process of learning stuff with your bschool peers. All it means is you’ll be surrounded by more, or fewer, people who are fixated more, or less, on these superficial things.
Should this matter in the context of which schools to apply to?
Well sure, you want to go to the best school you can. Anybody wants that. It’s obvious that that’s going to be a key objective for all BSers.
However, whenever this comes up in conversation with someone, it’s almost always because we’ve given them the feedback that we don’t really think that a top-tier brand-name school is going to be feasible for them, based on whatever elements of their profile that they’ve shared with us. We could be wrong – we don’t want you to NOT apply to somewhere you’re in love with just because we don’t think it’ll work out – but if you’re gung-ho on the idea of getting an MBA, then picking only these brand-name schools is not a sound strategy. Especially not if there are gaps and weaknesses and risks in your profile that you’re not facing up to and dealing with. (Especially not if you’re a reapplicant with all these gaps and holes…)
Instead, figuring out WHY YOU WANT AN MBA is super important.
An MBA from a high-rep school on its own is not going to give you success in life.
Yes, in certain circles it’s going to make certain people impressed by you when they hear you graduated from That School.
But then it’s going to be UP TO YOU TO GET THE DEAL DONE.
If you have not brought sufficient “GET THE DEAL DONE”-ness to the equation NOW, in the process of trying to GET IN to one of these schools, then sorry, we hate to be so blunt but we just don’t see it happening down the road, either.
A piece of paper framed on the wall from Important School is not the answer to life. It’s not what’s going to make the biggest difference in how you experience success and happiness in the future.
Same thing with “the network.”
“The network” is not going to give you diddly squat in life. If you’re already a go-getter who goes and gets stuff, then sure, going to a school with an extensive network can be awesome.
But you HAVE a network today. You’ve gone to some college or another that graduated some quantity of undergrads out into the world around the same time that you graduated. Have you used this network before? No, it’s not an MBA network, but so what? There’s all these people out there with a shared experience, theoretically also motivated to help each other out. Have you reached out to them before? Have you given anything back?
We understand that in certain cultures, more prominently in Asia, the school that you go to matters for quite a bit. We know this.
But that does not change the fact that you might have significant trouble getting into one of those schools if you don’t change the way you’re approaching this.
Just our thought for the day, BSer.
If you’re qualified and capable of getting into a top-tier business school, then that automatically tells us you’re qualified and capable of going off to do all sorts of amazing things in life. You don’t need the “credibility” of a fancy-pants school.
And if you’re qualified and capable but you DON’T manage to get into a top-tier business school, then THAT STILL means you’re qualified and capable of achieving similar success.
The MBA can open doors. But so can the hustle.