Friday, May 25, 2012

The epic battle: Chicago vs. Columbia

I feel lucky, honored, somewhat overwhelmed by the chance to choose from two of the best business schools in the country (and dare I say, the world?).

I want to spend this post going over all of the musings I've had over where to go to business school.

Employer placement - 35%
People tell me not to pay too much attention to this, but we are all going to b-school to get a job, and everyone has told me that you should just go to the best business school you can. So with that, I would say that for most programs, Booth has slightly outshines Columbia on the margin. A few more Boothies get into the top consulting firms, and a few more Boothies end up in asset management and hedge funds. There are NYC-based companies that go to Booth to recruit not Columbia. The glaring exception is investment banking in New York City, where there probably is no better school than Columbia for sending kids to the bulge bracket banks. I'm not sure if I want to be an investment banker coming out of business school, but I can't discount it. Regardless, I'd give the advantage to Booth.

Columbia: 7/10; Booth: 8/10

"Prestige" - 5%
Now, some discussion on GMATClub has made mention of the prestige of the parent university. I think this is a pretty minor issue, but I will reluctantly discuss the prevailing opinion on this. The University of Chicago is great and is a powerhouse in economics and quantitative finance, but Columbia University's brand name is covered in centuries-old Ivy, even older than our country. Around the world, people know Columbia University, its single-digit undergraduate acceptance rate, President Obama, etc. Every year, people who don't get into Columbia call up the school and threaten to kill themselves (really). My parents have no idea what The University of Chicago is (not that this matters since I'm almost 26 and don't need to prove anything to them). Here, Columbia wins the battle.

Columbia: 9/10; Booth: 6/10

Academics - 20%
The two schools are actually quite different here. Booth has the flexible curriculum and Columbia has a very rigid Core. I would say that in both cases, the two reputation are blown out of proportion just a little. For example, at Booth although there is only one "required" class (LEAD), everyone still has to fulfill distribution requirements. And (as someone else put it on GMAT Club), I don't consider the option to take Accounting II vs. Accounting I to be all that "flexible". There are also a number of prerequisites that you need to fulfill at Booth or you can't bid for certain classes. You have to petition to waive those, and that doesn't happen too often.

At Columbia, you are able to test out of virtually every Core class if you have the background in it. That means you can skip Accounting, CorpFin, Stats, even things like Marketing and Strategic Management. So depending on your background, you can free up quite a bit of your first year. At both schools, your 2nd year is completely up to you, so that comparison is awash.

That being said, Booth (and the University of Chicago) are hell bent on maintaining this culture of an academic experience. You can take classes as hard or as easy as you want them to be. And especially in courses like finance (Booth's bread and butter), you won't get a better curriculum. Booth probably kicks Columbia's ass at analytical finance, despite Columbia's value investing program, which is exclusive and requires an application. For curricular and co-curricular academics, I really do have to give this to Booth.

Columbia: 7/10; Booth: 9/10

Location - 25%
New York vs. Chicago. This comparison is so lopsided it's almost senseless to write about. New York City is arguably the best city in the entire world. New York has it all - culture, food, public transportation, jobs, the list goes on. Sure, Chicago has all those things too, but just... a lot less of it (hey, someone had to say it). The only downside to NYC is cost, where NYC's cost of living is is probably something like 20-30% higher than Chicago's.

Columbia: 10/10; Booth: 7/10

Cost - 0%
Columbia gave me a scholarship. Not a huge scholarship, but enough for me to write about here. What this helps to do is cancel out any cost of living differences between the two schools, so this comparison is awash. No points to team Columbia or team Booth.

Columbia: 5/10; Booth: 5/10

Student body - 15%
I'm sure that between any two top programs, the students will be much more similar than they are different. That said, Booth does have a reputation for being more "nerdy" (probably stemming from its parent university's research focus), while CBS has the reputation for being cut-throat competitive: who can forget the mass e-mail from the Investment Banking Group after a recruiting event, asking 1st years to be more collaborative with each other and stop elbowing each other away from representatives and monopolizing their time? For anything anecdotal like this, I would say that the reputations are perpetuated by a loud minority, so I won't take it too much to heart.

However, I will say that Boothies have more fun and bond with each other more. This is probably due to almost all Boothies living in the same 1-km radius in the loop, at least in their first year, and most in one of 3-4 buildings. Sure, Columbia has the Sections breakdowns for Core classes, but I would say that Booth's flexible curriculum and residential proximity allows people to bond with each other more. I give the advantage to Booth.

Columbia: 7/10; Booth: 9/10

So what's the final tally?
The verdict:
Columbia: 7.85; Booth: 8.00

Well that doesn't help out much, does it?

A tough choice indeed. The R3 deposit for Chicago is due on May 30, and Columbia's second deposit is due June 1. So I have to make a choice fast. I'm leaning on one school, but I don't want to reveal that just yet.

Should I go with my gut? Should I go deeper in an analysis? Should I use the results poll that I put up on GMATClub (that has 36 votes for Columbia and 35 for Booth)? Stay tuned for my final decision.

More later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In at Chicago Booth!

I got the phone call today around 3pm EST - a nice woman welcoming me to the Booth Class of 2014. Holy fuck I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was a blubbering mess when I saw the 773 area code. The admissions officer laughed at my communication difficulties as I fumbled for words to say. My awkwardness was akin to a teenager asking a girl out for the first time, magnified by a factor of 10.

Guess all of the speculation about Booth being oversubscribed was wrong! Between 5-10 people from the GMAT Club Forum were accepted from the WL today, so I figure they are still trying to shape a substantial portion of their class.

I have no idea what got me in. My waitlist update included all the things I loved about Booth + a new recommendation letter. I might have been put on the WL because of a perceived lack of interest in Booth (false!), or because my application wasn't strong enough. I might have gotten in because of the "rah-rah Booth" attitude I espoused in my update materials, or because a ton of management consultants from R2 declined Booth's offer. Who knows?

Looks like have a big decision ahead of me. I'm so happy to have this chance. I think Columbia and Booth are both great schools and I'll have a great education either way. My next post will try to break down the decision of which school to go to.

More later.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Roar, Lion, Roar!

Apologies for being a bit MIA over the last little while. With the business school application process settling down and other errands ramping up (pre-MBA events/assignments, job, etc.), I've been pretty tied up. But I did want to give you a run down of my life since my last post. Over the last few weeks, I've:
  • Gotten dinged by Wharton. Honestly, I'm not bent out of shape about this.
  • Given notice at my company (leaving at the end of the month)
  • Planned some travel abroad for the summer (I'll tell you more about it when I'm done planning)
  • Made a video for my waitlist candidacy at Booth
Quite a bit! I'm getting really amped up about my next steps. I've submitted my deposit at Columbia and, if Booth doesn't work out, I'm going to be a Columbian for the class of 2014! They gave me a small scholarship too, so that sweetens the deal just a bit. If I do get Booth, I'm going to have to do some thinking since I feel so personally invested in starting at CBS this fall. And if, come May 16, I am still on the waiting list, I'll probably decline the offer and give my undivided attention to Columbia.

Reading the Booth waitlist thread on the GMATClub forum can be a bit discouraging. Apparently there's a database showing everyone who hasn't explictly declined Booth's offer, and currently there are more people in that database than there are in a typical Booth entering class. I'm avoiding the conversation though, keeping it low key, and just waiting patiently for a waitlist decision.

But for now, Roar Lion Roar!

More later.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ding at Stanford

Yesterday I got the most expected news imaginable - a Stanford rejection. Given that I never got an interview, it was the least disappointing rejection (of any kind) that I've ever gotten in my life.

Tomorrow is Wharton's d-day. I'm trying not to be nervous, but it's hard because I know that the school calls admits in the morning. So you know that a thousand or so people are going to be waiting by their phones starting at 8:00am EST.

I'll let you know how this goes. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

More later.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Waitlisted at Chicago

I found out yesterday that I was waitlisted at Chicago Booth. I guess I was already braced for it given that I didn't get an admit call the day before; a waitlist was the best result I could expect, so I'm at least happy about that. Overall though - feels bad, man. I really liked the school when I visited, and the students there seemed a lot more "down to earth" than most of the others I've met. I'm staying on the waitlist, but I know that this result doesn't bode well for my upcoming Wharton result. Earlier in this blog, I said that of all my applications, I felt most confident with my Wharton app. We'll find out a week from tomorrow whether that holds water.

I'm hearing that Booth tends to pull a lot of people from their waitlist over the summer, but honestly I'm not sure I can wait that long. I don't want to spend too much thinking about it or I know it'll consume my day-to-day life.

I know I should be happy/grateful that I was at least WL'd at Chicago, and more importantly, that I already have an admit at Columbia. But it's hard to get out of a funk when you know that a school didn't really want you.

More later.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quick interview recaps

So I had my interview with Chicago a couple of weeks ago and my interview with Wharton last week. I would say they both went okay, but not great. I don't think I left a lasting impression or anything, but I also don't think I screwed up in any fundamental way.

My Chicago interviewer was a nice guy, a second year planning to stay in Chicago to do finance. I think he literally said "wow" after every response I gave, so it was hard to get a read on him. He had a good bit of follow up and seemed to understand my line of work. My interview lasted about half an hour.

My Wharton interview seemed a little cold and overly "procedural". Essentially it was a walk-through of my resume, four behavioral questions, and a "why MBA and why now?". My interviewer was an admissions committee member, so it was difficult for me to talk about my experiences without getting into too much jargon. Also lasted half an hour.

I want to get into a more detailed debrief after my decisions to both of these two places come out later this month.

Also still holding my breath for a Stanford invite. According to the GMAT Club forums, only 2 people have gotten invites so far, but it seems like everyone seems to "know" 1-3 people who've received invitations. Waiting for my Stanford application decision is like watching a pot boil, so I don't want to speculate too much about it.

I also need to start filling out my CBS financial aid forms.

I'll be back later this month to go over my final decisions.

More later.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interview invite at Wharton

After a crappy V-day with my Harvard rejection, I just got an invitation to interview at Wharton!

Text from the invite is below:
Dear  Applicationist,

You have been invited to interview for the MBA program at The Wharton School. To schedule your interview, which must be confirmed by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 26, 2012, log into your Wharton account and select "Search" in the Events box to the right on the main page.
I guess they aren't nearly as excited as I am.

I'll let you know how my Booth interview goes this weekend.

More later.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rejected by HBS

Well, it looks like I'm one of the 8,000 disappointed applicants today, since I just got rejected by Harvard Business School. I definitely saw it coming when I didn't get into the first wave, but the feeling of rejection still sucks. I got into Harvard undergrad (and chose to go somewhere else), so maybe they remembered that when I applied to b-school and decided to reject me for a change (ha-ha). I'm just kidding, the reality is probably that my application wasn't put together very well and/or I'm not awesome enough.

I don't know if I could have written my essays better. I know that a couple of my "accomplishments" were sort of convoluted and unclear, but who knows? Maybe there were other, more fundamental causes that led to my rejection (low grades, unsubstantive work/leadership experience, etc.).

Oh well, gotta move on. Still crossing my fingers for Stanford and Wharton.

I'll let you know how my Booth interview goes this weekend. Oh, and Happy F*cking Valentine's Day.

More later.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Columbia interview recap

Earlier in this blog I promised to give a recap of the questions I was asked in my Columbia interview. Overall, I thought it was a very pleasant experience, though it was pretty quick (we scheduled 45 minutes but it only lasted about 25). I guess I must have still left a good impression and/or the interview didn't make a difference, because I got the acceptance call a couple weeks later.

Below are the questions I was asked, along with my own assessment of how I think I did:

  • Walk me through your resume, starting with when you graduated from college
    • My grade: B+
    • I think I did a good job smoothly transitioning from experience to experience, but I also added in some stuff that wasn't asked, like why I chose my college, and why I went into the industry instead of grad school.
  • Why do you want an MBA?
    • My grade: A
    • At the end of my answering this question, my interviewer said "wow, you have really clear goals"
  • What were you looking for when you were picking business schools to apply to?
    • My grade: A
    • I picked one really good aspect of business school (one that Columbia happens to really care about) and made the connection between my current career, post-MBA goals, and business school.
  • What about Columbia is different than the other schools you're considering?
    • My grade: C
    • I rambled pretty horribly here, basically restating the response from the previous question. I probably should be giving myself a C-.
  • What kind of research have you done on CBS since you decided to apply to business school?
    • My grade: A-
    • Didn't impress anyone here, but I talked about how I visited several times and have spoken to current students and alumni. I told a funny story about how I crashed an information session with a couple of my friends.
  • Tell me about a time you faced adversity in your personal or professional life.
    • My grade: A+
    • I picked a really significant personal experience in my life, conveyed it in a heartfelt way (I'd told this story to close friends in the past, so it came off naturally and genuinely), and discussed how it has influenced me as a person and leader. My interviewer gave me a lot praise for my response.
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
    • My grade: B-
    • Meh. After talking through the adversity in the previous question, my answer here kinda fell flat. I rambled quite a bit, and I think I used a little too much jargon.
  • What are you like in teams?
    • My grade: D- or F
    • This is what most people would call a "flub". I was really thrown off by this question, and said something incredibly generic, without any examples. It's like I lost the ability to communicate for five minutes. I then ended it abruptly, and then opened my mouth as if I was about to say something. My interviewer nodded in anticipation, but nothing came out - I literally finished my response mid-sentence.
  • Back-up plan?
    • My grade: A-
    • My backup plan was feasible, evolved clearly from my skills and experiences, and mostly aligned to my goals. I made a point of saying that an MBA is the best path for my goals, but that this would serve as a good backup plan. I didn't blow my interviewer out of the water with this, but I checked all the boxes.
  • Ethical dilemma?
    • My grade: B
    • I rambled a bit when I discussed the dilemma. I think I tried too hard to make it sound like a moral/internal conflict, because when I first described the situation, it came off pretty black & white and not really as a "dilemma". I was able to salvage my response in the end, but I didn't talk as smoothly as I wanted.

So there you have it. I hope this is helpful to people still thinking about interviewing. I perhaps graded myself a bit harshly, given that I was ultimately accepted. But I think self-reflection is important here, because I still have more interviewers to come and I want to learn from my mis-steps as much as possible.

My year-end review was delayed (AGAIN). Hopefully I'll come back with some good news on that front.

More later.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In at Columbia!!!

Just got my first acceptance - holy smokes. I got a phone call from the admissions office congratulating me and giving me an update on next steps. Really amped up right now. I got into AT LEAST one of my business schools.

Lucky that it's Friday - time to celebrate.

More later.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Invited to interview at Chicago

I was just invited to interview with Chicago - totally stoked about it. I almost felt like it wouldn't come, given that I wasn't part of the first wave of invites yesterday. Right now I'm 2/2 with interview invites, but Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton are yet to come!

Text from the invite is below:
Dear Applicationist,
Congratulations!  We have evaluated your application and are extending an invitation for you to interview with us in the next phase of our admissions process.
I'll let you know if Wharton shows me some love.

More later.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Columbia application status: complete

I just got a notification saying that my application status at Columbia is "complete". This means that they've received my interview report and will probably render a decision in the next week or so. Keeping my fingers crossed for this one.

Hopefully I'll come back next week with some good news on:
  • Columbia's final decision
  • Interview invites at Wharton and Chicago
  • My year-end performance review at that thing that I still go to from 9-9 every day... oh yeah: work.
More later.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Columbia interview was short, but was it sweet?

Just had my CBS interview last week. It was supposed to be 45 minutes long but only lasted between 25-30. The interviewer was very nice and enthusiastic, but basically went from question to question with little commentary in between. It didn't feel as personal as I thought it would be, given my interviewer's personality and assurance that the interview would be very informal.

I'll post the questions from my interview after my decision is rendered, which should be in a couple of weeks.

For now, I'll be waiting for potential interview invites at the other schools. My year-end review at my job is also coming up, so I'll get to know my pay raise and promotion potential by then.

Hopefully it all works out!

More later.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And now we wait

In the last week I submitted Harvard and Stanford. I sent Stanford's app with less than an hour to before the deadline, and have never been that down to the wire for any application before, ever. I think their question on "What matters most to you, and why?" was the most challenging personal statement I've ever written. Hopefully it all pans out!

I'll let you know how my Columbia interview goes.

More later.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Getting down to the wire...

I'm about 95% done with my HBS applications and about 50% done with my Stanford essays. With only 16 hours until Harvard's deadline and 48 hours until Stanford's, I know I need to finish up.

At times I wonder to myself "what's the point, you're probably not going to get into these schools anyway." But I guess I don't ever want to be asking myself "what if?" after the process is over. Plus, I know that my recommenders put in some damn hard work into my reference letters, so I want to put them to good use.

Only two more days. Then I can rest and revert back to my normal life (and finally have time to sleep, hang with friends, work out, shave, stay afloat at my job...).

I'll be back after my applications are finished to reflect on the entire process as a whole.

More later.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

3 down, 2 to go...

I just submitted my Wharton Round 2 application. Of all the applications I've submitted so far, I feel the most confident in Wharton. Even though the structure of their essay questions didn't allow me to say that much about my unusual life story, maybe they structured their questions that way because they don't care about no life stories.

Harvard and Stanford are definitely interested, so I'll make sure to slip something in there. Time to put the pedal to the medal on these two - applications are due on Jan 10 and 11 and I haven't finished one essay for either school.

More later.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chicago application submitted

I finished my Chicago application a few days ago, but I just submitted it now. Now the waiting game begins (Feb 15 is the Chicago mid-decision date). Still need to finish up one more Wharton essay, plus get on to Harvard and Stanford.

More later.