Friday, September 10, 2004

The MBA Tour Boston.

I was at the MBA Tour event in Boston last evening and it was actually a productive event for me. It started at around 3:00 PM or so with panel discussions, presentations, MBA fair etc., but I showed up only around 7, after work, for the individual school sessions.

I walked into the last 5 minutes of the Haas session, so couldn't catch much of the presentation except for a few questions. They had another session scheduled and I went for that one too. Now, an admissions director wearing a suit with a red shirt has to get some points for, i don't know, something. And, he was a super communicator to boot. Instead of talking about the program with slides etc, Jett chose to spend his time talking about what differentiates Haas from the other leading schools. Here are some of the key points:
* Location - berkeley, bay area, weather, cultural + other opportunities, haven for outdoorsy types.
* Size - target intake of 236, very collaborative + supportive environment, leads to tight bonds among students and alumni.
* Teaching emphasis - they have a teaching mentorship program for all faculty.
* Social consciousness - this is very evident among the entire class & a sense of giving back to the community. Programs like social venture b-plan competition and students for students as evidence.
* Some of the star programs - MOT, Real Estate, Entrepreneurship.

I also got to talk with him after the session and about the entrepreneurship program. The one thing he did clarify was that the typical applicant who is interested in ent. has not necessarily started a company/venture before b-school. But, they want evidence of an entrepreneurial mindset as reflected in professional & personal experiences.

Oh, and their brochure is pretty cool.

I went off to a Columbia session next. This was a powerpoint slideshow, touching on similar aspects as above. The New York advantage, a heterogeneous (as opposed to diverse) community, choice and flexibility in classes, 12 concentrations, a subway ride away from the offices of the biggest and best corporations in the world, a super retail marketing program, choice of speakers on a daily basis, and very receptive and entrepreneurial alumni. Melissa, the admissions officer, then talked about their application assessment methodology. They are looking for three broad areas:

Academic Strength : GMAT, GPA, TOEFL(in cases).
Professional Promise : Professional resume, 2 reco letters, Essay 1, interview.
Personal Characteristics : Activities resume, rest of the essays, interview.

At the end of the sessions, there was a rather thinly attended wine-and-cheese reception. I stopped by the Columbia table and spoke with Melissa about the seemingly new-found entrepreneurial focus at Columbia. Turns out the new dean was very involved with the Lang Center before he took over as Dean, and this focus is part of his vision for the school. So, it's not a flavor-of-the-year thing. The other thing I got from her was that it was very helpful to know what exactly you want to do right after b-school. An example she gave was - i want to be an associate in a firm consulting in XYZ in New York City. I am more focused on goals 3-5 years out and longer term, so some food for thought.

The final session I attended was Chicago. I was going to go to the MIT session but I wanted to get a feel for what Chicago was - i really don't know much about the school beyond what the brochures say. I walked in a couple of minutes late and after listening to Kurt, the admissions director, talk for about a minute, I had an idea for the mascot question on their application pop into my head. True story. Later, the other applicants asked him a couple of questions on the mascot thing, and he said that it was just a quirky way of trying to find out what the applicants knew about the school. As a guideline, he talked about a question they'd asked previously - who would you have dinner with, and what would you order. In that question, the 'what would you order' was added for humor, but many applicants actually talked in unnecessary detail about the food. So much that they removed that part of the question the next year ;-) The one big takeaway for me was the remarkable flexibility of the curriculum. Except for LEAD, you are free to tailor the program towards what you want to study and learn.

After the session, I had a long chat with Kurt and it was very informational. We talked about entrepreneurship at Chicago and he told me flat out that if I was looking for a tech-based school, Chicago wasn't it. But, what they excel at are teaching the theory and fundamentals of management, and providing the flexibility and resources to experiment. I talked about my particular situation and what I could expect at Chicago and he gave me some great thinking points. I'm actually pretty excited about the school. Totally not what I expected.
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