Spending two weeks in States, travelling coast to coast, visiting all the exceptional B-Schools. It reinvigorated the desire to go all in this MBA process. Before visiting Haas (first school on schedule), I thought I’ll check out the campus, gather as much detail as possible and use that in my applications later. But I was so wrong, you don’t really get material for your essays. Yes you do attend classes and it gives you better context but you can find same information online if you dig deep enough. Visiting the schools is more of realizing who you are and where you fit, instead of what the school is about. Now I may be wrong but it depends on each individual. Some of the schools I visited were instant click while others were complete dud.
One thing that I can say with certainty is self reflection is so crucial to application process and it’s naive to delay it till last minute. I don’t have a stellar background, I am right up there in academics but financial and personal circumstances held me back and I was never really able to utilize my potential to its maximum. So I have to stand out and I have to let my guard down. I have to write down who am I , what I want to accomplish and why I feel I can accomplish it. Just the thought of opening up to my recommenders and sharing my life story with them scares the crap out of me. Everyone walks around with aura of invincibility and this could have potential negative impact on me. Worst case scenario is I don’t get admitted and end up staying at my current job, seeing my recommenders on daily basis. Best case scenario, they are genuinely nice and understanding people and I do get into B-school.
Either way, to get the most passionate and personal recommendation from them i have to share my story. So I have started opening up, writing on weekly basis – my background, my accomplishments, my interactions with my recommenders. I am talking to them more openly about career focus and future plans. So when the time comes, they are all ready and excited. Another benefit of doing this now is I can compile a package for them, stuff I might have done for them, things that have made huge impact but they might have forgotten about me. Also to show them why I am applying to a particular school, so they can communicate my ambitions and strengths through their writings as well.
Last one on this trip – Wharton.
I somehow booked the hotel with best view and most expensive internet ever. Wharton’s class visit was the most jam packed event out of all b-schools. From coffee with current students to class visit to lunch and campus tour to second class visit and then an information session.Getting to Wharton was fairly easy. I stayed in Centre city and Wharton’s surrounding area is called U-city (roughly 10 min drive & $10-15 taxi). Campus is a centre walk called locust walk where buildings on either side are different departments or schools. Admissions office is in a building called Vance Hall. I got there bit early and signed up for my first class – Business Analytics by Sergei Savin. Current students showed up and talked about their experience so far. Wharton has second biggest MBA class so it has lot of diversity in terms of demographics, industry, ethnicity of students. Students answered few questions and took us to our first class.
Sergei is a really funny professor, one you can easily get used to. He emphasized that Wharton does one thing better than anyone else is connecting data/numbers with people. Being a BI analyst i understand how important it is to have Technical skill set but also a business mindset to answer the questions more effectively and help make informed business decisions. Wharton is quant focused and it shows. For lunch and campus tour, current first year student was assigned to our group (myself and 4 other students). He had just gotten back from japan last night, but lack of sleep or jet lag didn’t affect his enthusiasm about the campus tour which is a positive sign. Keep in mind my sleep was all over the place and i only had 3 hour difference, he was coming from other side of the globe. So i had more appreciation for his effort. After the campus tour we were sent to our second class, this time i chose Venture capital and the finance of innovation. Boy o boy, my sleep deprived brain couldn’t handle all the numbers thrown at him. Valuation by DCF is an interesting topic and i learned a LOT. I think if i had read some introduction about it, or read the chapter assigned it would’ve been a different story but still i was able to hang in there and get most out of it.
Wharton class visit was exceptionally pleasant experience. I had strong affinity towards Wharton and i feel like its justified. I still have few more schools on my radar that i want to check out but this 2 week trip has come to an end.
I never really believed in love at first sight but HBS is a different case. I knew about its reputation and all but never felt like i would want to go there for my MBA. It was sunny for last couple days in Cambridge and when i woke up on friday, it was snowing outside. Not a good sign. So i quickly got ready and called/hailed/summoned uber (don’t know the right terminology – but you get the idea). Driver dropped me off right at HBS but outside wrong building. I decided to walk around n find my way as i still had 20 mins before the class visit. Enter the building and i felt like i was in the White house. I kid you not, like imagine Scarlett Johansson comes up to you and asks for your number. I was giggling, excited and was in awe of my surroundings. HBS Class visit pool is by far the biggest of all the schools i have visited. There were about 12 of us and another group of students was waiting for class right after us. Our class was BGIE and topic of Case study was India : Inclusive Growth taught by Alberto Cavallo. One of the students who escorted us from Dillon house to Class, introduced us to Alberto and to entire class. It was a great experience. Class was phenomenal. I wanted to participate so badly as i have been through secondary and primary schooling in India and felt like i was the best person in class to talk about it but i had to restrain myself. Class started at weird time like 9.10 – 9.15 and ended at 10.30. It was only hour n 20 mins long but amount of issues that prof touched was insane. It was like attending standup comedy but even the audience was participating and i ended up learning so much. Upon returning to hotel, i started watching webinars and contacted a fellow Canadian who’s in his first year at HBS. He responded right away but unluckily he was flying out to Toronto otherwise would’ve met him in person and asked more questions. There’s a reason HBS is a league apart and it shows. When the application season comes, i’ll surely be right swiping on HBS.
Cambridge is a different beast altogether. It has MIT and Harvard. The architecture around town is vintage and more welcoming than i felt at Chicago. I always had special place for MIT having aspired to become an astronaut growing up. Walking around the campus rekindled the fire once again but alas it’s bit late. If way to man’s heart is through his stomach, then MIT built express lane for me. I am a big fan of healthy nutritious food. Oatmeal and coffee are my go to meal anytime, anyplace (even if it’s not breakfast time).
MIT cafe serves gourmet oatmeal with variety of granola, cranberry, brown sugar etc. MIT and I totally hit it off. It started off with Coffee chat with current first year students and a class visit after. Jim Rohn says “You’re the Average of the five people you spend the most time with “. And pretty much everyone i met at MIT, i would love them to be my classmates. MIT is pretty quant focused and it shows the way students communicate. We were taken to Paul Osterman’s Managing and Leading People and Organizations’ class after coffee chat. Myself and other 4 students were asked to introduce ourselves, it wouldn’t have mattered if we weren’t. But these small things do add up, it’s the minimalist things that add up to become a major factor. I liked the vibe of class, it’s inter-activeness and right blend of case study with lecture style. Following the case, there was an information session and lunch with current students. Dynamics of American politics and its impact on International students applying was brought up and one of the students mentioned that Student body president wrote to Trump personally regarding the issue showing his displeasure on the topic. All in all, it was great experience. If there’s one thing i have learnt so far, is that rankings don’t matter or atleast not if it’s one of the top 5-7 school. The opportunities are pretty much the same, it all boils down to what your personal preference is. Next on the list is HBS. 🙂
Day 3 – Kellogg. I stayed at my cousins’ place about an hour drive from Evanston. Illinois itself is not the most happening place. My cousin ended up taking me to Chicago navy pier, Willis tower and Millennium park, which is nice but it’s hard to fall in love with Chicago. Its crazy windy and apparently it wasn’t the normal windy day by Chicago’s standards. Anyhow, took the train to Evanston and uber to Kellogg. Started off with Info-session and then campus tour with first years. Right away i felt a big disconnect. The students were nice and helpful but with snobby side to them. I interacted with 4 of them and they came across as super helpful kind but with big serving of sarcasm. If it wasn’t for volunteer opportunity or nothing to gain, i felt like they wouldn’t even stop to give somebody directions. I was really interested in attending Data analytics class but it wasn’t offered that day so i cut my class visit short and left early. Kellogg is relocating to new building called Global Hub. It is secluded from city and it’s hella windy. I am honestly debating because it was horrible experience when it comes to students but when it comes to Admissions advisor and other staff they were the friendliest bunch. I guess i’ll reconsider Kellogg later on and try to talk to alumni before deciding if i will be applying there or no.
Day 2 – Stanford. After visiting Haas, i was less nervous and more mentally prepared. Class visit was scheduled from 9.30-12 and i got there early around 9ish. There were five other MBA aspirants, we all introduced ourselves and chatted for a bit before Admissions personnel showed up and gave us name tags. Meanwhile i was observing the atmosphere and its true what everyone says about Stanford – it’s laid back. Students in their pj’s and flip flops. I even saw a guy walking and trimming his beard on the go.Oh ya, a lot of East Indian students as well. Our group was split into two and my group was taken to Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital by Peter C Wendell & Raymond Gabriel Nasr. I honestly know nothing about venture capital, coming from tech background i had no expectations of knowing or understanding anything. But i couldn’t be more wrong. The case study was about firing a founder CEO by Board of directors. Everything was free flowing discussion and it was all making sense. The guest speakers work for a big VC firm which has shares in Instagram. He talked about uber’s CEO, investing in conflicting or rival companies etc. All in all it was wonderful experience. I didn’t get a chance to talk to students in the class but they ranged everywhere from sleepyheads to Prom queens. Question – Do i see myself at Stanford ? Let’s just say i was more confident before visiting Stanford. I will surely survive n thrive there but i need to dig deeper and do more research.
Here’s the view from inside Bass Center at GSB. There’s no denying this place is piece of beauty.
First one on the list – Berkeley Haas. I was only able to attend a class and not sit in any information session due to time constraints. Flew in from Vancouver and made it to campus just in time. Campus is beautiful, lot of undergrads have classes in same building. I guess Haas doesn’t have its dedicated building for Full Time MBA. Head to the students office and signed up for Andrew Isaacs – Opportunity Recognition: Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. Its an elective so few of the students were from other schools as well. Having been up since 3 am with flight and long uber ride to campus and with lack of Caffeine had me crashing. But Andrew is a brilliant prof. It was a case study class about Hemoglobin replacement company that went public. Let’s just say in two hours everyone chipped in and cataloged crazy amounts of information and had come to conclusion on the case study. It was intense but yet fun. I actually wanted to participate quite a bit but was told beforehand not to. Students were actually really helpful and down to earth. One of the students offered to pay my transit fare when i asked for directions. Somebody else did for him day before so it was his pay it forward moment :). Its tricky now that i think about Haas. If Haas had one shot to impress me and i only asked for appetizer they delivered the best that they could have. Do i see myself at Haas ? – For sure, but i wish i had spent more time with students and at campus.
One thing’s for sure, all the marketing fluff that we see online about B-schools – It’s real. Here’s picture of Berkeley 🙂