Tuesday, July 23, 2013

School Research: Part 1

Since I have already been through the application process once, I have already done a lot of research on various programs.  Last year I was able to visit and interview at Tuck, which was a great experience.  I also interviewed with Kellogg, but was not able to visit the campus.  In the past year, I have also spoken to countless students, alumni, professors, and adcoms of several programs, many of which were on my list before, but aren't anymore because of my experience with those I spoke to.  There were also some schools, like Kellogg, that weren't on my shortlist before, but my experience talking with students and alumni made it one of my top choices.  My advice for all you that are out there still researching and deciding on which programs to apply to, talk to as many students and alumni as you can.  They will be able to give you a much clearer picture of the program than you can ever get from a program's website or any of their marketing material.  Also, if possible, visit the schools that you are interested.  There is no better way to tell if a b-school is a good fit for you and vice versa, than by sitting in on classes, talking with professors and current students, and getting a true feel for the culture and environment.

All that being said, there are still other good resources out there.  Lately I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos of professors at the schools I am interested in.  Call me a nerd for listening to lectures on consumer analytics or managerial economics, but it has given me a pretty good insight to some of the school's teaching styles, etc.

Some other good resources I have come across are the school guides from Clear Admit and mbaMission.  A couple weeks ago, mbaMission was giving a free guide away everyday.  I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands on all of them and they have been great!  I was also able to get a couple of the guides from Clear Admit, which have been a fantastic resource as well.

In this post I will be reviewing the Clear Admit School Guides.  Next time around I will do the mbaMission guides.

Clear Admit School Guides
Clear Admit offers quite a few different resources.  If you haven't already, check out their School Snapshots.  The Snapshots are an abbreviated version of the School Guides, but they are free, so hey, why not give them a read!

So, here are some of my impressions of the Clear Admit School Guides.  I reviewed the guide for the Tuck School of Business, because I have the most insight on this program.  Having visited the school, sat in on classes, talked to several students, alumni, and professors from the program, I feel like I am in a good position to comment on the depth of the guide.

The Tuck School Guide is 53 pages long, although 9 of those pages are either cover pages, ads, table of contents, or the "About the Guide" pages.

The guide begins with an overview of the school and pretty good history of the program.  It has a comparative timeline between Tuck Business School and the MBA degree in general.

Next the guide goes into the demographics of the student body.  It has some useful side-by-side charts comparing Tuck to other top b-schools.  It also gives a good background on some of the numbers, trends, etc.  Most of the info you can get from the school's website or resources like the US News or Businessweek, but the color the guide provides on the numbers is pretty unique.

The next section of the guide goes into the academic schedule and class offering.  Although much of this information can be found through the school's website, it is never in just one place.  A big plus to clear Admit for putting this info in one place, and also including important dates.  I was also impressed with the details on Tuck's Pre-Term.  The guides goes into some of the activities and classes can be expected during this time.

The school guide contained some details on the core curriculum and electives, but fails to go into detail about the classes.  I did find the chart comparing other b-school's curriculum to Tuck's interesting, but most of this information can be found on Businessweek or US News, just not all in one place.

A few unique things that the guide goes into, that I haven't really been able to find anywhere else are details on the grading system and the honor code.  The guide also gives a brief background on a few of the prominent professors.  Although I have heard about the "point system" for getting interviews with recruiters, I have never read about it in writing.  This guide is the first place I have seen it, so kudos to Clear Admit for providing some good insider info.

The guide also has employment information, but the Employment Report published by Tuck is far more detailed.  They also analyze the school's essay questions, but this is the same analysis that is provide on the Clear Admit blog.  I did like that they included recent interviews with Dawna Clarke, the Admissions Director, and Jonathan Masland, the Career Services Director.  I am not sure if these are on the Clear Admit blog or not, but they provide good insight.

The Verdict
My overall thoughts on the guide are that it is a good resource and provides a lot of information that you would otherwise have to dig for in one spot.  It is clean, concise, and provides a ton of info.  So, are the School Guides worth $25?  If you are pressed for time or your want a quick and easy way to become an expert on a school you are interested in, then I would definitely say YES.  That being said, there was very little, maybe aside from the professor profiles, that I didn't already know about Tuck before reading the guide, but I have put several hours and travel dollars into my own research.  So if you have the time and energy, you can get most the information this guide provides by doing your own research and talking with students and alumni.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Value of Introspection

Last year going into the applications, I was far too occupied with the GMAT and did not spend nearly enough time preparing for and writing my essays.  Granted there were other flaws to my candidacy, but I believe that this was a major one.  During the months of July, August, and part of September, I was solely focused on studying for the GMAT, I hadn't even started thinking about application essays until a few weeks before they were due... huge mistake.  My next big mistake was writing my essays with pretty much zero prep.  This was due to my lack of understanding of the amount of time needed to truly produce good essays, and because I had pushed off writing until after I finished the GMAT the second time.  The result: six dings and a huge shot to my ego.

Looking back, I am glad I didn't get in last year.  I wish I could have all the money I spent on applications back, but it was a good learning experience.  After recovering for the dings, I decided to wait another year to apply rather than applying to "safety schools."  I vowed to not make the same mistake and started my preparations for the 2013 Round 1 apps this past January.

So what was I going to do this time?  Read more program websites?  Talk to more admissions consultants about my chances of being accepted?  Spend more time on the boards of Beat the GMAT?  All good things in their own way, but I had done all those things before?  What was I missing?  INTROSPECTION!

Why do I need an MBA?  What do I really want to do in my career?  What is my passion?  What really matters to me?  How are all these things related?  These were all things I asked myself before, but only superficially.  When I applied last time around, I thought I wanted to go into consulting, but in reality, I didn't really know why.  I didn't think too much about it, just thought it would be an interesting career with a nice paycheck, but I never thought much deeper than that.  I have a son who just started asking questions about everything.  He has turned into the annoying little kid that is always asking "Why?  Why?  Why?"  But if you think about it, there is a very valuable lesson to be learned from that child-like frame of mind, both for discovering your reason for going back to school for an MBA and for life in general.

Why is introspection important?  Because it helps you uncover the core of your professional and personal motivations, which are very valuable to know when writing your application essays.  Knowing your core motivations will better help you understand what you want to do in life.  It will help you better articulate what you dream job is.  Once you know that, your long-term post-MBA goal becomes clearer.  Finally, when you know what your long-term goals are, you can map out why you need an MBA and what you will do within 5 to 10 years post-MBA to get to that long-term goal.  Before I was thinking small picture first.  However, in doing so, I never really had a clear understanding of what I really wanted to do in the long-term.  I wanted to be a management consultant at McKinsey.  If someone asked me why, I would have said, "because I like to solve problems."  If someone were to ask me why again, I probably couldn't answer them.

This approach may not be for everyone, but it was really helped me.  I started asking myself why about everything regarding why I wanted an MBA and about what I though my short and long term goals were.

"Why do I want to go into management consulting?"

"Why do I like to solve problems?"

"Would being a management consultant make me happy?"

The more questions I asked myself, the clearer my core motivations became.  The clearer my motivations became, the clearer my career goals became.  Once I understood what I really valued, and what I wanted out of a career, I was able to better see the big picture of my career.  What I really wanted.  What I would be happy and satisfied with when all is said and done.  Once I understood that, filling in the road that would get me there wasn't too hard.

"Ability is what you're capable of doing.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude determines how well you do it." - Raymond Chandler