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Ask Alex @ MBA Apply [#permalink] New post 04 May 2009, 20:54
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I've reposted this from my blog, but I think it would be helpful for some of the readers here -- a set of principles that not only apply to b-school essays, but to any form of writing you'll do in your professional career.

*******************************

Good writing first and foremost is not about style or polish. I think that's the biggest disconnect for many people whose office environments are overwhelmingly focused on polish and style that it messes with their notion of what is deemed "good writing." When asked to write outside a corporate context, it can be completely disorienting -- right becomes left, up becomes down.

What makes good writing?

The most important quality is CLARITY. Unless you're writing a diary for your eyes only, you write to be understood. Your main thesis, opinion, and intentions have to be absolutely crystal clear to a reader. Oftentimes, it's scraping away all the double-speak, buzzwords and cliche phrases learned over the years in an office. When in doubt, use the simpler word because it's likely closer to the heart (which is what an essay with a subjective voice is all about - you are writing in the first person after all).

Another important quality is SPECIFICITY. Without being specific about what you're talking about, you can't be precise in your insight. And if you're not precise, what you say has no substance, leaving no impact on a reader. Oftentimes, stripping all the sh*t away from one's writing into plain English can really reveal what you *really* know because you can't hide behind language.

ECONOMY is also paramount. Even award winning novelists (or their editors at least) strive for this. You cut out as much fat as possible - both the words and the content. The more succinct, the greater the impact.

And the last one for writing from a subjective viewpoint (first person narrative) is SINCERITY. Tonally, it's got to sound like a real person, not a robotic PR release. Aim for a lack of formality without being casual.

Your essays may not sound like the stylized writing you are used to at work, but believe me it will be miles better than the overwhelming majority of sh*t you'll see in powerpoint presentations, website copy and business correspondence. Corporate speak makes it harder to separate the clueless, incompetent, and spineless from the knowledgeable, talented and ethical - that's why it can be an invaluable "cover your ass" dialect in a bureaucracy.

One last thing. All of this doesn't mean that style is irrelevant. Highly stylized writing can certainly be fun to read especially in the hands of a talented writer with keen insight, but only if such writing is clear, specific, concise and sincere. In the context of b-school essays however, it's unnecessary and distracting. That's the underlying problem with language used in many office environments - it's a highly stylized form without the clarity, specificity, economy or sincerity one will see in truly good writing.
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Last edited by AlexMBAApply on 03 Jul 2012, 08:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Building a profile for business school [#permalink] New post 20 Jun 2011, 18:31
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THERE IS A FORREST GUMP IN ALL OF US

One of the most common questions I loathe to give advice about is how to build a profile that will improve one’s chances for getting into a top b-school. Especially when it's coming from folks who are more than a year away (and sometimes years away... I've had *high school* students ask me!).

The reason why is this. Getting advice on what you should do with your career and life choices is limiting yourself to the advice being given. It has a tendency to limit your imagination for what is truly possible for you. Especially when getting advice from a complete stranger like me, no matter how much of a novel you want to write to me about your entire life story.

Simply put, no one knows you as well as YOU.

I hate life coaching, because I really don’t think I’m better or wiser than anyone else. I have my hands full with in my own life, let alone trying to give a paint-by-numbers recipe to others for what they should do with theirs.

So this is the only “life coaching” thing I will say based on my own limited experience and what I believe. I guess it could be considered some broad advice that is meaningless on its own, but hopefully meaningful if you are able to find a way to incorporate it into your own specific circumstances.

The reason why I hate giving “what can I do to improve my profile” advice is because some of the most accomplished and amazing applicants I’ve ever worked with were people whose history and career choices I could not have ever imagined or envisioned in the order or manner in which it had evolved. And I can safely say so for many if not all of them, I doubt they could have envisioned it turning out the way it did.

Facing the unexpected and surprises is where life and careers are made. It’s when you’re faced with situations where the script you had written becomes irrelevant, and you have to react in the heat of the moment. That’s where a lot of the most interesting career progressions and lives are built.

In short, for some (or even many?) of you MBA types or those who are attracted to do an MBA - you tend to over think and over plan. You don’t take enough risks because you psych yourself out by over thinking it. You don’t trust or you’re unwilling to trust your own instincts, so you want to follow other people or “templates”. Basically, you’re almost too willing to follow some cookie cutter recipe you think exists as long as it gets you the result you want - because you (falsely) believe that when it comes to building a career and a life, the results are all that matters (and where hopefully you’ll learn over time that while results aren’t irrelevant, the journey or the process is just as important if not more important, depending on who you talk to - because the only true result for all of us is death; everything else is a journey or process and the struggle to understand it).

Focus on working your ass off on whatever you feel is most meaningful to you at this time, *assuming* you're not going to b-school at all. It's about being your most overachieving self - adcoms really don’t care what it is. They really don't. What they care about is whether you are a dynamic and compelling individual who is accomplished in his/her chosen profession. It’s not about being perfect, but about being intriguing. And there are endless permutations on what that can be and what that means. Make life/career choices that you want to do, regardless of what others think. And of course that is “riskier” if you aren’t sure what you want, and there are plenty of “template lives” out there for you to follow. But the journey itself in taking that leap of faith is worth it for the self-knowledge you’ll gain, and if opens up even more doors than had you taken the “template”, that’s a bonus.

Don't just start volunteering at the local charity for the sake of resume building or make job/career choices for the sake of resume building, because you're not fooling anyone. Do it because you f*cking believe in it. Otherwise the only person you’re trying to fool is yourself into believing that “if I do X, Y and Z, then I will get A, B and C and everything will work out.” Even if you don’t believe in the “follow your dreams” mantra, there’s still a huge difference between “I chose this career path because it’s a realistic compromise” and “I chose this career path because others are doing it, or I am afraid of being different, or my parents forced me to.” The former is based on a negotiation you have with the world around you, whereas the latter is simply giving up the right to your own life. Now, that may sting some of you whose parental pressures are oppressive, but that only makes the struggle to overcome and defy them that much more meaningful - because it will teach you more about who you are than anything else (because no matter how much you love your parents, you are still your own person if you give yourself that right).

Nothing ever really works out - not just in your personal life, but also in your professional career (or careers). Welcome to reality. And it’s how you cope and react to the unexpected (setbacks or triumphs) that help define who you are, and give you a much more profound understanding of what you’re made of. Whether you succeed in overcoming setbacks is not as important as your willingness to take on those obstacles in the first place. Because that willingness is what success is ultimately built on even if it doesn’t happen right away or how you had envisioned it.

There are those whose goal is to minimize the unexpected. And there are those who live. Who you are is not defined by fantasies of who you hope to be, but by how you cope with the realities of today.

More applicants screw up their b-school applications because of their attitude more than their actual profile. Adcoms smell the "please like me, I did this all for you" faster than you can even build it. It’s a profile based on premeditation, and not one built on living. Desperation and an eager to please attitude may be endearing in children, but is a death knell for adults. That’s the real struggle more than anything else for those of you early in your careers.

So do what makes you feel confident, not what you think pleases others. There are folks who get in with no extracurricular achievements to speak of and nothing special other than a solid work resume. And there are others with a crapload of everything and don't get in anywhere. More often than not, what separates those who tend to succeed and those who don't (whether in admissions or anything else) are those who don't need the permission to succeed - those who say "f*ck it, this is who I am, take me or leave me.” They may lose some of the time and maybe even a lot of the time, but they will win more than those whose attitude and vibe comes across as trying a bit too hard to please others.

Some of you have gotten it ingrained in you that getting into b-school is important enough for you to have big life/career decisions dictated by gaining admission. The deeper problem however is believing that you need some external permission to succeed - that without getting X, Y or Z, you’re not going to get what you want. It’s this lack of self-belief that is the problem. As some of you may have heard me say this before - a lot of the folks who are at these top b-schools really don’t need the “credential” or “brand” of the b-school to succeed. In the end, they would’ve gotten to a similar place or level without the degree. The only difference is that they had a good time in those 2 years, and they may have had an easier time moving up the ranks, but the difference isn’t night and day to the point where it’s worth ignoring your instincts and values for it.

And while it's harder to live by that principle of “trust your own instincts” when you're younger and being pulled in a gazillion directions by your peers, your family, your colleagues, and yes even those “b-school adcoms” that you have put on a pedestal -- sometimes it's just a matter of faking that confidence and self-belief even when you don't have it.

Ignorance can be bliss. There’s a Forrest Gump in all of us. Sometimes what you don't know can give you the dumb guts to accomplish bigger things than you would have at an older age where you realized how f*cking lucky you were to have achieved it in the first place. That delusional self-belief, that foolishness, is harder and harder to hold onto as one gets older, so don’t be so willing to throw it away so soon. It may be the greatest asset you have right now.

In short, rather than asking others what you should be doing, let ignorance be your fuel and ask YOURSELF what you feel you should be doing... you may surprise yourself when you're older that you managed to pull it off.

Now, I’m not saying any of this is easy to live by, but it’s worth it to at least try.
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If business schools were car brands (updated) [#permalink] New post 03 Mar 2011, 00:12
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One of the things I've been getting feedback on over the last few years was the "car analogy" I wrote way back when simply as a diversion. I really didn't think much of it as I wrote it back then, so I've updated it since and have changed a few analogies here and there (while adding more schools/cars to the list, and some pics - car porn!).

Enjoy!

_______________________________________

HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL

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HBS is like a British exotic car of varying quality – Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin. They are Establishment, top hats and all. Like British exotics, HBS is really known for its heritage and prestige (with sport performance and classic styling to back it up). Some drivers are able to break the "unapproachable" mold and will take their cars for a bit of a joyride, but some are trapped in the pomp and circumstance of their cars. Only drawback is that they are incredibly high maintenance (more reliable than Italian exotics, but the repair costs are astronomically high) and insist on being noticed. And watching an HBS alum “fail” a la Jeffery Skilling is like seeing a Bentley stranded on the side of the road – everyone else can’t help but gloat.


STANFORD GSB

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Stanford is like an Italian exotic – from iconic marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Alfa Romeo, to super exotics like the Pagani Zonda, as well as the “all style and no substance” that are the Maseratis. In terms of styling and performance, they are bold, distinctive, and anti-authoritarian much like Stanford – built as if to be a complete counterpoint to the British exotics. They aren't the most reliable cars, but they sure look good, and they are the ultimate joyride car, risks be damned (few cars can replicate the exhaust note of a Ferrari). If HBS is about prestige, Stanford is about rebellious sex appeal. Just like not every Stanford GSB alum is of the same caliber, knowledgeable “car guys” know that there’s a huge difference between Ferarri and Maserati – the former is a real sports car, while the latter is a piece of sh*t. But to the uninitiated, they draw attention in equal measure.


WHARTON (UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA)


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Wharton is like a German exotic – Porsche, AMG, Maybach, Alpina, and Ruf, which represents a long history of performance that is analytical, clinical and precise, with styling that has always maintained a sporty middle ground, in between the conservative or even stodgy styling of the Brits and the more extreme elements of the Italians. They combine the quality/reliability of German engineering that the British and Italian sports cars don't have, with the cachet that rivals only the British and Italian luxury cars. The styling for the most part hides some of the best engineering under the hood, so the cars tend to draw less attention on the road. For example, most people may not even know the difference between an AMG or a regular Benz, much like most people may not have heard of Wharton, but when you say “Penn”, they respond, “oh, Penn State.” Moreover, they don't quite have the same cachet of the British and Italian luxury cars, even though many drivers would still kill to say “I drive a Porsche” even if it’s just a Cayenne (i.e. a Toyota SUV with a Porsche stamp).


BOOTH (UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO)


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Booth is like Mercedes-Benz – one of the preeminent luxury car brands, but without as much of the sex appeal and prestige of an exotic car. Underneath the hood, the performance is as good and sometimes even better than its more “prestigious” counterparts in the UK, Italy, or its neighbor in Zuffenhausen. In fact, while a Ferrari, Aston Martin or Porsche owner will talk about the driving experience as “fun”, “raw” or “holy f*ck yeah!!!”, Benz owners will whip out spreadsheets of performance statistics to quantify how their cars are just as good as the others. Styling wise, it’s even more conservative than its German counterparts, perhaps a bit stodgy, boxy and awkward at times (and some models are just downright ugly). But hey, it's built like a tank - impenetrable to any kind of criticism.


KELLOGG (NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY)


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Kellogg is like a Volkswagen - they aren't the most reliable cars, but they are sure fun cars to drive. They also have a very young, hip and aspirational image - but one that is within reach of many people. When you think of the Beetle, Golf GTI, Jetta, Cabrio, Rabbit, Vanagon/Westfalia (hippie van!!), Passat or Touraeg, you think of a hip young couple who shop at farmer’s markets on their way back from CB2 to pick up funky kitchenware to decorate their so-hip-it-hurts exposed brick loft space – in the suburbs. They are very good at promoting and managing its reputation as a “cool and hip” car to drive. Oh, and they are always smiling, showcasing their Crest Whitestrips ™ bleached teeth. But damn, they are a good looking bunch of people who manage to out party every other school and still look good doing it.


SLOAN (MIT)

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Sloan is like an Audi - more people have them than you'd expect, and for a German car, they are a bit younger and hipper – and more accessible. They are mentioned alongside the other great auto manufacturers, but still fly under the radar in most discussions. They are reliable workhorses that hide its performance and luxury behind a very understated and unassuming exterior – much like Sloanies and their abilities. Even their sportier versions (S-series, R8) are understated compared to its direct competitors. If its peers are a combination of style and substance, they are almost focused entirely on substance, if at the expense of style (if you have ever been to the MIT campus, you’ll know what I’m talking about).


COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL

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Columbia is like a BMW - an amazing machine that combines performance, quality and cachet, but it also attracts a disproportionate number of overly aggressive drivers who believe they own the road, and act accordingly (blasting horrendous techno music, cutting people off in traffic, honking their horns, etc.). Like the BMW, the “New York advantage” of Columbia has a Jersey Shore element to it. Cheesy club music, overpowering cologne, and drivers who love challenging every single luxury/sports car at a stop light. Or if you happen to drive a Honda (Stern), the BMW driver will rev up his engine and give that look of disdain. I’m sure there are some laid back and friendly BMW drivers, but they seem to be drowned out by the sheer number of a**holes – much like the loud minority at Columbia that give the school a bad name. But hey, across the board, they are still amazing machines and an astute person will know it’s not the car, but the driver behind the wheel. Just don’t get the X5, which is known to explode for absolutely no reason, much like a few loose cannon Columbia alums out there.


TUCK (DARTMOUTH COLLEGE)

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Tuck is like a Swedish car, from the pedestrian (Saab and Volvo) to the exotic (Koenigsegg). It's quirky, relatively small in number, but has a fiercely loyal following of aficionados. Not many people know about these cars, but those that do rave about it. Some Tuckies, like the Koenigsegg, are truly exceptional and can stand toe to toe with any other exotic in terms of performance, styling and cachet. Beyond that, if there is any reputation it has, it’s the family-oriented cars for hippies. Volvos and Saabs like Tuck seem to scream “I am a liberal outdoorsy vegan who collects bumper sticker slogans!” Strap some skis and bikes on its luggage rack, and you’re off camping! Don’t forget to bring your weed and Phish paraphernalia.


LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL

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LBS is like Jaguar and Land Rover. A luxury British car that is high performance, but with some reliability issues that vary from one car to the next. Styling is decidedly refined and sophisticated, much like how LBS grads see themselves. They have that muscular feel of American cars with more European styling and refinement, much like how LBS has that American-style 2-year MBA structure but with a decidedly European student body. Also, when you think of Jaguar and Land Rover owners, you think of upper middle class blokes of all ages (including the geriatric) who love to drink, and drink lots of anything alcoholic – much like LBS which might as well own a chain of pubs for its students.


INSEAD

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INSEAD is like Peugeot-Citroen. Not because they are both French, but because they are both very well known everywhere in the world but the US. Similar to how Peugeot-Citroen is one of the world’s largest car makers, INSEAD is one of the largest business schools – but if you lived in the US you’d never know it. While they have a reputation amongst the public as “the everyday car for Europeans,” to those in the know they have the reputation for building supercars that have dominated the Le Mans (which again means nothing to the NASCAR/Indy centric US). Similarly, INSEAD grads are found in all sectors of industry from middle management upwards, but that has a reputation as Europe’s preeminent business school, and one of the most respected names within those who know business schools.


ROSS (UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN)


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Ross is like General Motors. A bit of everything for everyone, but not really anything in particular that makes them really stand out, other than the fact that it has the feel of a quintessential college town. When you think GM, you think America. When you think Michigan, you think Americana. And like GM cars, quality will vary, but for the most part the cars are down the middle when it comes to styling, performance, and reliability. It’s a solid, good choice for a buyer with a modest budget and who isn’t interested in flash or being super urban and hip – much like how Ross is a solid middle-of-the-road top school for those who want some of the prestige of the other top 8 schools, but who aren’t too fussy and caught up in keeping up with the Joneses. It’s a utilitarian choice that gets you from point A to point B – a degree that helps you get a decent job so you can enjoy your family life. And if you want a bit of flash, you get their Cadillac.


FUQUA (DUKE UNIVERSITY)

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Fuqua is like Chrysler, because it’s hard to tell the difference between GM and Chrysler cars, just like it’s hard to separate out Ross and Fuqua, and they seem to be interchangeable amongst applicants anyhow. Sebring or a Buick? Which one is Chrysler and which one is GM? I thought the PT Cruiser was GM? I’m confused. Just like Ross, Fuqua is a solid middle-of-the-road choice when you see the MBA for what it is (get a better job) while you get on with your life. It’s for people who don’t have hang ups about what school they go to, but want a good school – and unlike NYU and Haas (see below), for people who want a more quintessential American college town experience. Basketball. Football. Cheerleaders. Suburban Americana.


DARDEN (UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA)

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Darden is like Ford because it prides itself on being “built tough”. From the Mustang to the F-150 to the Crown Victorias, their bread and butter are cars that can withstand all kinds of grit, grime and abuse – much like how Darden students pride themselves on their ability to survive their infamous workload. Just like the Big-3 US automakers, applicants tend to apply to Michigan, Darden and Duke collectively because they are similar to one another. The difference is, Darden is the macho brother of the three. Not known for their refinement, but the cars most likely to withstand nuclear war. Don’t mess with Darden, because they will grind you up, spit you out, and crush you with their boots of steel. Boo-yah!


STERN (NYU)

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Stern is like Honda – similar to Duke/Darden/Michigan, it’s a solid choice for people who want a good program that gets them from point A to point B in relative comfort, but whose style is a bit more fun and peppy than its Detroit counterparts. From the Civic to the Accord to the Pilot, it’s about practicality first and foremost. However, there are obnoxious owners of all marques, and Honda is no different – there is the minority of folks who constantly proclaim in that smug way that they could’ve gotten a BMW or Benz, but chose a Honda because of blah blah blah, just like a few Sternies here and there will claim they could’ve gotten into Columbia or Booth, but chose Stern instead. I don’t doubt that it’s true, but methinks the lady doth protest too much. Going to Stern is just like buying a Honda – no one is ever going to fault you for it, and for many who go there, they are happy with it being an enjoyable means to an end.


HAAS (UC – BERKELEY)

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Haas is like Toyota, much like Stern is like Honda. It’s for the practical minded who simply want to get a good degree so they can get a better job. Nothing more or less than that. And Haas fits that bill, much like a Corolla, Prius or a Tacoma. While some may be curious about why you would buy an American car, no one will question why you bought a Japanese car – just like many internationals may have more explaining to do when it comes to “why did you go to Ross/Fuqua/Darden?” but fewer if any outside the US will question why you chose Haas. Or Stern. In other words, Haas and Stern are like Toyota and Honda because they are all very well known worldwide, whereas American cars have more limited traction, especially outside of North America.

And don’t even start on the supposed luxury brands such as Lexus or Acura – as good as they may be, they’re just “nicer Toyotas” and “nicer Hondas” – and there’s nothing wrong with that.


JOHNSON (CORNELL UNIVERSITY)

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Johnson is like Subaru – a high quality and practical car, for those who know about it. The marque is typically not on the top of people’s minds at first, although if you were to ask them to track how many Subarus they see in a day, chances are there are more out there than they ever realized. You see, Subarus don’t like to draw attention to themselves, they simply get on with their business, and they attract buyers who want a reliable import/Japanese car, but want something different for the sake of being different (and something a bit more rugged). In a way, they are quirkier than the other Japanese marques, using boxer engines instead of an inline or V. Similarly, Johnson is sort of out there in rugged upstate New York – there’s more of them working amongst you, but you wouldn’t realize it unless you actually asked people where they went to school.


YALE SOM

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Yale is the Mazda of business schools. What causes a person to go to Yale over NYU? It’s a toss up, really just like a Honda versus Mazda. Oftentimes, it comes down to who gives you the better deal and better financing. Similar to Honda, Mazdas are known for being fun and sporty economy cars that don’t take themselves too seriously. For example, who chooses Miatas? While I’m sure some could afford the more expensive European cars, most want a comparable quality experience that is within their reach. Again, if given the choice with no constraints, I’m sure most Miata owners would rather drive a German or Italian sports car, but few if any are complaining about driving that zippy little Miata around town. Similarly, while few would choose Yale over other top 8 schools, it’s a place where people seem pretty happy about being there – they could certainly do a lot worse.


ANDERSON (UCLA)

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Anderson is the Nissan of business schools. Like Nissan would be compared to other Japanese marques, Anderson tends to fall under the radar, even though it’s known worldwide and they’re everywhere. Similar to Toyota and Honda, for the most part they are solid cars that appeal to the practical minded buyer who just wants to “get on with it.” Likewise, Anderson attracts students who simply see the MBA as a means to an end, and want a high quality school that will help them get a good job – it’s the practical choice for many who want or need to stay in California for their careers. While it doesn’t get the same level of exposure as Toyota or Honda, no one is going to fault you for ever getting a Nissan. At worst, it elicits no opinion, and at best, a positive one.
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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: RACE AND PRESTIGE [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 19:58
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Consider this:

You walk into a college classroom where most of the faces are Indian and Chinese (or “South Asian” and “East Asian” for the more broad term – and in this context, it’s not really a question of citizenship i.e. Indian-American vs Indian but of race).

If you were a recruiter for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Apple or any global company, would you perceive this school to be MORE or LESS prestigious? If you were a recruiter where post-MBA jobs are managerial and become more relationship-based (not analytical/technical), and where the key contacts your company corresponds with (investors, Board members, clients, customers, government officials) are mostly white (American or European), or at least a sprinkling of various nationalities and cultures (but still mostly white), would you be more willing to hire students from this classroom, or would you be more inclined to recruit from a similar caliber of school where there were more white faces in the class?

Now, if you were an applicant and walked into this very same classroom, would you perceive this school to be more prestigious or have an “exclusive” brand compared to a class that is more diverse (or where at least half were white)? As an applicant, would your opinions be different depending on your own race or nationality (which gets into the ugly truth that even in non-white countries, the perception of prestige and exclusivity is still defined by whether white people will buy it). And if b-school classrooms looked more like MS-Engineering programs (where the overwhelming majority are Indian/Chinese), would that increase or decrease the likelihood of you applying to a highly selective business school? (Note that “highly selective” and “prestigious” can be related but are not synonymous.)

And herein lies the ugly truth of race, prestige and admissions.

For business schools, and especially those in the very top tier like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and so forth – a big part of ensuring that their MBA programs stay relevant is to maintain their perceived prestige (exclusivity), because as we all know – while having an MBA can be of value, it’s not necessary for success in business, as amply shown by countless examples of incredibly successful entrepreneurs and executives out there without any formal business education. The perception of exclusivity for b-schools is rooted in the assumption that blue chip white males/females are the people others (regardless of background) want to be associated with. And that feeds on itself – the more of these people who apply, the more it will attract others to apply (including Asians), which creates a “network” which b-schools will then trumpet as something invaluable to its students (who are then networking with each other).

That’s why b-school admissions is more like the selection process for a private club: a country club, the freemasons, a hot nightclub (bring in all the hot girls, groups of guys are left standing in line), motorcycle club, or any sort of private organization. They can admit and reject whomever they want, and constantly change the parameters for admission to suit their needs (which isn't to graduate the "best and brightest" but to maintain that perception of prestige). Business school admissions is NOT a meritocracy, and it never really was, since the admissions process by nature is subjective and a "black box" if there ever was one.

When it comes to race and admissions, it’s not about trying to marginalize white or Asian applicants in the name of diversity – that seems to be a common refrain from many detractors who feel that adcoms are on some socialist, pinko, leftist agenda to admit as many “blacks, Hispanics and lesbian paraplegics” (of course, all mentioned in a derogatory tone by these very detractors) into b-school over more qualified white and Asian candidates –which is simply not the case because that is not what recruiters want, and it’s not what will ensure that applicants see these b-schools as “prestigious” (which will ensure that these schools continue to receive a crapload of applications each year).

In short, top MBA programs want their schools to be *diverse* (read: mostly or at least half white) rather than *ethnic* (read: mostly non-white) – that helps to ensure perceived prestige and exclusivity in our current culture of how we view the relationship between race and status symbols, which then helps to attract the maximum number of applicants as well as the most “exclusive” (read: highest paying) corporate recruiters. That is partly why they also are looking at younger candidates: it’s a way of reaching into the blue chip American pool (white kids with Ivy/equivalent backgrounds) to ensure that their numbers don't drop off to the point where b-school has to start looking like an MS-Engineering program – the less white people in the applicant pool, the more “ethnic” they have to go. This is ugly to say, but it's what is bubbling underneath all of this.

The one big silver lining to all this is that how we perceive race changes over time – it’s not static, but fluid. Even now, for many b-schools, the incoming classes are no longer overwhelmingly white, but again, the schools are “diverse” and not “ethnic”.

One example of how perceptions changed is that of the Jewish community – from “ethnic” to “mainstream.” Ivy League schools in the post-WWII era had a reputation for an unspoken two tiered admissions standard as a way to stem the influx of Jewish students for the very same reason: the perception of prestige. Many of these Jewish kids had as strong if not stronger credentials than their white counterparts to the Ivy League’s law and medical schools (b-schools back then were a bit of a backwater), but would still be underrepresented in these classrooms relative to the applicant pool. And yet, within a generation, that bias (at least when it comes to university admissions) has all but disappeared by the early 1980s.

With race and prestige today, I am confident it will change as the economic and cultural input of non-Western communities is considered mainstream, but this is where we’re at right now. So who knows, maybe in 10-15 years time, these biases may disappear altogether at least in this context of university admissions.
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Re: Ask Alex @ MBA Apply [#permalink] New post 18 Jan 2013, 00:40
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SUGGESTED CHANGES TO THE MBA APPLICATION

Over the past eight years, I have been an admissions consultant, having reviewed thousands (if not tens of thousands?) of applicant profiles on various discussion forums as well as with clients who elect to sign up for my service.

And I know that some admissions committee members also read these boards as well as my blogs.

There have been gripes from admissions committee members that applicants are being "over coached" or that that it's more difficult for them to really get a sense for who the applicant is as a person (i.e. that the applicant's essays are inauthentic).

And there's a straightforward fix to that:

1. STOP ASKING THE WHY MBA/WHY NOW/GOALS QUESTION.

Theoretically, this may make sense. However, the reality is, everyone knows that b-schoolers don't know what they want to do. They are going to school to figure that out. Furthermore, having been an MBA student myself and know a lot of MBAs, having a strong narrative for this question has ZERO bearing on that person's caliber as an MBA student or in the recruiting process. In reality, we take it as it comes - it's not entirely in an applicant's control, because what job they take is as much a function of the job offers they get. That is why so many applicants trip up on this question because it forces them to make stuff up, or to be more specific than they really are about their goals.

Same with the "why MBA" - what are you adcoms hoping to get from this that won't sound cliche, boring, or simply just BS? And if they do say something truly original - it's likely gimmicky. There are only so many reasons why someone wants an MBA -- and the *real* reasons you don't want to hear are often personal ones: they are lonely at work and want to be around folks their own age; they want to find a soulmate; they want to re-live their college years, last chance to feel like a young student again before settling down post-MBA as a soon-to-be-married adult, etc. They feel stuck or bored in their careers and lives and want a change.

As for "why now?" - because they want to go... now! I want to go now because I hate my job. I want to go now because you adcoms don't like older candidates. And so forth. If you don't want applicants to bullsh*t you, then stop asking this question, because for 99% of the applicants who actually do get in - their responses to this essay was mostly BS or some standard issue narrative that doesn't really reveal their "authentic self." If adcoms don't bullsh*t answers, then stop asking questions like this.

Ironically, b-schools seem all about ethics these days, and yet, they ask a question that puts many applicants in a position to misrepresent themselves in order to "play along." Or they end up admitting the best bullsh*tters. Again, speaking from real experience as a b-school grad, the why MBA/goals narrative has ZERO to do with caliber, talent, or focus.

Thankfully, HBS and Sloan don't ask this anymore. It's about time other schools stop as well. It's a waste of time for everyone involved.

2. STOP ASKING THEM TO KISS YOUR ASS

Essays about "how will you fit into our culture" or questions about how the school's mission and values fit with the candidate's own history will naturally lend itself to plenty of ass kissing. It ends up being this BS story parroting the school's so-called values (give me a break... what's next - "mission statements" and "mantras"? Or "pillars"?).

I understand that adcoms want to identify candidates who may be a fit for a school. But you don't find that out by asking them directly to comment on your silly catchphrases that you call "values" or "culture," because you'll get plenty of empty platitudes and insincere compliments about how amazing the school is.

I mean, are the essays more about applicants telling the school how wonderful the school is, or is it more about finding out more about the applicant?

3. STOP ASKING ABOUT LEADERSHIP.

I know b-schools like to think they are training leaders, but come on, most people applying are in their mid-20s in junior positions at work. And even if they do volunteer somewhere outside of work, they aren't exactly General Patton. I know, there are different "models" of leadership or whatever linguistic gymnastics you use, but the fact is - you're dealing with YOUNG ADULTS. Or those in their 40s and above like to say - THEY ARE KIDS.

The more you push them to talk leadership, the more BS, embellishment and so forth you will get. Most of the incoming students don't have much *real* leadership experience simply because they're young and very early in their careers (and frankly they are *barely* adults). And whether they do or not at this point in their lives has little to do with the kind of leader they will be in their 40s should they be senior execs by then.

So cut this crap about leadership. It's pure BS, or you end up with students with their head up their ass talking about the kind of "leaders" they are (while they troll for undergrads at sorority parties on the weekends). These applicants are not CEOs. They are kids a few years out of college. Even those in their later 20s - they are still young in the grand scheme of things.

Asking b-school applicants about leadership is akin to asking high school kids about marriage. The overwhelming majority are not in a position to really know that firsthand, and that's okay. They very well could be amazing leaders later on, but there's no way of judging that right now because they are young, and they will not be the same people in their 40s.

4. ESSAYS SHOULD FOCUS ON WHO THEY ARE OUTSIDE OF WORK.

Thankfully, more schools now are doing this, but they could go further by getting rid of essays that deal with work entirely.

Why?

As an admissions consultant, I can predict reasonably accurately where people tend to get into based on a raw profile alone. And frankly, so can most adcoms. A resume, GMAT, GPA can pretty much tell you whether the applicant is even in range. I'm sure there are "diamonds in the rough" but even then you can probably spot that in their resume (i.e. they have something that makes them unique or intriguing).

You don't need to hear about yet another work project about how they worked in cross-functional teams and went above and beyond, led a group of people towards a common goal, blah blah blah. Again, you can pretty much get a gut feel for their career progress and overall caliber as a professional based on their resume (and a quick read through of their reference letters).

The essays should ideally focus on finding out who they are outside of work. It's not just about "extracurriculars", but about their personal backgrounds, what they love doing (even if it's a hobby), some important or formative moments in their lives.

By asking these questions, you will get the opportunity to really see the person behind the resume/profile -- and likewise, the applicant can write from a place of expertise - THEMSELVES. They are writing about their own personal history and what makes them tick, what their priorities are. You are then giving the applicants the opportunity to truly reveal more about who they are.

For example:

What are the three most joyous moments in your life thus far and why?

What have been the two lowest moments or biggest setbacks personally - how did you deal with it and what did you learn about yourself?

Aside from family, who or what is most important to you and why? (a version of "what matters most and why").

What personal experience in the last five years has changed you, and in what way?

What have you done or experienced in your personal life that you're most proud of?

If there was one moment that you could take back, what would it be and why?

What has been the biggest surprise (good or bad) in your life, and how has that surprise shaped who you are or your values?

And so forth. If schools want to build a class full of mature, thoughtful people with integrity and a sense of values, ask them to talk about who they are outside of work. The level of depth (or lack thereof) shown in these essays can be revealing. Adcoms can gain insight into who the applicant in ways that no resume can (but is a good complement to the resume, or "professional profile"). Also, asking them about their non-work self allows each applicant to reveal more of their personality, which gives the adcom a better sense of whether they are a fit for the school or not, because the applicant is *revealing* who they are (through the tone of their writing and what they are writing about), and not *telling* the adcom or parroting what they think the school's culture should be. It's about the applicant, and not about the school. A lot of the kinds of things adcoms are looking for (personality, team/people orientation, curiosity, exposure to different kinds of people, etc.) can be inferred or revealed in these kinds of essays in a more meaningful way.

Finally, adcoms hate jargon. Asking about non-work stories has a way of cutting out jargon entirely (because jargon is often used in work contexts).

5. CUT DOWN ON THE REC LETTER QUESTIONS

Some schools (Haas and Columbia in particular) ask way too many questions which often seem to be repetitive.

HBS, Stanford and Wharton are a good model to follow. 4-5 short questions is all you need. Maybe even 2-3: in what capacity do they know the applicant; what is their greatest strength or talent, and what is their weakness.

If you want rec letters written by the recommenders that are substantive, make it easy for them to do so. Cutting down on the question and/or even better - standardizing them so they are similar across all schools will ensure that recommenders can spend the quality time to be thoughtful, rather than rushing to submit 6-7 different rec letters for the 6-7 schools the applicant is applying to.

The written application and the essays in particular can still be useful -- so long as they are asking the kinds of essay questions that minimize BS in the first place.
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Profile Evaluation Request [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2010, 01:06
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Chinese American, Age 22
GPA: 3.07, BS. Chem. Engr., Top 10 University (US News), Graduated in 3 years
GMAT: 740
Work Experience: 2 years at matriculation as a chemical engineer involved in commissioning/startups and process design. Worked for 6 months in Shanghai starting up a chemical plant with 3 different processes where I was given management roles and spoke Mandarin on a day to day basis.

I attended an advanced high school program which involved living on a college dorm and taking college courses full time during junior and senior years of high school. I have 66 hours of credits that do not have GPA due to being taken at another college. Accounting for those I have ~3.5 GPA. Not sure if business schools will look into this or if it's worth mentioning in an essay somewhere.

I would describe my undergraduate time as very unfocused. During the high school program, I found the classwork easy and rarely attended class. I was placed into chemical engineering by my school when I applied, and stuck with it. While classes were more difficult, I still had little to no direction in my studies. I tried a semester of research and played poker part-time to support myself. Not sure if I should mention poker as one of my work experiences as this was the first subject I was ever interested in and it involves some skills that translate to the business world. I didn't find out until my 3rd year how important work experience was in the engineering field and basically landed my job solely on my interviews.

My time in Shanghai drastically changed my career goals. I decided I did not want to be a career engineer, and I wanted to be involved in business development, specifically for emerging technologies and industries such as green technology or new platforms like cloud computing. This is probably the first time in my life that I've had any real goals, and I feel like I've just been going with the flow until now. I've taken a number of initiatives since then as a result of my newfound goals, including being a founding member of a green technology initiative within my company analyzing processes with green metrics. Additionally, I've spent a number of hours outside of work reading papers, books, reports, or anything I can about the fields I'm interested in.

I really want to get into H/S/W as I feel these schools will help develop the skill sets I lack. I am especially interested in the Wharton Lauder Institute program. How viable is my application for these programs? How should I structure my background? I feel like how I frame my past will vastly change schools' impression of who I am and what I am capable of.

Thanks so much for your help!
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Re: Profile Evaluation Request [#permalink] New post 22 Jul 2010, 13:36
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To be blunt, I don't see you having a shot at H/S/W.

It sounds like you were in a rush (to nowhere) -- my hunch is that either your family, culture, or you yourself got it into your head that it's really cool to rush through high school and college (hence getting a head start in high school on college, and graduating in 3 years). That you can impress yourself and others on how FAST you can get through things, rather than how WELL you can do it (hence your crappy GPA - let's not BS here).

And this rush or hurry to grow up disoriented you, which is why you had a change of heart through school, and why it feels like you're only starting to get your grounding now (but then again, you're just 22).

In short, my guess is an adcom will see through your narrative (no matter what it is because the facts collectively speaking infer this story I've mentioned above - you're not the first Asian to have believed in the "fastest is best" theory only to fall off the train even temporarily) -- and they will feel that you won't be as mature as the other young folks that are applying.

In other words, you're competing against other kids 22-25 who have had their sh*t together for a while. And you've only started to get your sh*t together recently.

If I were you, I'd stay in the working world for a while. It still seems that you're in a rush -- just as you've gotten some grounding (as you seem to have inferred), you're ready to pick up and move again. Don't buy into the "race" that you need to have so-and-so by a certain age you're f*cked. At this point, you need that time and opportunity to accumulate experience and real world achievements (even if you think you have a lot now - you don't) before deciding what you want to do next with your life and career.
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New Web Series: INTERVIEW DON'Ts [#permalink] New post 25 Jul 2010, 10:46
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All of us have had bad interviews in the past. We've stumbled, said stuff we shouldn't have said, behaved in ways we shouldn't have done -- most of the time, it's inadvertent (I've certainly been guilty of some of these no-no's in the past!). However, by being more aware of some of these inadvertent behaviors, hopefully some of you (and me!) can prevent these "character types" from rearing its ugly head - whether in an admissions interview, job interview, or business meeting.

Rather than describe these behaviors, I felt it's easier (and more fun) to just show you some of these character types or behaviors (while hopefully amusing and entertaining you along the way). So I've recently produced a web series INTERVIEW DON'Ts, loosely based on actual interviewees I have coached in the past. This is the first of 17 installments that I will release each week.

In this week's inaugural episode, we feature the Corporate Socrates - that person who no longer has the ability to speak English.

http://www.mbaapply.com/interviewdonts.htm

Enjoy!! And stay tuned for a new episode to be released on Monday of each week!


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Re: New Web Series: INTERVIEW DON'Ts [#permalink] New post 28 Jul 2010, 09:52
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that was a hilarious -- a good break from my gmat grind
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Re: Profile Evaluation? - F/32/8yrs we in finance/700/3.60 [#permalink] New post 22 Oct 2011, 12:19
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Here's the thing.

You graduated from one of the best if not the best undergrad business program in the world.

You've had a pretty damn impressive finance career already - the kind of career that many finance wannabes currently in b-school and the Gordon Gekko wannabes would salivate over.

Money is unlikely an issue. In fact, you probably have substantively more (maybe multiples more) than even most MBA alums at this point who didn't do finance.

All in all, with this profile alone, just about any business professional (headhunter, recruiter, investor, executive, etc) will assume that you're as smart and capable as it gets. You don't do 8 years of finance without a combination of raw talent, hard work and toughness (being able to handle an incredible amount of crap from others).

Not sure what happened, but whether you got let go or you left on your own, in any case I'm guessing you went traveling to just decompress, figure out what you want to do next with your life. As you should. Change can be a great thing, and propel you into an entirely new direction that you never would have expected.

Here's my unsolicited advice.

I get a sense that working in corp dev/strategy in Europe is an option, but not exactly something that comes from the gut. It's most likely something that comes from the head (you intellectually brainstormed something that makes *rational* sense). And then the MBA as well is something that also comes from the head. You know you need to do *something* to make this life/career transition, and the MBA seems to make the most rational sense.

Which is precisely why the MBA makes the least sense. Because I don't think it's really what you want in your heart, but it's something that you've defaulted to on an intellectual level because you either don't know what it is you really want, or you are less willing to do something completely different for fear that it makes no sense to someone else (i.e. recruiter).

I really encourage you to take a bit more risk here. Most MBA types will disagree because they become a slave to linear thinking about everything (that careers, life, any choice, etc has to have some linear rational progression of A+B=C in order for it to be valid - nothing wrong with this thinking, but it's limiting).

Put it this way. If you decided to go back and do an MFA in Writing, or went back to do a social work degree, or took some extra courses so that you can qualify to enroll in an MA program in Anthropology -- with your background that would make you infinitely more interesting than someone who was "all business, all the time".

A gal with an Ivy/IB/PE/HF background who did an MS in Environmental Science vs. the same person with an MBA: which one do you think is more dynamic? Which one is more likely to take a more dynamic path going forward? Which one will have a broader perspective about people, the world, etc.? Suppose this person isn't you - but a future boss. Who would you rather work for? Who would you rather work with?

Sure, some folks may go WTF? but do you really want to be associated or work with people who are so narrow minded?

But most importantly, do it for yourself. To be honest, you have more than enough "business" in your background. What you need and probably what you may even want is something more than that.

I don't want to over-quote Steve Jobs as he's been quoted to death (no pun intended) in the past week, but what he mentioned in his Stanford commencement speech about taking calligraphy is something that a lot of people (maybe even yourself) can relate to, and something that we all should do more of: which is to follow your instinct and let your raw curiosity guide your choices regardless of whether you feel it's practical or not -- because whether it is or not you will never know until in hindsight. And those who look at only whether it's practical or not end up limiting their world, limiting what is "new" and simply put -- limiting their learning and sense of discovery.

And that drive to learn, that sense of discovery, and making full use of your imagination -- these are the biggest assets you or anyone else can bring to any group situation - in business or anything else. It's not about bean counting and doing SWOT analysis and coming with silly charts that are repeated ad infinitum from some hazy memory of what you learned in business school.

Traveling the world certainly can help distance yourself from your past, but going to do an MBA isn't really the other half of the answer either in your case.

I highly encourage you to step outside the lines, take a bit more risk, because it's worth it for you. It doesn't necessarily mean the only choice is going back to school either (even if it's not an MBA). It could be spending time doing something completely different (working at a non-profit). Living in a monastery. Producing a documentary. Forming a band. Establishing an art gallery. Do something that gets you into another world other than business - you'll meet people you never would have met, and even if you do go back to the business world eventually, you will do so with that much more wisdom and perspective that can only help you when dealing and managing people, and will also give you greater potential to be creative and imaginative - as opposed to just administrative and rational.

Don't be a slave to the treadmill.
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Re: Ask Alex @ MBA Apply [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2013, 09:34
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AN MBA FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP? AN ALTERNATE PATH

One of the most common aspirations of many MBA applicants and students is wanting to start a business of their own one day. In prior posts, I have cast doubts on whether an MBA is even worth it for aspiring entrepreneurs (at least those who are looking to start a business in the short-term), but I also recognize that it's just my opinion that others may disagree with. So what I write below assumes that if an MBA was worthwhile for an aspiring entrepreneur, what is one way to navigate the transition from MBA student to entrepreneur?

There are many hurdles in making this a reality. The economic cycle certainly matters, since in good times one is more likely to be optimistic and risk taking compared to bad times when it may be wiser to hunker down. Financial circumstances also matter: with many MBAs taking on significant debt to pay for school, it may be too much to take on that much risk in the shorter-term. Another blindingly obvious hurdle is simply not having a compelling enough idea - that one is in love with the idea of entrepreneurship, without a specific enough business concept in which to channel all that love.

Oftentimes though, as great as all these hurdles may be, the biggest one is simply fear of the unknown. Even those who have started their own side businesses before, there can still be this fear of taking that big leap into becoming a full-time entrepreneur - because the stakes are much bigger if one is looking to make a full-time living from the business.

And in many ways, the psychological shift from working for someone else to being one's own boss is a big leap not unlike any major life transition (becoming a spouse, to becoming a parent, and so forth). It not only changes the way you work, but changes the way you see your work. And that can be a scary thing because it plants a series of self-sabotaging questions in the back of your head that you may be afraid to answer:

If it fails, will I be tough enough to cope with the aftermath? If it's successful, what if I don't like being an entrepreneur?

We are as scared of failure as we are of success, especially when we anticipate that it involves upending our status quo (making a big shift in what we do and who we are in the workplace) to even make that leap. For many aspiring entrepreneurs coming out of business school, it will mark the first time they would be working for themselves on a full-time basis.

Being one's own boss has been romanticized in our culture, and so much emotional energy can be invested in the fantasy of being the next great pioneer, the next self-made billionaire. And I think most people with notions of starting a business recognize on an instinctive level that it's not all roses, because if it were that romantic and glamorous, there would be a lot more entrepreneurs out there.

Regardless of which hurdles are the key drivers in preventing you from making that leap, one alternative is this:

Work for a startup.

You don't have to start your own business right away. While work cultures can vary from one startup to the next, at many startups the chaotic and fluid nature of your workweek and responsibilities requires a different mentality than working for an established company.

Working at a startup (or a more established VC-backed company) can give you a taste for what's to come. Not only will you get broader responsibilities that have a more direct impact on the company, you will also have more leeway to define what your responsibilities are, as well as initiate and execute ideas without running into a clusterf*ck of committee meetings and approvals. Even if you officially have a "boss" (usually the founders), it can feel more like you're working WITH them and not FOR them.

While it's not the same as actually running your own company as a founder/CEO, working at a startup can give you experience in the trenches - allowing you to experience what it truly feels like, while giving you a bird's eye view of what the founders are going through. And experiencing that startup environment will either scare you away from it, or embolden you in the future to start your own. Or you can walk away from it still unsure, but with that experience, there's less "fear of the unknown" should an opportunity to start your own business comes up years (if not decades) down the road.

Again, if you have a business idea and you're ready to go full steam ahead, go for it! But if you don't have one, you're unsure, or there's hurdles you can't overcome at this point in your life, don't fret -- you can always work for a startup for now, make the most of that experience and take it from there.
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Re: New Web Series: INTERVIEW DON'Ts [#permalink] New post 28 Jul 2010, 10:25
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funny :)
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Re: New Web Series: INTERVIEW DON'Ts [#permalink] New post 01 Aug 2010, 09:26
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In this week's episode of "Interview Don'ts", we feature THE STALKER. Most of us google one another, but letting someone know you've googled them is just creepy. I've actually had people let me know they did this to me, and asked whether they should let their interviewers know that they googled them.

http://www.mbaapply.com/interviewdonts.htm

Enjoy! And stay tuned for another episode in another week!
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Re: New Web Series: INTERVIEW DON'Ts [#permalink] New post 08 Aug 2010, 08:54
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In this week's episode of "Interview Don'ts", we feature RODNEY DANGERFIELD - the guy with the chip on his shoulder who feels he gets no respect. Guys who are always on the verge of frothing at the mouth, taking everything as a potential affront or attack (Hm... if you remember a thread on here some time back where some guy went a little tirade because I told him that his chances at HBS were slim... you know that these people certainly exist, especially on the Internet! And no, this episode was certainly shot way before that even happened as I've encountered these folks each and every year).

http://www.mbaapply.com/interviewdonts.htm

Enjoy! And stay tuned for another episode in another week!
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What Can I Do To Improve My Chances? [#permalink] New post 03 Feb 2011, 11:50
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One of the most common questions I get from readers is "What can I do to improve my chances in the next few months?"

In short, there are really four things:

(1) Get a "good enough" GMAT score. Your GMAT needs to be within range: for top 16 schools plus INSEAD and LBS, you realistically need at least a 700 or greater for it not to be a significant handicap. If it is below 680, your chances at a top 16 are going to be slim. However, trying to eke out 10-20 more points when you already have a competitive score (700+) is a waste of time. For top schools, a below average score is a liability, but a high GMAT is not an asset. Or to put it another way - the GMAT can only hurt your chances if it's way below the school's averages, and can never help you if it's way above average. Focus on "good enough" and move on. However, if your score is below average, do whatever it takes to improve it, even if it means taking it multiple times (although after 3 attempts, chances are your score probably isn't going to get better).

Again, the magic number for the top 16 + INSEAD/LBS these days is 700 or greater. Move down a tier to the top 30, and the magic number is around 670-680 (in other words, there isn't much of a difference in GMAT scores amongst applicants to any decent schools these days).

I think the GMAT is a silly way to evaluate career professionals, but it's a necessary evil. If you can't get a competitive score for your target schools, then you will either have to reassess your list by including lower ranked schools, or go into it rolling the dice knowing that your GMAT score will be a handicap.

(2) Visit 2 or 3 schools. You don't have to visit every single school you're applying to. However, visiting a few of them can give you a real feel for what business school is all about in a way that no website, blog, magazine or second-hand information can do. There really is no substitute for sitting in on a class and seeing how b-school works with your own eyes and ears, talking to current students "off-the-record" about their experiences, and just spending a few hours to a full day just soaking in what it means to be a student at that particular school. This will not only help you with your essays and interviews, but will also give you a stronger reality check for where you feel you stand compared to asking strangers on the Internet for validation on "my chances". It's worth the time and money.

In a subtle but important way, when you've visited some schools, there's a tone of authority and confidence when talking about what you want and why you want it in a specific way that just naturally comes through in your writing which others without that experience can fake.

And this is ESPECIALLY important for those applicants who aren't surrounded by post-MBA colleagues in their workplace.

(3) If your undergrad GPA sucked, take a few extension classes.
This is more important for those who went to US colleges. Those who studied outside the US are given way more leeway, and practically a free pass on their GPA, since it's harder to benchmark and assess -- so for those who studied abroad, it really comes down to your GMAT and to some extent the prestige of your undergrad institution in your country. Anyhow, if your GPA sucked and you went to a US college, take 1-2 extension classes, either locally at an accredited college/university or online from an accredited institution (doesn't matter which one). If your GPA was below 3.1, definitely consider taking 1-2 classes. If it was below 3.3, only do it if you have time. As for what classes to take, so long as it's a freshman level or 100-level quantitative course (calculus, stats, accounting, algebra, etc.), you're fine. You won't get extra brownie points for taking advanced classes.

One last thing. If you studied engineering, adcoms will be more forgiving because they know that engineering programs tend to grade on a much harsher curve. So long as your GPA is above 3.1, you probably don't need to take extension classes so long as your GMAT is competitive.

(4) Do the best you can on your written application. In short, aside from getting a "good enough" GMAT and visiting a few schools (and taking extension classes if your GPA sucked), all you can do beyond that is wait for the applications to come out in June, and do your best on the essays and coaching your recommenders.

If you're only a few months to a year away from applying, all you can do is to tell your story about what you've done to date. You don't really have time to create "new" stories that are substantive enough. Avoid window dressing because you're not fooling anyone. The reason why is that you can't fundamentally change who you are in just a few months. Real change takes years, not months. If you "start" something, you will have nothing to say about it other than you "started" something, because any significant achievement usually takes time, and doesn't happen overnight.

If you've known anyone who has achieved extraordinary things or are "outliers" - it was often years if not decades in the making. Becoming a nationally ranked athlete is a culmination of years or a full decade of work. Getting admitted to an Ivy League undergrad isn't some casual thing, but a culmination of healthy school habits and focus since elementary school. No matter what it is (athletic, artistic, academic, career, political, etc), doing something you're truly proud of usually is a culmination of a LOT of blood, sweat and tears (literally and figuratively), which isn't something that you casually pick up on the fly. Don't be arrogant to think you can just turn on "exceptional" when you want it, on demand.

A lot of business school websites now emphasize that they want to know who you really are, they want you to be authentic, sincere, and genuine. Its basically code word for "we have seen so much bullsh*t over the years from applicants. We are not easily fooled - we can detect bullsh*t faster than you can write it." Keep in mind the fact that while the adcoms are typically not that much older than you (mostly in their late 20s to late 30s), they are still older than you and likely have more life experience than you - they aren't absent-minded seniors who will believe everything you say. Don't bullsh*t them.
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Re: If business schools were car brands (updated) [#permalink] New post 17 Mar 2011, 20:34
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No one is immune from douchebag behavior behind the wheel, myself included (although being an Asian driver... never mind). And you don't need to drive a BMW to do that. :)
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Re: If business schools were car brands (updated) [#permalink] New post 24 Mar 2011, 20:35
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samwzhang wrote:
Hey man awesome post! I'd say the analogy is a spot-on.

I used to own a brand new Mercedes, and although it was a beauty to look at, it had a number of electrical issues that made me wary of German quality. I subsequantly purchased a Toyota and since have had no electrical faults and ZERO passion. The car does not seem to have a soul like German cars do. Definitly not as enjoyable to drive as the German cars. I'm now comtemplating a BMW... (Literally and metaphorically)


I know what you mean. I tried to pinpoint exactly why that is, because when you look at it objectively, they're just machines. So why do some "feel" like they have soul or passion while others don't. For example, objectively speaking, one could say that the old VW Beetle is a piece of sh*t, but for some irrational reason I still like it a lot, even if it's far less reliable than an 80s Honda Civic.

And then I realized it's because you can't look at cars objectively - while technical specs are objective, the *experience* one has when driving is totally subjective.

My take on it is that the key thing is *how* a car is put together - in other words, the whole (i.e. driving experience) is subjective, while the sum of parts (i.e. tech specs) is objective. And as human beings, we look at the whole.

To use a completely gross generalization, a perfect car would have:

German engine
Japanese electronics
Italian exterior
British interior

I know what you mean about electronics -- for some reason it's the achilles' heel for a lot of German cars (BMW, Benz, Audi, etc.). I don't think it's that the Germans suck at electronics, but that the Japanese have mastered electronics design and manufacturing (not just for cars, but consumer electronics).

I think historically where the Germans and Japanese differed in cars is their sensibility. The Germans tended to focus on a combination of masterful craftsmanship using high quality components (much like Swiss watchmaking). It's engineering as an art. The Japanese on the other hand focused maximizing practicality and consistency - engineering for the everyday. Of course there's overlap between these attributes, but there's enough of a difference in priorities. As a result, I think the Germans tended to be better with design and craftsmanship, whereas the Japanese tended to be better with manufacturing consistency. The difference between building for quality and performance (German) versus building for reliability and consistency (Japanese).

But again these are subtle differences that may make a big enough difference in the driving experience. If you're reasonably lucky, those old diesel Benzes can last 200K+ miles; likewise I doubt anyone will say an Acura NSX is sterile.

Of course, the differences were even greater with older models. Now, so many of the auto manufacturers have learned so much from each other that they are starting to be the same. American cars are becoming much more reliable (and stylish). The Germans have brought in Japanese consultants to improve their manufacturing processes. And the Brits and even Italians are building more reliable cars - learning a thing or two from the Japanese and Germans.

(And yes, in b-school, depending on your prof, you may do a bunch of case studies on auto and motorcycle manufacturers in your operations or supply chain classes)

As such, it seems like a lot of car guys feel the newer models (of any company) tend to be less exciting to drive even if the performance and reliability is better. For me personally, I'm not a fan of all the electronic gadgetry that they continually load into the new models. For so many cars now, there's this huge center console (BMW's iDrive amongst others) that it starts to look like a friggin space shuttle, which takes away from the raw experience. I guess that's what "soul" is in a car - less electronic aids, giving you a closer connection to the actual engine, high quality materials (rather than breakable plastic bits) and road.

And if you're getting a BMW, get an M3 :)
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Re: If business schools were car brands (updated) [#permalink] New post 25 Mar 2011, 07:38
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AlexMBAApply wrote:
And then I realized it's because you can't look at cars objectively - while technical specs are objective, the *experience* one has when driving is totally subjective.

...

As such, it seems like a lot of car guys feel the newer models (of any company) tend to be less exciting to drive even if the performance and reliability is better. For me personally, I'm not a fan of all the electronic gadgetry that they continually load into the new models. For so many cars now, there's this huge center console (BMW's iDrive amongst others) that it starts to look like a friggin space shuttle, which takes away from the raw experience. I guess that's what "soul" is in a car - less electronic aids, giving you a closer connection to the actual engine, high quality materials (rather than breakable plastic bits) and road.

And if you're getting a BMW, get an M3 :)


I think your description of the "experience" is dead on. My wife had always owned beat-up Toyotas that lasted for 200,000 miles, and she saw cars in a totally utilitarian way. She wouldn't even consider a BMW when it came time for a new vehicle. I finally convinced her to come for a test drive, and I encouraged her to push the car in the corners (explaining the benefits of DSC). By the time we got back to the dealership she was wearing a big wide grin that she couldn't wipe off. I picked up our BMW a week later. Of course when the sunroof malfunctioned outside of the warranty and cost $2000 to fix, she let me hear about it.

With respect to all the technology in cars these days, I agree that some of the connection with the car and the road is lost (not to mention it takes little driving skill to go fast without killing yourself now). On the other hand, having 2 kids now I appreciate things like 4-wheel drive, ESC, traction control, DVD player, etc. My ideal setup in the future would be 2 cars - one for driving the kids to hockey and getting groceries, and one to drive on weekends and track days for fun. Right now, this is my goal:

Family vehicle:

2010 RS4 Avant
Image

Fun vehicle:

993 Turbo S
Image

or

964 Turbo 3.6
Image
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Re: Profile Evaluation? - F/32/8yrs we in finance/700/3.60 [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2011, 08:14
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jrrtw wrote:
Alex - I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on my chances.

1) 8 years - 4yrs investment banking at bulge bracket (promoted to Assoc.), 2 years PE, 2 years HF - all on the investment side
2) 700 97% verbal 67% quant (taken once, 4 years ago, my quant score is low but i had As in finance and accounting classes during school, plus I've passed all 3 levels of CFA - hopefully it's really not worth retaking?)
3) Ivy league undergraduate business school. GPA 3.60 Grad. 2001.
4) Local leadership positions with environmental non-profit post college, lots during college
5) focus is really on INSEAD, LSB but welcome any other suggestions
6) post-mba goal is corporate development/strategy at multinational company in western Europe.

My concerns are that I don't have international work exposure, only extensive int'l travel (just got back from 15 months of traveling aboard, which also means that I'm not currently working). And my age, I am currently 32. Also female, asian-american.

Worth applying for September 2012?


Are you sure you need an MBA at this point? That's going to be a tough sell. It's like a college grad trying to apply to high school.

To be honest, INSEAD and LBS care much more than the US schools about international experience, and as such that will also be a handicap for you as well.

I hate to say this, but at this point I don't think an MBA is worth it for you, or you are overestimating its value for you at this point in your career. Given what your career goals are, you will have to find a way to do so without it -- i.e. networking your way to those jobs.
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Re: If business schools were car brands (updated) [#permalink] New post 02 Dec 2011, 07:20
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Have you heard this one Alex?

B-schools as characters from the move Office Space.
*I did not write this, nor do i claim ownership. It was sent to me via email by a family member.

originally posted at http://www.bschoolers.com.

1.) Harvard - Pros: The best academic brand in the world, people from East Timor will know where you went to school. Graduates are extremely polished and dynamic leaders. its no coincidence that so many politicians these days are HBS grads.

Cons: Students are about as pompous and pretentious as possible. Polish is a fancy way of saying full of s**t. its no coincidence that so many politicians these days are HBS grads.

Office Space Character: Lumbergh (Peter’s hated boss). He’s a quintessential Harvard grad; in charge and full of platitudes that sound great but on further inspection don’t make any sense. He also drives a nice car and makes a lot of money while being universally loathed. Kind of sums up every HBS grad you’ve ever met, right?

2.) Stanford - Pros: Small class size and focus on do-gooders leads to an incredible array of backgrounds and accomplishments of students, who thrive in tight knit community. Haven for the really interesting superstars out there. Tremendous brand. Beautiful weather.

Cons: It may be interesting to be classmates with a Buddhist monk-fighter pilot, but its also hard to relate to anyone (”So, did that vow of peace make it hard to take out bogeys?”). For super accomplished business students with the world at their fingertips, it sure doesn’t seem like any of them actually like business.

Office Space Character: Peter (main character). He seems like the most level headed, likable and down to earth of any of the characters, but for all his talents, he ends up as a damn construction worker. He’s also a major league flake, showing up to work only when he feels like it. Can you say entitled?

3.) Wharton - Pros: Arguably the best technical business education in the world. Great brand name, and the job placements are second only to H/S.

Cons: Not sure if it’s the ultra rigorous curriculum, the competitive culture, or the fact that they have to live in Philly for two years, but Whartonites are paranoid bordering on psychotic. The odds of having a nervous breakdown in your life triple after going here. Double that if you actually ask anyone at Wharton to calculate those odds.

Office Space Character: Tom Smykowski (Co-worker that invents “jumping to conclusions mat”). I’m assuming that Tom was actually an excellent technical employee, but that his constant fear of losing his job made him batsh*t crazy. Most fitting quote “I’m a People Person!!!!!!” when yelling at the consultants.

4.) Northwestern - Pros: Strong team culture and arguably the best marketing program in the country. Incredibly collaborative for such a large school. Great location next to major financial center (Chicago).

Cons: Very soft curriculum, these guys are poets. I’m pretty sure that Kellogg finance classes are prerecorded cartoons taught by Disney characters. Is it really worth it to pay $10000+ to drink every night? I mean, couldn’t you just do that without the degree?

Office Space Character: Joanna (Peter’s girlfriend). Like Peter, she’s very likable, level headed and likes to get around. Unfortunately she’s also vastly less skilled than many of her fellow characters. Thank God she’s hot.

5.) Chicago - Pros: Finance education is second only to Wharton globally (and even that’s debatable). Probably the best facilities of all the top business schools. Fantastic job placements and close proximity to Chicago. Academic horsepower of profs is untouchable.

Cons: Socially awkward is an understatement. Unlike Whartonites who are just high strung, Chicago GSBers either never learned or quickly forgot how to communicate with peers. Make sure to wear a face mask if they’re talking to you ’cause spits going to fly.

Office Space Character: Milton (Co-worker that loves red swingline stapler). Milton seems like a nice enough guy, and he might be the smartest guy in the office (he pulls off the grand caper in the end). It’s just that he’s about as charismatic as a toilet bowl. Hire ‘em, just make sure to get GSBers an office in the basement.

6.) Columbia - Pros: Great location in the middle of global financial center (New York). Most diverse student body in terms of minorities and women. Very strong finance program. New York allows great social and job placement opportunities, and draws worldly, cosmopolitan students.

Cons: Cliquish and commuterish. Columbia is like a high school with super rich kids. High ***hole factor. This isn’t the kind of school where you’ll be going to house parties, its more like the kind of school where you’re expected to order bottle service for twenty guys on a student budget or else be ostracized.

Office Space Character: Bobs (consultants that lay off workers). They seem smart, they have great jobs, but c’mon, these guys are douchebags.

7.) MIT - Pros: World class entrepreneurship program, and probably the best supply management program in America. Attached to world class research center, and location in Boston is strong. Great job placement, especially in consulting.

Cons: For all their unique academic offerings, the overall school is like 90/10 men/women including undergrads. Takes the term sausage fest to a whole new level. Nerdy culture.

Office Space Character: Michael Bolton (Peter’s co-worker and friend). Michael Bolton desperately wants to be cool, listening to rap music, talking in slang, but lets face it, he’s a dork. He’s also hampered by his dorky namesake, which seems to attract a lot of nerdy people (to his obvious dismay).

8.) Tuck -Pros: Small class size and tight culture leads to maybe the most enthusiastic students in any school. Great respect from recruiters. Alumni network is arguably the most responsive and helpful of any top school. Strong rigorous program.

Cons: Very conformist culture, and really limited social options. These guys seem so enthusiastic about their school that I’m almost certain that all students are given ecstasy at orientation. Listen, if two years in the middle of Nowhere, New Hampshire were to constitute the best two years of my life, I would kill myself.

Office Space Character: Brian (Works with Joannas at Chotchkies, wears 37 pieces of flair). Brian is well meaning and LOVES his job. Never mind that he’s a waiter at a glorified TGIF, he still loves it with all his heart. They say ignorance is bliss, in which case, maybe Tuckies have the secret after all. That or, like Brian, they’re borderline retarded.

9.) Michigan - Pros: Maybe the most hands-on practical curriculum of all the top schools. New facilities coming up in 2009. Largest alumni network of any business school. State school, so the 2nd year is cheaper.

Cons: Location proximity leaves something to be desired (Detroit? Why not put it next to Beirut). The overall atmosphere here is very fratty and college like. Every single UMich student and alumni I’ve spoken to say the highlight of their experience was tailgating and watching football. EVERYONE. Not that football isn’t awesome, but no one else had any other experience that was noteworthy? They probably forgot the rest after beerbonging Jagermeister.

Office Space Character: Lawrence (Peter’s next door neighbor and friend). Lawrence is a good guy. He’s loyal, and salt of the earth. He also has a few rough edges, and would use 1 million dollars to be intimate with two other women. Have a great time with old Lawrence. Just don’t be surprised if all you end up with is a job he hooked you up with at the local quarry.

10.) Haas - Pros: Great location in the bay, and strong ties to Silicon Valley. Great weather. Small class size and tight culture. Berkeley has very strong international brand name.

Cons: Weak ties to financial sector, and east coast in general. The culture here is definitely about as PC as it gets. This seems like the type of school where you’d need to get a permission slip before you held a woman’s hand on campus.

Office Space Character: Stan (Joanna’s manager at Chotchkies). Stan wants Joanna to do more than the bare minimum. After all, people can get an MBA anywhere, but they come to Chotckies/Haas for the atmosphere! Don’t you want to do more than the bare minimum? Then put on your flair, burn some bras and save a whale you selfish jerk.

11.) Duke - Pros: Maybe the best health care management program in the country. Great brand name, especially in the south. Strong team culture.

Cons: Relatively young MBA program, so alumni network is small. As such, the brand cache just isn’t there yet. People that come here seem very cookie cutter to me, not in a bad way, just very comfortable and relatively unambitious.

Office Space Character: Samir (Peter’s co-worker and friend). Samir is a nice guy, very practical and unassuming. You get the feeling that he’s happy as long as he has a job in hand. Won’t make waves, won’t screw up, and won’t take any risks. But he’s a happy guy, and will have a house with 2.2 kids and a dog in a suburb somewhere (probably Durham).

12.) Darden - Pros: Strong Case method program and rigorous curriculum is universally respected. Alumni network is very strong and active with current students.

Cons: Middle of nowhere. Intellectual horsepower not as strong at a lot of the other top schools.

Office Space Character: Anne (Peter’s ex-girlfriend who was cheating on him). Anne just seemed really high maintenance and uptight. You try doing twenty cases a week for a year and see what happens to you. Just don’t be surprised if it’s a bigger bi**h than you imagined.

13.) NYU - Pros: Great location within spitting distance of Wall Street. Strong finance curriculum, and media program.

Cons: Location in downtown Manhattan make this the ultimate commuter school. Weird inferiority complex with Columbia. If you don’t go into finance or media, good luck.

Office Space Character: Other Lumbergh (ex-co-worker of Peter, Joanna’s ex-boyfriend). From all accounts, the other Lumbergh was a likable guy who was good at his job and got a great job offer to move on somewhere else. We just never actually saw him. Kind of like your NYU classmates.

14.) UCLA - Pros: LA! Sun, beach, beautiful glamorous people everywhere! Strong ties to Southern California business and great real estate program.

Cons: LA. UV rays, crowded beaches and shallow, materialistic people everywhere. You get the feeling that UCLA students are there just to spend two years in SoCal rather than to get jobs. As such, this place draws vapid, materialistic people. But damn they’re hot!

Office Space Character: Drew (Peter’s co-worker, describes the famous “O-face”). Drew’s a fun-loving guy that people like. He’s also the kind of guy that would tell anyone who was willing to listen graphic descriptions of all his sexual exploits. I liked Drew when I was 19. When I’m 26..?

15.) Cornell - Pros: Maybe the best Hospitality management program in the country. Ivy league brand name, and strong ties to some top consumer management companies. Small tight knit culture.

Cons: In the middle of nowhere, and it’s definitely a cut below a lot of the top tier programs. I mean, hospitality management? Seriously?

Office Space Character: Peggy (Lumbergh’s secretary). She’s kind of in hospitality: “Initech, can I put you on hold? Thank you! Initech, can I put you on hold? Thank you! Initech, can I put you on hold? Thank you! .”

16.) Yale - Pros: World class brand name. Arguably the best social enterprise program in the country. Relatively strong job placement for the rank.

Cons: Newer program means little real rep with employers or alumni to lean on.

Office Space character: Dr. Swanson (Peter’s psychologist/hypnotist). The Dr. has a very strong reputation, and he makes Peter go from depressed to happy (what a do-gooder!). But when it comes to the rankings, he just falls over dead.

:lol:
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Re: If business schools were car brands (updated)   [#permalink] 02 Dec 2011, 07:20
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