It’s easy to spin out myths. They provide clarity and direction. Even more, they validate our beliefs and experiences, saving us the time and work in the process. Many times, MBA applicants rely on myths in making decisions. Based on what they hear or read, they’ll argue that certain schools only attract certain people or only teach certain things. In other words, myths define comfort zones, making it easier to whittle down target schools or swallow initial rejections.
MBA candidates can rationalize anything. You’re probably familiar with some myths. Big cities are aloof and small towns are dull. At big schools, classmates struggle to bond, while deep alumni resources are rare in small schools. East Coast programs are populated by do-gooders, while the Midwest schools attract binge drinkers. And if your school doesn’t rank among the Top 20? Well, forget about a job at McKinsey, Google, or Goldman Sachs according to one myth.
GET TO MISSOURI IN A HURRY
Washington University’s Olin School has one stigma attached to it: Midwestern. And Olin’s St Louis’ digs conjure up images of tired and still, behind the times and past its prime – gray rivers and rusty factories, a place you fly over on the way to Silicon Valley or Washington, DC. Midwesterners are nice and all, but nothing that matters happens there – at least that’s the myth. Let’s be honest: Don’t people move to Missouri when they’ve given up and just crave a slow pace and a predictable routine?
Not at Olin. Long known for intimate class sizes and personal attention, Olin has emerged as the world’s top MBA program for entrepreneurship. That’s hardly surprising for an ecosystem packed with accelerators and boasting deep-pocketed investors and wide public partnerships. And forget local and complacent. Three years ago, the school introduced its Global Immersion, where students kick off the program by working and studying overseas for 6 weeks before returning to campus to start core coursework. In recent years, the MBA program has revamped its curriculum to make it data-driven and values-based – with a special emphasis on innovation across the board.
Bottom line, notes ’22 grad Austin René Moulder, the Midwest myth misses the mark. “Some prospective students worry that WashU Olin Business School, as a Missouri institution, is too geographically and culturally isolated to be seen on par with coast or Chicago-based schools,” Moulder explains. “This could not be farther from the truth, as our alumni network expands across all industries, our entrepreneurship bridges us locally and globally, and our values connect us with those schools most committed to socioeconomic justice. This could not be more clearly visible than in the founding of the Consortium Graduate School of Management, an organization founded by WashU Olin that connects diverse MBAs from across the nation.”
Moulder’s classmate Lloyd A. Yates, frames the Midwest dynamic in more stark terms. “WashU is often called the Harvard of the Midwest. I’d say that Harvard is the WashU of the East Coast!”
Limited opportunities, cutthroat classmates, dreary locales: These are some big myths about some top programs. In many cases, these myths don’t fit the reality on the ground. This spring, P&Q queried top second-years about the biggest myths at their programs. Many times, their experiences deviate sharply from the conventional wisdom. From INSEAD to MIT to Stanford, here are the biggest myths about your target schools – and how they are often founded on outdated assumptions.
Myth: Kellogg is a marketing school.
Reality: “Kellogg is so much more than “a marketing school”. Yes, our marketing department is amazing, but the statement somewhat minimizes a lot of Kellogg’s other core competencies. Nearly a third of the last class entered Consulting, roughly a fifth went into Finance or Financial Services, and another third was split between General Management, Tech, and Marketing. Further, with eight majors, eleven pathways, and now the addition of our latest program (MBAi), it’s hard to refute Kellogg’s effectiveness in producing leaders in a variety of industries.”
Ryan Blackwell, Northwestern (Kellogg)
Myth: W. P. Carey is mainly a supply chain school.
Reality: “That myth could not be more wrong. The W. P. Carey MBA program is very strong in other areas such as marketing and consulting. The Center for Services Leadership at W. P. Carey hosts leading academics and professionals from the marketing space, allowing students to benefit from their trove of knowledge. In fact, the marketing program is among the best in the nation, offering students comparable learning and employment outcomes to other top business schools, with students bagging job offers from Amazon, PF Chang, EBay, Microsoft, Bank of America, American Express and more. Students also get to participate in a marketing capstone project where they consult for Fortune 500 firms on real business issues/challenges.
The consulting curriculum is also growing very quickly. In recent years, students have not only benefited from a top-class consulting curriculum but also the enhanced reputation of the business school as a source for skilled consultants as students secure offers at leading consulting firms like Cornerstone Advisors, Deloitte, EY, EY-Parthenon, Gartner, GEP, IBM, Kearney, KPMG, McKinsey & Company, Strategy&, and more.”
Chikezie Anachu, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)
Myth: Carnegie Mellon is an engineering school.
Reality: “Tepper is known for being a quantitative program, which is true to an extent, but you don’t need to be an engineer to strive here. The professors start from a basic level, so everyone moves along at a common pace. If you do struggle there are plenty of opportunities with tutors, study groups, and office hours to help you along the way. Our class is full of non-engineers who performed extremely well in the program. That being said, I did lean into the strong design and computer science reputation of Carnegie Mellon as a whole. I took advantage of classes in CMU’s School of Design and Human & Computer Interaction department to prepare myself for my role in the technology industry.”
Hensley Sejour, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
Myth: Rady caters to beach lovers.
Reality: “The biggest myth about Rady is that it’s right on the Pacific Ocean and is the school of choice for ocean aficionados including surfers, divers, open water swimmers, and more. While the sand and the waves do not touch the campus doors, I can confirm that we can see the beautiful Pacific Ocean from the Rady School of Management buildings. I think being located so close to the Pacific is a benefit for Rady. The school shares a close and innovative relationship with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Yes, many students take advantage of our incredible ocean opportunities but they also have a deep commitment to environmentalism and sustainability. San Diego isn’t just known for biotech anymore. With Rady and Scripps and the inspiration of the Pacific Ocean, bluetech and cleantech are also common start-up themes in the community.”
Kim Pendergrass, UC- San Diego (Rady)
Myth: Ithaca’s remote location hurts the Cornell experience.
Reality: “I would argue that being in Ithaca forges a closer bond between our student body as most of our activities revolve around being with each other. Additionally, as someone who grew up in a city, getting away for a couple of years to a quieter area (where I can actually see stars!) has been quite nice. The abundance of natural beauty and wineries always helps too.”
Branden Karnell, Cornell University (Johnson)
Myth: Being a Catholic university, Notre Dame lacks diversity.
Reality: “In my time at Mendoza, I have been fortunate to work with and get to know individuals from all different religious backgrounds, geographic locations, and professional backgrounds. Notre Dame attracts the best talent from so many different places, which creates a diverse experience in many ways.”
Songee Barker, Notre Dame (Mendoza)
Myth: Oxford is out-of-touch with reality.
Reality: “I think when you first get to Oxford, the institution seems to be a byzantine agglomeration of residential and social colleges, academic departments, and centuries of bureaucracy that surround what seems like a young and energetic business school. As such, it becomes easy to perceive the university as a little aloof and unresponsive. But my experience ultimately couldn’t have been more different. Each community has layered on top of the others very naturally, and offered completely different views into business, entrepreneurship, and the delivery of high-quality, affordable surgical care.”
Daniel Bu, University of Oxford (Saïd)
Next Page: Chicago Booth, Duke Fuqua, Berkeley Haas, London Business School, and more.