When A Campus Visit Turns Off An MBA Applicant

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of not ignoring red flags during b-school visits.

Well, I’ve decided to take my own advice and drop another B-School from my list–except for I wouldn’t say that this one was necessarily a safety school–at least not completely. Its a solid top 15 program, well regarded and (IMO) quite underrated.

I’m dropping it because I experienced some things during my visit that let me know that we just aren’t the best match. Additionally, there are some intangibles that have transcended from “nice-to-haves” to “must-haves” that this particular institution cannot provide of no fault of its own.


Today, I am releasing UCLA Anderson from my target school list. Here are my reasons:

1) I can’t get over my tense, awkward conversation with that admissions staffer.

That infamous grade nondisclosure conversation that I had with him back in March/April has has nagged and nagged at me for weeks. It has been similar to the nagging feeling you get when someone you’ve just met makes a bad first impression and then tries to clean it up later; you’re inclined to believe that what you saw first was the most accurate and natural depiction of the subject.

If you haven’t read that particular blog post yet (despite my shameless attempts at getting you to do so with not one, but two previous links to it thus far) here’s the quick-and-dirty of how it went down (DISCLAIMER: grossly paraphrased):

mbaover30: “Does Anderson have a grade nondisclosure policy? Or is it something that you’re considering?”

admissions person: “I’m not sure what you mean.” (or something like that)

mbaover30: “You know, when students don’t disclose their grades to each other or to employers.”

admissions person: “Well, this is an academically competitive program. You should want to perform well academically.”

mbaover30: ”I understand that; but that’s not what I”m saying. I”m talking about the idea of fostering an entrepreneurial environment where students are encouraged to stretch their boundaries and take risks.”

admissions person: ”UCLA is very entrepreneurial. Guy Kawasaki went here.”

mbaover30: *crickets*

admissions person: ”(still not getting it….) Every year we have a handful of students who end up on academic probation. If you think you might be in danger of that I recommend looking into some quant-heavy business courses like economics or accounting.”

mbaover30 (who got A’s in Statistics, Signals and Digital Logic): ”I don’t think I’m being effective in communicating what I’m trying to say. That’s ok; thanks.”

admissions person: *crickets*

I could have easily gotten over this exchange if I had had the same conversation with a student. On second thought, scratch that. That may have been worse (for many reasons).

At any rate, the larger implication that concerns is me is that if the leadership of the program views someone who wants to stretch and take risks as someone who’s trying to dodge accountability for their performance, that’s my cue to exit stage left.

2) Seems more corporate: I’m looking for an undeniably entrepreneurial culture and environment.

Even though this institution has a well-funded center for entrepreneurship, I get the feeling that its bent toward the subject is more corporate; I get the feeling that the bent of the entire school is more corporate in general–and there is nothing wrong with that; it’s just not the right fit for me.

  • Guest

    As far as I know, good entrepreneurs come from everywhere. Every top ranked B-School has certain percentage of aspiring entrepreneurs and certain percentage of people aspiring to work in corporations. So I don’t see your point of rambling for 2 pages.

    And you don’t seem like a guy who has problems with getting decent grades. And unless you want for consulting or investment companies, grades don’t matter anyways. You are an entrepreneur, so who are you really afraid of when it comes to grade disclosure. Not to mention that I have never heard of a b-school that advised its students to place higher priority on tests rather than joining clubs and networking.

    According to my research, the only way a student at Anderson gets probation is if they have an average GPA below 3.0, which means if you get an average of B in every course, you are all set. Percentile-wise, the only way you might get a probation is if you are in the bottom 10% of your section in every course (90% of the class gets a B or more according to the recommended grading curve given to the profs). And if you can’t even get that, you are probably wasting your time in college and you don’t really want to study. In that case, just go to some networking events, take some graduate level courses and build your network.

    And as far as environment is concerned, there are many ways to expand your horizon and learning about different cultures. Just spending 2 years in a different city doesn’t always matter. There are international exchange programs in every major b-school. Trips arranged by clubs and organizations too. And last but not the least, buy a plane ticket and travel (traveling to Cambodia, Vietnam and Philippines for a month might cost less than the rent you pay in Boston).

    I know you are over 30 and might feel like you need to make the right decision soon but some of the reason why you dismiss schools is very petty. My first impression about a school is created way before I talk to an adcom. I research, look at the numbers and email alumni if I can. If I can, I also email presidents or VPs of various clubs in those b-schools. Anderson has an entrepreneur club. You can go to their webpage and find the contact details of the clubs president or VP. Have you emailed those guys? Have you talked to them? It would have helped. Adcom is the last person I talk to and the reason I talk to them is regarding the process of admission.

  • Why are you lambasting the blogger for simply admitting what most people do – make decisions based on first impressions? He/she had a bad first impression and decided that it was enough to remove Anderson from the list. I can completely understand why he/she did it.

  • Guest

    Oh, please. All admissions people are pretty much the same at every school. I have talked with dozens. It is an emotional and small-minded decision he made on the basis of 1 short conversation w/ someone he would have little to no interaction with over the course of his studies.

    His questioning was very leading coming from a candidate. “I”m talking about the idea of fostering an entrepreneurial environment where students are encouraged to stretch their boundaries and take risks.” Please. By his logic, a school like MIT or HBS with grade disclosure does not have an entrepreneurial environment and encourage students to stretch boundaries. And it is bschool, not art academy. Have fun searching for a program that is not “corporate”.

  • Guest

    I think you missed the point of the post.  No one was asking to change school policy – or did you and I read different posts?  Keep in mind that the Ad Comm is a representative and a face of the school and therefore does reflect on the views, culture, and personality of the committee.
    Let me draw a parallel of this situation to another situation in life.  Have you ever been dumped by your gf/bf/whatever for a ridiculous reason?  Does that make him/her petty?  Probably not.  We all have different reasons for what makes us ‘tick’.  I can see how I can turn your reply into a CR GMAT question – lol, sad I know…I’m glad that’s over!

  • Jjjj

    Wow, you are really petty. What a childish reason for dropping a school! It is clear you have a bad attitude towards the process and the people in this process. In the future, I would use the opportunity to limit the questions you ask admissions folk to things you can not easily discover from the website or talking to a student. It is also really revealing of you that you want the entire student body and administration to make policy changes on the behalf of you, a mere candidate for admission. If I were an admissions officer or a student at any of the schools, I would be happy someone who would write a petty, anonymous blog post like this is not applying.

  • Ross ’13

    To your point of Fuqua having a range of grades, add Ross to that list as well.  They have a Exellent/Good/Pass/Low Pass/Fail system of grading.  Additionally, they also have a grade non-disclosure policy for on-campus recruiting, and although employers can ask for grades at off-site interviews, I have never heard of it actually happening except in a couple cases with I-Banking interviews.  I was a career switcher with limited business experience before b-school, but wanted to go into consulting. This grading system gave me the flexibility to learn the classroom material while focusing on the recruiting cycle, ultimately landing an internship with a top consulting firm this summer.  I know that would not have been possible if I would have been in a program where I would have had to focus so much on getting top grades.  

  • You’ve posted great food for thought, as Kellogg is on my target list as well. Thanks for taking part in the discussion, and don’t forget to subscribe at http://www.mbaover30.com

  • Guest

    Awesome…I never braved to ask about the “disclosure of grades policy” (to have or not to have) w/ Ad Com for exactly this reason (that he/she would take it the wrong way).

    I was at an Ivy League school visit (a school that discloses EXACT grades) and the student really messed up on the answer (he was too honest) when I asked him the question (about full grade disclosure).  He said that that in order to be competative with other schools/programs recruiters ask to see grades so that they can cherry pick the best students.

    BTW, an alternative to full/exact grade disclosure is a program that gives out “ranges” as grades….I don’t know which of the schools you are applying to have “ranges,” but I know that Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business has ranges, e.g. SP – Superior Pass, HP – High Pass…where SP is 3.5, HP is 3.0, etc.  In my mind, this is a balance of both worlds.

    On the note of being “turned off,” after my visit to Kellogg I pulled out my intent to apply…I looked around the room and saw great managers/sr. managers but I didn’t feel that I saw leaders.  To your point, first impressions are hard to shake; Kellogg has many future leaders, but I didn’t have an opportunity to see that during my visit.  Others on the other hand will completely disagree with me 🙂

    Good luck.