We’re not gonna name names here today but we’re sharing one BSer’s experience on navigating the admit -> deposit process at a few schools last season. The point of this post is to share with you why YOUR OWN understanding of, impressions of, and experiences with a school are all that matter.
How do you get those experiences?
You interact with the school.
You attend info sessions in person. You join webinars. You reach out to people you know who went there. Don’t know anybody who went there? You find people who know people who went there. You look through LinkedIn and research profiles of graduates. You go to coffee chats that the school offers in your area.
You TALK TO PEOPLE.
Even though this experience from last-year’s BSer is focusing on the post-admit process, you will gain so much — so, so much — by simply talking to people before you apply. Or, hey! Even after! Like now, since you’ve submitted and are waiting for some interview invites to come in. Or if you’ve not applied anywhere in Round 1. Doing this type of outreach is the #1 best way to understand what a school is like and figure out if you belong there or not.
(Obviously that’s only one factor in determining if you actually get admitted; it’ll be up to the adcom to say if you really belong there, based on how you present in your app! If you’re just starting out, our Complete Essay Package is an excellent way to figure out what your core content is, what’s valuable and what may not be so relevant, and what you need to do to present it effectively when you’re aiming for these ultra-selective schools.)
So here’s the saga from a BSer who was successful last year, in getting into multiple schools, but then faced some real dilemmas on which to choose (which you may think is a wonderful problem to have, but often people in this position report that it’s the most stressful part of the entire multi-year process – we have a whole category of posts devoted to “deciding on a school (multiple offers)” for this very reason – you may want to mark this post as a “Favorite” using that little icon at the very bottom of the page, so that you can find this again later on).
OK, enough preamble; what happened to this person?!?? (They were replying to our follow-up question in SnarkCenter because we’d been working with them on apps for many months.)
To answer your question of if I have decided between School A and School B: DEFINITIVE NO. I’m stuck. I managed to get an extension on replying to School B (as a R1 applicant at School A, I already put down a deposit; School B has a ridiculously short response deadline) so I could do more research. However, they rejected my request for scholarship consideration (I explained to School B that while I liked them, a peer school had offered a much more financially attractive admissions offer; I did the math and School A is $42.5K cheaper over 2 years due to lower tuition/fees/cost of living, etc.). You can tell they get asked a lot as it was a quick copy and paste reply (easy to tell since the formatting was different). And yes, I went to the admitted student days for both (the same weekend; I had to cut the School A one short to attend School B’s). I can’t make a decision even after that weekend and am still scheduling calls/meetings with students at both.
And then this person proceeded to lay out perhaps the most detailed and research-laden list of pros and cons for School A and School B we’ve ever seen, which was sprinkled with firsthand reports of experiences from each school, along with very specific and detailed statements of advantage based on what he learned about how each school would help him on his specific career focus.
So what was the outcome?
Actually, an alternate ending completely: His School C came through. He’s been waitlisted there for quite some time but never gave up hope, and it ended up panning out!
Obviously not an ideal sequence of events — the amount of stress that this process entailed was significant.
As he was deliberating which school to choose, he was leaning much more towards the school that he felt valued him as a candidate, the one who could offer the educational experience based on people and culture he was looking for, and yes the one who he felt had deepest connections to the industry he was targeting. But it was a non-trivial question on each of those points.
Sometimes BSers will rule a school out much more easily, without even having to apply, based on things like a poor experience in an interaction, or a lame policy in admissions. Please remember that you won’t be going to school with the admissions people. Don’t judge everything about a school based on one thing that happens. It’s about how the school overall presents itself to its marketplace of buyers (that’s you! or it will be — hopefully!! — one day soon). Everybody interested in an MBA has at least slightly different reasons, and will have widely varying experiences, and will be motivated to make the most of it along a spectrum, and their reports of their school will therefore offer their own perspectives. Generally speaking, those who volunteer to be brand representatives and be available to speak with applicants are going to be more gung-ho and positive, so sometimes you need to filter what they say through that lens. Not many students will bash their school as they’re going through the program, though sometimes it does happen. Talking to a range of people will help you triangulate on what is true and what’s most relevant for you.
And, knowing your own priorities in an MBA program is super important! Figuring out these qualities for yourself, based on your career targets, the schools’ specialities, the type of people who go there, your cohort, the environment of the school’s location, all of that stuff really does count for a lot. That’s not to say you won’t attend a school unless it ticks all of the boxes, but it lets you know which one is even in the category of a school you would be happy at. Where you can thrive.
“Go where you’ll do your best work.” Wish we could take credit for that advice, but it actually comes from former dean of Darden, who clearly knows what he’s talking about.
If you need to know where to put all your energies now that some apps are in and you’re twiddling your thumbs waiting for interviews… SCHOOL RESEARCH! It’s not over till it’s over, BSer.
Oh hey we’ve talked about this stuff before!
- Do YOUR OWN research
EssaySnark! Please explain again what this ‘school fit’ thing is about?”
- One Brave Supplicant’s full admissions season recapped