Narrowing Down & Strategizing My Target Business Schools To A Top Five

by j.matthew.mueller on

studyIn my post where I narrowed down my top 5, I came up with the following list (in order of preference based on my criteria):

Harvard (a long shot for me), with a score of 90%
Wharton, with a score of 67.5%
Stanford & Booth, tied with a score of 45%
Columbia coming in 5th with a score of 42.5%

As I am attempting to get my applications together and this whole process is feeling a lot more “real” to me now (i.e. the idea of moving/not moving) and I am getting a better feel for the schools, I am starting to rethink the order of my preference (and some schools altogether).

Harvard: My thinking on Harvard hasn’t changed. It is a great school and I would be incredibly fortunate if I could actually get accepted. But I must start being realistic on my chances of acceptance if I am going to have a successful B-school strategy. Just directionally and based on research I have done about the school, I would place my chances at 20% to get an interview and 5-10% to get accepted. I have decent stats, but with such a competitive group of applicants, I need to be realistic.

Stanford: Time for a reality check here too. I have Stanford and Booth tied for #3 based on my criteria. When I really think about moving across the country for two years, I don’t think I could do it. I actually think Northern CA is gorgeous, but I am in a pretty serious relationship here on the East Coast and don’t think thousands of miles will do anything positive for it or me. Also, my chances of getting into Stanford are slimmer than Harvard (from everything I have read, they put a higher emphasis on stats and look for a certain type of applicant – which I don’t think I am). So with it not being so high on my list and my very slim chances of getting in, I have decided that it is not worth the time and effort of doing the application. Exit stage left, Stanford.

Booth: Booth, according to my criteria and with Stanford dropping off the list now occupies the sole #3 spot…or does it? I think Chicago is great and I actually have some family there which would be nice if I have to move. However, the weather is terrible and University of Chicago does not have the same name recognition here on the East Coast as it does in the Mid-West.

Wharton: UPenn is located right where I live, only a short 10 minute cab ride/bus ride away. That is a good thing…and a bad thing. It is great to save money but the more I think about the experience I want to have over my two years in B-School, the more I realize that I am totally drinking the kool-aid and really WANT it to be transformational. I don’t know if that is possible if I stay in the city I currently live. I think it could seriously hinder some important aspects of getting an MBA (like the networking). If I have all my current friends and my boyfriend to fall back on, will that hinder my ability to be a part of the larger Wharton community?

Columbia: Columbia is lower in the rankings than UPenn but rankings are not everything. Also, Columbia is in NYC. NYC is a place of a lot of great job opportunities and Columbia has amazing name recognition there. It is also a little under 2 hours away from Philly and my boyfriend has to travel there a lot for work. Meaning, that it is close enough where I don’t think it will hinder my relationship but far enough where I will really be able to throw myself into the Columbia community. Also, New York is a place that I always wanted to live or work in for at least a couple years of my life. I love big cities and although there are a lot of things I love about Philly, it is really a small big city. The two big drawbacks here is that room & board is going to be A LOT more expensive and the base salary at graduation is less than Wharton. Regardless, I think Columbia has really moved up the list for me and, depending on how the two years at Columbia go, I could even see myself working in NYC after graduation. I have a campus/class visit scheduled for July, but bearing a really bad experience, I am thinking that Columbia is actually starting to be on par with Wharton in my list. Maybe even slightly ahead.

So now it seems like my top 5 list looks like this:

Harvard
Wharton & Columbia (tied-ish)
Booth

Which brings me to my next dilemma…If Wharton and Columbia are “tied” (or even if Columbia pulls slightly ahead), should I pursue the Early Decision Columbia application route? What if I do and the off chance that I get accepted into Harvard happens? I am going to do some more research, but I am starting to get very antsy about this decision. It would increase my chances of acceptance significantly, but I think I really need to be honest about what my #1 and #2 are and my chances at Harvard. Ugh…I hate possibly life changing decisions! Hopefully, it will all become clear after the campus visit!!

MBAGirlJourney offers the perspective of a highly thoughtful young professional woman who hopes to land a seat at a top ten MBA program for the Class of 2016. She has two goals: to gain acceptance to at least two of the top ten business schools and to finance her MBA without taking on heavy debt. She blogs at MBAGirlJourney. Previous posts on Poets&Quants:

My Goal: To Get Into Two of the Top Ten MBA Programs
How To Finance Your MBA Degree In A Responsible Way
Handicapping My Own Chances of Admission to Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, et al
An Ideal Routine For Your GMAT Test Day

  • Recent MBA Grad

    I’m a recent grad of one of the schools on your list so I’ll give you some advice and a slight critique…

    Critique first: “the base salary at graduation is less than Wharton…”

    This is totally worthless metric. No company you are going to is going to pay one MBA student from HBS more than the same student from any other school. This is really more a measure of the graduating class as an aggregate. The more people in the class going into higher end finance and/or other high paying industries, the higher that number will be BUT each person will have the same earning potential as long as you are from a top program. This is really a measure of the types of industries your classmates will go into. Most orgs that higher MBAs higher a CLASS of MBAs and will offer them nearly identical if not completely identical comp packages. What school you went to will absolutely NOT be a factor. You, your experience, and your background are the factor. Nothing else.

    Advice: Go to the school that you fit in the most and like the most. All of these schools are obviously fantastic and all will provide you with tremendous opportunity. The biggest challenge you will have is wading through the SEA of opportunity into the land of what you actually want to do. Don’t spin your wheels on which school will get you access to which company. Every school here gets you access to every company. Trust me. Just figure out which one you like the most in terms of FIT and go there. The rest will be awesome…trust me. Good luck

  • UYK

    All MBA programs are expensive, but although living in NYC is slight more expensive (if you look at the big picture it’s just “slightly”, it also gives you a lot of benefits (e.g. entertainment, connections, proximity to job opportunities, or simply…it’s really a place of inspirations). So I think the living cost shouldn’t really be a point of discussion here…

    job-wise, both Columbia and Wharton can definitely open many doors for you. I don’t think either is inferior to another in any industry. So this should also be taken out of your consideration.

    So I think it really comes down to where you want to live and what the university can offer in general. NYC, i guess most people would agree, is better in terms of what you can experience in your life. Your life at NYC will be more diverse and inspiring. This is pretty much guaranteed.

    As for the university, Columbia has a lot more courses and much more recognized in general in both the US and overseas. In UPenn, Wharton is the “signature”, but then you would feel like the whole school is pretty much geared to its business school, whereas in Columbia, you will get to be connected to more fields e.g. fashion and media.

    I got accepted to both schools, and without hesitation I chose Columbia.
    It’s NYC. Full stop.

  • William Steps

    Completely agree and thank you for sharing. So many people struggle with decision and focus on salary. What they need to do is look at what companies recruit and how many go into their desired industry. But yes, I’m at a CPG and I know the HBS students get the EXACT same as the UCLA, Michigan, Duke or Wharton. This is such a common fallacy and perhaps we can help them see the truth.

  • MBAGirlJourney

    Hi all, thanks so much for

  • MBAGirlJourney

    Sorry, got cut off, ha ha. Thanks so much for the feedback. I think this is great and as this whole MBA thing is becoming more tangible, so is the idea of “fit” and basically where I want to spend the next two years of my life (if I am lucky enough to get in) is also becoming more “real” to me and NYC is becoming A LOT more attractive!!

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