It’s time for some “Deciding on a school!” posts!
This is where BSers with the enviable problem of having to choose between great offers come to us lamenting their fate.
If you’re still in recovery-mode from cramming in a bunch of Round 2 applications, then you’re not going to believe us but… Choosing between multiple offers is honestly one of the hardest decisions a person can make.
After all, it’s your entire FUTURE at hand here!
Sometimes it’s a fairly obvious choice. Like, if your favorite school accepts you, and a school that you only applied to on a whim, because your sister’s boyfriend’s buddy went there and was talking it up when you met him at the beach in September when you were working on Round 1.
(Side note: Doesn’t Round 1 feel like forever ago? Like, a really really long time. It’s crazy how quickly time passes, and how much you can change along the way! A big life change like applying to business school will do that for you.)
We recently gave our two cents to a bunch of successful Brave Supplicants who landed at multiple schools from their Round 1 apps and we wanted to share some highlights of those conversations with you — sans identifying information. These BSers are still trying to decide, and anyway, we keep client information confidential unless we get explicit permission to share.
The first bit o’ advice we will offer to anyone still thinking through their admit offers and trying to decide:
What we mean by that is, everyone is going to have opinions. But you’re the only one who has to live your life.
Some people might have a real agenda. They get fixated on a school’s brand, or they think that a certain school is way better than another, and they try to sway your opinion because that’s what they would decide.
But YOU are deciding. Not them.
So listen politely. Solicit opinions and feedback.
And then trust yourself.
Maybe your mom is trying to be really balanced and fair. She’s doing her darnedest to stay diplomatic. But you know that she wants you to pick the school in the same part of the country where she lives.
Is that enough reason for you to do so?
Well yeah, maybe. In some situations. If your parents are in ill health, or you just don’t think you could afford flying home much from another part of the country or the world, then sure, that might factor in.
But your family is unlikely to see much of you even if you are going to school right in there backyard. They’re going to have to get used to the fact that you won’t be as available as perhaps they’ve grown accustomed. It kind of doesn’t matter how far away you might be for school. You’re going to be busy!
(Pro Tip: Start preparing your friends and family for what this transition will entail. It may be a big change for some folks in your life.)
So what if you’re deciding between two offers: School X, which is a great school, and School Y, which is another great school that’s offering you some scholarship money along with the admit?
Do you automatically choose School Y?
Some people might, especially if the schools seem equivalent, in the way that we’re presenting them here.
But we would offer this observation: Not all schools are equivalent to any one individual candidate.
What we mean by that is, sure, every school is different in certain ways, in terms of the focus that it has, or maybe the type of urban or more rural environment, or the weather patterns in the geography where it’s located.
But even two schools that are very comparable across all of these dimensions would still be very different when examined by an individual person.
Take MIT and Columbia.
Both in big cities.
Both good for finance, and tech.
Both with strong alumni networks.
Both well-respected brands.
Both with similar weather, and comparable high rents.
But very different schools. Right?
If Columbia offered a little scholarship money, but MIT did not, would you just take Columbia and be done with it?
Or are they different enough, based on the attributes of each school that you personally care about most, to make this a not-easy decision?
Does it matter if Columbia offers a lot of money?
What if it’s flipped?
So we’re talking in hypotheticals here, which may be interesting as fodder for daydreams. But if this is YOU, how do YOU make the decision? Especially if you’re now feeling tormented, having lived with the multiple offers and trying to weigh them out for a full month of deliberations and discussions with everyone you know?
Anyone reading this blahg who has gotten into one of these premier institutions is most definitely set up for success, both in terms of the incredible education they’re going to get, and the amazing experiences, and the connections, and the happy hours, and the lucrative job coming out the other side. Because of that, having some perspective can help.
Sitting here now, on this side of the mountain of debt you are about to incur, it may seem like you should be optimizing this decision based on the financial aid offer that you’ve gotten. But optimizing for finances can be shortsighted.
When you graduate, if you’re like most people, you will come away with a diploma that says “Master of Business Administration” along with a six-figure loan that will start to come due six months after graduation.
And, you will have the means to pay off that loan. If you’re like most people, you’ll be in a job paying more than you’ve ever earned in your life. That’s, like, the whole point of this. Right?
Unless you’re a crazy type who wants to start a business through bschool. But even then, you’ll have a plan for how to recoup your investment in the education, and you’ll be about to go after venture funding, or whatever is your on-ramp to building your own success.
So yes, sitting here now, the amount of student loans you’re about to take on seems like a MASSIVE amount. (And it is! We’re not trying to pretend that it’s not.)
But if you are weighing out which school to go to, and you’re leaning in a certain direction based on one school offering you $20,000 more in free money… That does not seem like the way to be thinking through things. In May of 2022, when you’re graduating and celebrating and about to embark on yet another big new adventure in your post-MBA life, you are not going to notice that $20,000. Certainly five years post-MBA, you totally will not. Five years post-MBA, that $20,000 that seems so significant today will be only an extra $4,000 per year, or around $350 and change per month even with interest.
We’re not saying it does not matter. But looking objectively at opportunities without getting your decision tainted by what, in the grand scheme of things, is not a huge chunk of money… That is your goal right now.
So don’t give it outsized importance today.
Of course, you may be sitting here going, “‘Snark, you’re crazy. $20,000 is a huge amount of coin! What are you thinking?! This is BS advice. There’s no way I can make this decision without factoring in the finances.”
That’s totally legit too! Some people really do need to place a higher priority on the cost of the MBA, and the extra $20k (which we’re just using as a made-up number for the purpose of the discussion) truly does matter in the calculus they’re making. We don’t discount that as meaningful, depending on life circumstance, or family situation, or pre-existing debt loads, and all these other genuinely good reasons to make this decision based on financial aid.
For some candidates, a scholarship award is indeed significant, and it’ can sway the thinking to taking that school’s offer, over another school that they may feel a greater affinity for.
But we’d just suggest that you stop and think.
If money were totally removed from this equation, which school’s admit would you be most excited about? Which school do you feel the strongest affinity for? Which one made you so incredibly thrilled and excited when you found out you’d gotten in?
Try looking at this through that lens alone. If you can.
We’re not saying to disregard what your mom wants you to do, or pretend that money is no issue.
Just getting some perspective is also important, and listening to your gut, and what you really want to do, deep down inside.
That may coincide completely with the school that offered you some money.
Or it may not.
Either is totally fine. You’re going to end up exactly where you should when the dust falls and the decision is made.
We have no doubt about the success you’re going to create for yourself from this point forward.
It’s impossible to choose wrong.
If you feel like our perspective on your specific situation would be valuable, our Private Consult lets you send in your dilemma about offers and decisions, and we’ll let you know our perspective from this side of the table! Sometimes it can be useful hearing what a stranger with no skin in the game can see in the facts that you lay out. And, sometimes, hearing an opinion that is opposite to yours can actually help you become more confident that what you’ve already decided is right for you! So a win/win either way. 😉