Tuesday, December 09, 2003

For a few dollars more ... a.k.a. My Yale Class Visit

Was up until 3 a.m. last night doing some work-related stuff, and woke up at 7:30 to leave for New Haven. As I was walking towards my car I wanted to stop by and get a bagel and coffee, but I had only 4 dollars and change in cash - just enuf to pay the MassPike tolls. No time to get to an ATM so left Boston and reached 55 Hillhouse Ave just in time but starving. The erstwhile 'most beautiful street in America' was anything but today, thanks to the effects of the weekend snowstorms. Yale SOM's campus is a collection of 4 beautiful mansions retrofitted into offices and classrooms. This lends a very intimate scale to the place. Had a personalized letter and a folder full of informational materials waiting for me when I got to the visitor center. There were a bunch of other prospectives who were there for the tour and R1 interviews.

We were met by second year students who took us on a campus tour and lunch. The Yale classrooms are the only ones I have seen that have windows - floor to ceiling ones that wrap around the room. Students use the same classroom for the entire first year like HBS. Also like HBS students form their own study groups and seems like they change them for different courses too. I think that defeats the purpose a tad because you don't usually have the luxury of choosing who you work with in real life. The elective courses use a bidding process (is Tuck's the only school that doesn't use one ?), but most students seem to get the electives of their choice. Also, you can take classes at other Yale schools, and the most popular is the Law school.

The career development office's stats worried me. It seems only 30% of students get jobs thru on-campus placements. Around 80% of them find jobs thru what's called Special Recruiter Request, or alumni/networking etc that's facilitiated by the career office. I think that's a scarily low number of on-campus jobs. The recruiter list is blue-chip but mostly concentrated in the wall street / MC fields. I have a feeling that if your interests are not in those areas, you might be in for a rough ride. The other area that SOM is known for, though people there seem to want to de-emphasize it, is non-profit management. A lot of interview applicants today were interested in non-profit. But it seems like only around 3% of the class ends up working in that sector right after school - most of them get seriously involved in non-profits 5-10 years after their MBA. We then went to lunch where there were tables reserved for us. This was very markedly in contrast with Tuck where we were specifically asked not to sit together with the other visitors but go and find a table with other Tuckies. So, pretty much the only student I spoke with was my host. Also, SOM is not a residential school but most students stay within a few blocks of campus.

After lunch, I ran to my car to top off the meter and by the time I got back class had just begun. This was a second year class, and I must say not what I was expecting. The class was organized like a normal classroom with straight rows of tables. And the classroom didn't have levels either, the floor was flat. We sat at some chairs that were along the back wall. The first year classrooms are more 'traditional' MBA though. Yale offers a list of classes that you can choose from to go to, and so there is no student host to take you to class. I wasn't introduced to the professor or the class (maybe because I was a minute or so late ?), and the layout of the class made it hard to listen. The discussion was good, but not great. The class participation wasn't as involved as in other schools I've visited.

A good visit overall - I wanted to get a feel for Yale out of this trip. It's a good school no doubt - nice facilities, faculty and a pretty diverse and involved student body. But I think it's missing something. It's small but lacks the intimate feel of Tuck. The McKinsey's of the world recruit there but beyond that seems like there's a struggle involved to find what you want. Younger school so the alumni base is limited. I heard someone mention that it was a challenge to come there because of that - a chance to be part of an institution on the rise. But it seems like there isn't much student input to changing curriculum etc, these are pretty much in place. I'll have to sleep over this and decide what all this means in terms of my applying there.

Funny how the smallest of things can affect outcomes. As I wrapped up my visit I realized I was a few dollars short for the tolls on the drive back. There is an ATM in one of the buildings and as I was walking back with a crisp new $20 bill I stopped to get some coffee. One of the coolest things about Yale is 'Food for thought' - a kind of coffee shop that's run by students and staff. I was told that all the profits go toward the Internship Fund that pays salaries for students to go on non-profit internships. I got my coffee and they didn't have change for the 20. So, the super nice woman manning the counter said that I could pay it sometime later. When I said I was a visitor and may not be back anytime soon, she took a dollar from her wallet and paid for the coffee. What can I say ... thank you very much. I should mail a few dollars to the internship fund soon.

Drove all the way back with a warm fuzzy feeling.
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