Accepted.com has started a new blog series offering our readers a behind-the-scenes look at selected MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your application.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with a current Kellogg MBA student from a financial services/retail background.
What is your goal for getting the MBA?
I plan to start my own company in my country (probably grocery or other retail) or join the family retail business to lead new initiatives and ultimately manage a new line or division; so in general I take a highly entrepreneurial focus. My classes at Kellogg have been in general management, family business, and entrepreneurship.
How well has Kellogg met your expectations in these areas?
- Academic/curriculum—I’ve been very happy with the program overall. One nice thing is that many of my professors have extensive field experience, so they bring a lot of practical knowledge to the theory they teach. This makes them much more credible. I especially enjoyed Professor Hennessy’s Marketing core course—she highlighted different ways of approaching markets and targeting consumers and positioning products, much of which came from her real-world experience. Also, I came to b-school to shift from a finance focus to general management and entrepreneurship, but learned a lot from a core Finance course I had to take, and my current Corporate Finance class has been great. Learning so much within finance has been an unexpected surprise.
- Students—They are a very bright group. Very committed. Very analytical, and with good communication skills. Everyone seems to do all the reading for every class, which doesn’t seem humanly possible! But the geographic diversity of my class is not as high as I hoped—Kellogg’s “30% international” breaks down a bit when you consider people who have been living here a long time (e.g., moved as a child from their country to the US). Professional diversity is also limited, too—lots of consulting and banking people, but that’s probably true of most top schools.
- Extracurricular/outside of class activities—Has been as valuable, if not more, than the academics. I’m very involved in Center for Family Enterprise events, so I’m getting to know CEOs of family business and lots of future family business execs. We also have great speakers on a regular basis—almost every week we get to hear from the CEO of major company. Last week we had the President of the European Central Bank and the CEO of 7-11 speak at different events. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Family Enterprise Club and LAHIMA, through which I’m helping to plan the Latin America Business Conference.
What about the Evanston/Chicago location? How did that affect your experience?
This has been a great surprise. I’ve really enjoyed Evanston—it’s a nice little city with an urban feel. The location makes the Kellogg community stronger because everyone lives here. We enjoy the lake and lots of outdoor activities. It’s also very easy to go to Chicago—I go twice a week, on average; definitely every weekend.
What have been the trade-offs associated with Kellogg/b-school in general?
There’s a lot going on in my home country, and sometimes I wish I could be part of it, but I’m getting a lot out of the program, so the tradeoff is worthwhile. In terms of my personal life, b-school hasn’t been too challenging. After my tough work schedule, business school isn’t so bad. I make my own schedule, which is a nice change after working as a trader.
What did you find out the school offers that you couldn't find out from the website or an information session?
The collaborative community/environment. Everyone knows about it, but you don’t really understand its value until you experience it firsthand. It’s very genuine here. People are bright and ambitious, but not overly competitive. Friends at other programs report that their classmates are more cutthroat. Everything here is student-led. It’s really all up to the students. I was surprised by the extent of this, and have gained great teamwork skills because of it.
Any effects of the gap between deans (Kellogg’s Dean Dipak Jain left last year, and incoming Dean Sally Blount starts this July)?
Not really. Interim Dean Chopra has been great, and everyone’s excited about incoming Dean Blount. But I don’t really know what effect she’ll have on the curriculum and culture.
What kind of leadership training or mentoring do you receive at Kellogg?
There’s a lot of teamwork. Fits with the culture. I’ve definitely learned leadership skills from working with diverse teams. But there hasn’t been much formal leadership training.
How much help has career services been to you? How much of the job search have you had to do on your own?
I was looking for a non-traditional internship, so I had to do a lot of my search on my own. But I worked with Career Management Center coaches and learned from their seminars. They are very thorough; it’s a great resource overall. The downside is that it’s hard for international students to find opportunities outside the US. It doesn’t seem to be as much of a focus for Kellogg.
Best thing about Kellogg?
The contacts I’ve made through the Family Enterprise Club and the coursework in this area. Regardless of industry/seniority, all the visiting executives face the same challenges and are willing to connect. I’ve made lots of friends from family businesses, and I know we’ll be great collaborators and sources of support in the future.
The biggest challenge about Kellogg?
Some people do get caught up in academics and focus on grades or just on getting the right job, rather than other types of learning experiences. So much of what I’ve learned here has been outside of courses/recruiting, but some people focus almost solely on those.
Words of advice for current applicants?
Even if you think you’d like Kellogg, it’s very important to visit and really experience the environment—that’s what helped me get a feel for the school and ultimately choose Kellogg over other programs. And I’ve never regretted that decision.
Accepted.com's staff would be happy to guide you as you apply to Kellogg or any other program.
By Dr. Sachin Waikar, former McKinsey consultant, published author, and advisor to applicants to business and grad schools.