Nykin made these calculations after taking the GMAT and starting work on his essays for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Michigan’s Ross School. Then, something unusual occurred, or as he puts it, “I had a weird situation.” Though he was not planning to start business school until 2014, he went to an MBA event in Chicago in July of 2013 and found himself talking to admission officials from Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis.
“They asked, ‘Why didn’t you apply this year?’ I said, I thought i would get a scholarship and a better shot if I applied in the first round rather than the last. Washington University said it isn’t a tried-and-true rule that money only goes to round on applicants. They said, ‘We can interview you tonight if you’re interested in coming to Washington University.’”
He did his admissions interview that Thursday evening, filed his application essays by Monday morning, just ten days before Olin’s MBA program was to start by the end of July. “I pulled an all-nighter, submitted my essays by 9 a.m. on Monday, and went to work. By Friday, I found out that I got in with a generous scholarship. In the end, I had three days to make a decision. It was pretty fast and furious.”
‘SHOULD I TAKE THIS OFFER OR WAIT FOR SOMETHING THAT MIGHT NOT BE THERE?’
And it was high anxiety time. The other three schools he had set his sights on—Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, and Michigan Ross—were all higher ranked. “I thought I might get into Kellogg and Chicago, but I didn’t know for sure,” he recalls. “I was below average on my GMAT score and above the average for my GPA. So then I started thinking, ‘Should I take this offer or wait for something else that might not be there?’”
He began speaking to people he knew who made hiring decisions. “The advice I got was that you can go to any school, but you have to crush it if you don’t go to a top five or top ten school. You have to work harder, be more involved and give more of yourself because it is a bigger challenge. I spoke to 25 people that weekend and talked to those who went to really good schools and I sat by myself and came to the decision.”
On Sunday, he informed Wash U that he would accept their offer. All the calculations were essentially for naught. Olin was solidly in the top 25, in 22nd place on his screen, but the offer and the scholarship swayed him, along with the location. He wanted to stay in the midwest so St. Louis was clearly in the mix. It was also his hometown.
Besides, he figured, once you factored in the cost of living differences, the career choices of graduates, and the costs of attending some other schools, the raw scores from his calculations became less meaningful.
“You try to use the facts, but in the end you have to look inside yourself and ask how you will grow as a student and a professional. The school you go to is a platform that helps with your success. Each school has different pros and cons but it is up to the student to maximize the experience. I could have made a decision that would have put me in a lot more debt with no different outcome.”
Last month, Nykin graduated from Olin with his MBA. His classmates had selected him to deliver the student address at commencement and he was also chosen to receive the Hubert C. ‘Hub’ Moog Prize which is awarded to the graduating student who best exemplifies qualities of character, leadership and service, and who also enjoys the respect, admiration and affection of his/her classmates,’ He landed on Poets&Quants’ list of the top 50 MBA graduates in the Class of 2015, and he has not regrets.
“For me,” Olin was the best possible play,” says Nykin, who will be joining Deloitte as a senior consultant in August. “I met some amazing people. The professors were incredible. But it really is how much you put in and what you make of it. “My decision came down to asking myself where I could grow as a professional and a person. For me, that place was Olin.”
Analysis be damned.