Bear with me on this long post.
I’ve come a long way in the past nine months. When I applied to seven schools last year for the Class of 2010, I was accepted at USC and waitlisted at Columbia, NYU, and UCLA. The waitlist thing didn’t work out and I decided that USC wasn’t for me. I was strongly encouraged to reapply by the adcom at CBS (and did so), only to be denied before I submitted a single Round 1 application. Holy $%^!! I thought I was in trouble.
Fortunately, I was able to keep focused on my apps and was extremely fortunate to be accepted at 3 of the 4 schools that I applied to in Round 1. That leaves me with the difficult decision that I am faced with today. Where to go to school…
But first, a brief professional background and bit on my post-mba goals to provide some color.
I have five and a half years of experience working in the financial services industry. Most of that time has been spent at a F500 company (somewhere around 110-130, before we were acquired in 2008). My background is in financial analysis and credit risk management. I spent the first couple of years of my career working in a financial planning role/budgeting/forecasting role as my company implemented very large scale (and expensive!) capital projects and initiatives. I also put together feasibility studies that focused on NPV for these projects and initiatives . Later on, I built proprietary credit risk models and played key roles in launching several successful new business lines. Due to the economic and financial challenges that my company faced, I’ve bounced around to a number of different roles since mid-2007, working across a number of business lines as well as with regulators to ensure our stabilization and liquidity position. My company was acquired last year and I have since been working with the acquirer’s transition teams to integrate the businesses and strategies across the two companies. Oh yeah, I won’t miss an opportunity to mention that I’m a CFA Charterholder.
I’m interested in going into the investment management industry (in a research role). I’m mostly drawn to equities, so I can see myself working anywhere from a large mutual fund (think Fidelity, T. Rowe, Putnam) to a small to midsize investment advisory firm.
I’d prefer to come back to the west coast (ideally SoCal) after graduation, but am certainly open to being in NYC, Boston, Chicago, etc. for 2-3 years post grad.
Anyway, enough about me, and on with the show.Johnson StrengthsCayuga Fund
- $14 million long/short hedge fund run entirely by students. This will undoubtedly be a big boost to my chance of success landing a job in the industry, particularly if I can land a spot on the fund in my first year. I’ll get a lot of practice doing stock pitches, as well as have the prestige of being on the fund (assuming I get selected).Job Placement
– Cornell "on paper" puts the most students in investment management positions (~20 students/yr). They only have 2 firms that come on campus, but the students make regular treks to NYC and Boston. Students still land jobs at Fidelity, Wellington, T Rowe, and American Century, year after year (in addition to other sell-side and smaller buy-side shops).Immersion Program
– in the second half of the first year you take a number of treks to Wall Street, get valuation workshops from industry experts, have guest speakers coming to classes to talk about the asset management industry and capital markets, and spend a lot of time networking with industry pros.Johnson WeaknessesFit
- I wasn’t blown away by my trip to Ithaca. The class I sat in sucked. It was a core strategy course and it was downright bad. I sat in a core strategy class at CBS and Duke, and Cornell’s wasn’t even close. Boring as heck, professor was not very engaging. Also, the students didn’t seem as outgoing, friendly, and social. I know my experience is limited in terms of time and interaction, but as I’ll discuss below, I was blown away with how cool/friendly/outgoing the Ross kids were (as well as the kids at Duke and Darden). I plan to go the admitted students’ weekend to see if this was a fluke, as it could’ve been. This is perhaps the biggest reason as to why I’m not convinced about going to the school, even through from a job perspective (as mentioned above), this school makes the most sense. Also, location wise, Ithaca is the smallest of the three college towns and will probably be the biggest shell shock moving from Los Angeles.Tiny west coast network
- small class size coupled with few kids going to the west coast (where I ultimately want to end up, either after graduation or 2-3 years out.On campus recruiting
– Only two investment management firms are coming on campus. Students still land jobs, but I know from others that success rate is about 10000% greater (I believe pelihu said that) for on-campus recruiting as opposed to self-directed recruiting.Rankings
- Historically, the lowest ranked program among my three choices. I’m not a rankings whore…but I can’t avoid this as it does permeate my thoughtsRoss StrengthsFit
– seriously, I believe this school is undoubtedly the best “fit” from a social standpoint. I’ve become enamored with Ann Arbor. The ability to become connected to Michigan football, basketball, and hockey is unbelievable. I’m a huge sports fan. Furthermore, the students are just so damn cool. Everyone I talked to on my visit was really cool. Ironically, most people were talking about other things besides school, such as what volunteer event that they were helping to organize or where they were going for drinks on Thursday, etc. Sure I’m there for the education (and I’m not saying Ross kids aren’t), but I’m really drawn to the social environment and feel like I’m one of them, as opposed to a visitor.MAP
– Multidisciplinary Action Program. I’ll be spending the last quarter of my first year doing a consulting project (no classes). About half of these are international based projects. The work ranges from strategy development, new product launches, etc. at blue chips such as Microsoft and Dow Jones to start-ups and new ventures. Great experience from a professional and personal standpoint.Responsive alumni network
– I’ve reached out to probably 5-6 alums already and all of them have gotten back to me (and I’ve even prefaced my emails saying that I was accepted at other schools!). Also the largest MBA, BBA, and university-wide alumni network of the three schools.Strongest west coast presence
- Ross places about 80 kids on the left coast each year vs. about 20-25 from Cornell + Darden)Rankings
– historically the highest ranked school. Again, I’m not a rankings whore, but tough to avoid the topic.Ross WeaknessesMinimal placement in asset management
– historically place about 3% of the students in asset management roles (about 10-12 students). They have alums at many of the places that I am interested in working at (TRowe, Fidelity, Wellington, American Century), but not droves of them. Typically it seems like there are maybe 1-3 alums at the firms that I am interested in (I know this because they give admits access to the admitted students). The minimal placement, in my mind, is the biggest reason that I am struggling with going to Michigan. If their placement and alumni presence were on par with Cornell, my decision would be a no brainer.On campus recruiting
– Similar to Johnson, Ross only has 2 companies on campus (American Century and Deutsche Bank Asset Management). I’d be happy at either of those two firms (and from talking to a 1Y student, both of those companies took 1Y students for internships), again, the number is a little problematic, though.Maize and Blue Fund
– the fund is pretty rinky dink. It’s around $100,000, although I don’t know the details of how the fund runs. Students are looking to build this out and get more funding, although this has been in the works since 2005.Darden StrengthsGeneral Management
- Perhaps the strongest general management program (can’t even test out of any classes!). I’ve been focusing on finance since undergrad and am looking to broaden my skill set.Students
- based on my experience, not quite as cool as the Michigan kids, but pretty darn close. I can definitely see myself fitting in well here. The social interaction among first years, both academically and socially is pretty close to perfect. Also given the interaction that the case method requires in class and outside of class, you REALLY get to know your classmates. First Coffee also helps build a strong, collaborative environment.Alumni network
– second highest giving rate next to Tuck, I believe. Darden alums are generally known to be super friendly and supportive of current mba studentsWeather
– I’m from Southern California, meaning Charlottesville will provide for the easiest transition from what I’m used to (70-degree LA winters
– I’m not necessarily for or against this. I know it’s a lot of work and that I’ll end up being better prepared to communicate effectively and work well in teams with people with different backgrounds/personalities. For that, I’ll place this in the positive bin.Moderate placement in investment management
– Darden places more students than Ross does, but less than Cornell does. However, a few more firms are on campus (maybe 4-5). I know that they have alums at T Rowe and Fidelity among others (as well as some bigwigs at Capital Group and TCW, the two largest shops in LA).Darden Capital Management
– very similar to Johnson’s Cayuga Fund. Broken down into four funds with different styles. The students have virtually full discretion. Somewhere around $4-$5 million in assets under management. You get course credit in the second year if selected to participate, although you still can go to meetings and make pitches as a first year student.Darden WeaknessesRigor of first two quarters
- Although all top maybe programs are tough for the first few months, Darden is amongst the most rigorous (albeit things are better than they were in the ‘90’s). This may potentially make things a bit more difficult in terms of recruiting (which for me will be mostly self-directed, not on-campus), putting together my stock pitches, etc.Rankings?
- Somewhat teetering on the outskirts of the Top 15 in businessweek and US News rankings…
Friends, I seek your opinions. Also, if you think that I am leaving off any major advantages or disadvantages, I welcome your comments.
Many thanks for everything that g-club has done to contribute to my success.
The True Value of YOUR MBA: http://gmatclub.com/forum/103-t64239
GMATClub's Unofficial Chartered Financial Analyst thread: http://gmatclub.com/forum/103-t63245
How Much Weight Does the CFA Carry with Admissions: http://gmatclub.com/forum/103-t68059