You think APPLYING to bschool is hard? Just wait until you have to DECIDE on which one to go to!
The great good fortune of getting multiple offers comes with a sheer agony of having to choose.
We’ve done a gazillion of these posts on the blahg under the category of “Deciding between schools (multiple offers)” in case you’re in the lucky post-Round 1 torment right now!
We’ve got a couple posts coming on specific comparisons and decisions that specific BSers of the Past have faced, and insights we offered to them along the way. We’ll start this series with some basics about the decision-making process for these top schools. This series was prompted by one BSer we got to know last season who consulted us along the way — after first going through the app process and getting rejected all over the place, and then being humbled and coming for help as a reapplicant the next year. Sometimes it takes two times around the ferris wheel before you get what you’re looking to grab, but boy did this person grab it the next time! Part of this was due to the changing applicant landscape we’ve been experiencing just lately with the shift in demographics that the schools have been seeing but it’s also because this person really wanted it and worked hard on fixing the issues their apps suffered from the first time.
We’ll start the “Which school?” discussion by saying that the BSer facing this decision went about it all the right way before even approaching us: They talked to as many students and grads as they could, they studied the schools’ placement reports, they were clear on what job they intended to pursue straight out of school. A lot of the decision on “school fit” had already been made pre-application (smart!) and this person knew that these two schools (along with many others that they reapplied at) shared similar qualities of culture that they were looking at.
However as an international student in an unpredictable world, this person was very aware of employment risk coming into the U.S. job market and wanted to do whatever possible to maximize their placement into an American company upon graduation. This decision-making process was in Spring 2018 which, given all the crap that’s gone down in the world since then, you may hardly be able to recall (quick reminder: Stormy Daniels was the daily headline, Syria was using chemical weapons on its people, Zuckerberg was testifying on Capital Hill, the stock market had just started its slide around volatility around the threat of trade wars after peaking on tax cuts, interest rates had barely begun to rise, U.S. unemployment was steady at 4.1%). Lots of uncertainty. Given the cost of the MBA and the risk profile for an international student especially, it needs to be a pragmatic decision: Not just which school is the right fit for you (your heart) but which is going to help you maximize the investment (your wallet).
Now, before we get too far: We strongly (strongly!) believe that the MBA is what you make of it. (Very tiny point offered in support of that argument here.)
What you get out of ANY educational experience will be determined MUCH MUCH MORE by what you put into it — not the specific school that you’re attending. If you’re determined to make some big career jump and you’re focusing on a specific future job with a specific income level, you can pull that off at ANY school (provided you already have a foundation you can leverage). The school is not going to affect your future success all that much. Yes, there will be variations of what you should expect as a starting salary coming from School A versus School Z but in the same industry, where many of the same firms recruit at all the top schools, it’s just not that big of a difference. There are other factors that will impact how difficult the recruiting scene may be for you as an individual at School A versus School Z based on things like what the other students at each school is also gunning for and what type of competition you are facing geographically and by sector of specialization and all of that. But on the whole as a gross summary statement, your income will not be that much different coming out of either of them. Not by huge factors, at least.
If you’re the MBA student who will be able to command a $300,000 starting salary, then it’s who you are NOW who is commanding it. It’s not that you went to Harvard versus Columbia.
If you’re looking at a tech job or want to go into consulting post-MBA, the salaries are operating within a certain range, based much more on your experience level and the geography you want to work in. Not the school.
The school that spits you out — provided it’s a Top 20-ish school — it going to offer that funnel and pipeline. You’ll be able to get into the stream just like all those other highly sought-after students. But it’s YOU who will be able to set your own fate and determine how you maximize the opportunities — not just in the interviewing stage when you’re in front of the recruiter, but in terms of everything you do throughout your MBA experience, including how hard you work to learn this new stuff, what classes you choose to specialize (it’s ALWAYS the specialists who command the highest salaries coming out), and how involved you get in the campus community to show the type of person you are. You will add this to everything you bring with you from the person you are TODAY, and that’s what makes you more marketable (or not).
The school that spits you out does not that much to affect these variables.
OK wow, that’s gone on long already! We’ll continue this important discussion intermittently with a variety of topical posts throughout the next few weeks. We hope you’ll stick around as we do. 🙂