Eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch an MBA school by its toe

Decision time. I need to firm up which full time MBA programmes I want to apply to. For a start the Fulbright application requires me to provide a list and reasons…..

So here’s my long list and what my thoughts are:

Why these schools?

They are all in top  the 25 in the world and better than the UK equivalents I would be interested in. I mean why travel to the US when I can get a better Uni in the UK?

Where I go matters.

I met some students from an MBA programme that want the MBA level knowledge, but they weren’t  overly ambitious, they didn’t want a big name and didn’t think they would fit into the intellectual environment that those sort of high ranking schools would offer.  It made me realise I am ambitious and I want that intellectual environment, so I should apply to schools that offer that. I can compete with high profile applicants for top ranking schools. I’m not saying I will get in, but I won’t be laughed at either. (Yes, I’m assuming my GMAT score will be OK.)

I recognise that the recruiting world is snobby. I learnt that from my  previous experience in the job market.  I had a great time at my undergrad but didn’t go to a top ten school, which meant I found it hard to get on all the grad schemes.  Different experience for my Masters, I went to one of the best schools in Europe for my subject and I got interviews based on where I went.  Where you go counts, certainly in the short term. However from the events I’ve attended I’ve noted that I potentially can get the same type of jobs if I go to Harvard or Manchester.  Well, I might have an issue getting into McKinsey if I don’t go to certain schools, but do I really want to be a consultant?  (OK, yes would love to work for McKinsey, but I would still want a social life and I’m not sure that likely.)

I really want to study and live in the states so I have focused on the USA rather than Europe or anywhere else.  However, as I have no visa issues for EU countries, I can apply for EU schools in round 3 if I’m so inclined.

I’m also going to say something that will scandalise most people.  The content of what you learn is very similar between business schools particularly on the core courses like accounting and negotiation. So choosing the business school is down more to experience, learning styles and what they call “fit.”
I would love to go to Harvard and nothing I’ve heard changes that feeling. The current students seem to have a ball there is the opportunity to play sport and a city on the door step. All the things I’m after. There is an excellent choice of classes in year two. Only downside is that there a lottery for classes, so no guarantee you can get your favourites. My main challenge is persuading them that they should interview me. I’m also realistic, this is my reach school. This is my dream.

So lets consider reality.

Has a good range of courses. It’s in North Carolina so it’s warm. I mean why study in a cold place? The Uni also has name recognition in the UK. Most people I speak to have heard of them. The school sounds friendly and welcoming. The age profile as well is a bit older than some business schools which means I’m a better fit. Next step is to talk to recent alumni to get a better feel for the place.  I will need to send a reminder email to the admissions person I’ve been in contact with to set that up.

This has MBA has really gone up in my estimation after the reception in London. I don’t completely freeze weather wise, the alumni are friendly and it has a range of learning techniques. It also in a small city. Again like the age profile and I really like the honour code in place. Again the next step is getting in touch with alumni and the admission people. I actually have a business card and on that note I’m going off to send an email now.

This one is actually falling off the grid. Not completely, but it’s on life support. The college sounds great, really like the curriculum. The students really like it. However it’s in the middle of nowhere and everyone emphasis the beautiful countryside and the ability to go walking. I’m sorry, walking, where is the pub? The student I spoke to said its too cold for playing lots softball. No sport???? What kind of place is that? So in summary I’m not convinced on the life style fit. I’m quite surprised at my change in direction as it was one of my favourites and it has got rave reviews from two bloggers Domotron and Boots to Suits, who liked it so much he blogged about it twice.  What am I missing?  I want to know the answer that question before I make a final decision on Tuck.

Originally, I was really interested in it. The admission officer was really helpful and provided me a crash course in how to show interest in schools. But I’ve not continued the interest partly due to its location. It’s really difficult to get to from the UK and even in the states! And it’s cold! But it has a city, and good flexibility on courses. There is also name recognition in the UK.

Schools that didn’t make the list

I  briefly flirted with Haas and had a nosy at Wharton. Haas looks interesting but I have not dedicated any time to investigating it. Looked at Wharton and its profile is very similar to Harvard and yep it’s cold. So didn’t really investigate much further.

I ruled out Chicago Booth very quickly, mainly to the strong emphasis on economics. It’s  a world leader in economics, but as I have a masters in the subject so I don’t see the need to relearn it a cost of £100,000.

I did try to make a lovely spreadsheet and pick my schools based on criteria, but I found that most schools scored in a similar range based on my criteria so I gave up. My end result is not that scientific.  But the exercise did force to look at schools beyond Harvard and Cornell. If you want to see a good spreadsheet have a look at MBAgirlJourney.

Be great to get your views on:

  • Whether I have considered all the relevant issues for why I want to go these schools?
  • Is there a school I really should consider that I haven’t?
  • Can someone convince me that I really should apply to Tuck?

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12 responses to “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch an MBA school by its toe”

  1. Ellie says :

    Have you read on the Leadership Development program that Tuck has? You should search that and see if that is interesting to you. Tuck was really high on my list too but my husband is a Consultant and forcing him to travel to the Boston airport 2 hours away on a Monday morning is not something I can bring myself to do …so out it went. Same for Darden and Cornell! 😦

  2. hamm0 says :

    Tuck is a special place. I’d definitely check it out. Don’t fear the cold – you can stay inside all winter if you want! (the dorms connect with the academic buildings through indoor tunnels).

    Thanks for the pingback!

  3. Lucas says :

    Tuck. The “pub”, so to speak, is Murphy’s. No sports? Who are you talking to? Most of the people I spoke with were doing some form of sport — skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, essentially stuff like that. I suspect softball or other “warmer weather” sports will not be feasible during the winter, though.

    I was rather impressed with Tuck myself (visited and interviewed on-campus), and I’m generally a hard man to impress. That being said, if you’re not feeling the love, it is best to move on to other schools, because you’re going to be spending 2 years and a whole lot of money on it.

    Good luck!

    • sarahrs81 says :

      Glad there sport….was a bit worried I couldn’t get my fix. Really want to try an American sport when I’m there. Obvious choices are basketball and softball, not up for American rugby. Maybe just need to learn to love the winter sports.

  4. domotron says :

    Totally agree with Lucas’s comments about Tuck:

    Murphy’s is the pub where all Tuckies congregate. They even have a commemorative plaque for every year that has graduated to show their appreciation for how much time Tuckies spend there.

    Sport is pretty big at Tuck. Hockey is the name of the game roughly 60% of the class play. A lot of the players don’t even know how to skate initially but they quickly learn! And of course, a season pass at the local ski slope, yes please.

    The only dealbreaker though is the remote location. You either love it or hate it. If you are looking for a bit more hustle and bustle then Tuck probably is not the school for you! Tuckies say to me “we make our own fun”.

    Good luck with your GMAT.

  5. sarahrs81 says :

    Everyone. Thanks very much for your comments on Tuck. Will have another look at the winter sports on offer and the leadership development programme it has. Domotron thanks for reminding me that I need to ask question whether I want a rural location. I honestly thought I could cope due to all the other things that Tuck has going for it. Yeah-now not soo sure if I could survive two years in the countryside. Maybe the Pub and the underground corridors balance it out.

  6. Lucas says :


    Just a few more general responses (other than the Tuck comment):

    1. I would look very closely at whether these schools are well recognized in the industry you want to join post-MBA. Apart from whether the curriculum and professors and extracurricular activities (e.g. conferences in areas you’re interested in, access to relevant resources, etc.) fit what you want out of your MBA, you want to know if there’s a fit between your personality and the “group personality” of the MBA class, especially if it is a small class (e.g. Tuck, Stanford, etc.) Think about how much support there is for students seeking non-traditional summer internships (e.g. international public sector/development) because often the career centers will be focused on the more traditional consulting, investment banking, and big consumer goods/manufacturing concerns.

    2. There’s pretty much no way that we can tell you if there is a school that isn’t on your list that you should consider since we don’t really know you and don’t know what you want to do (except for a vague “international public sector” work and World Bank, IMF, etc.) post-MBA. What I would recommend is to do a bit of sleuthing on where people who work in your chosen post-MBA industry got their MBAs (and if there are many of them). That gives you a bit of an idea of which schools seem to send people into those industries. (This may work better for some industries than others, e.g. consulting or investment banking or private equity where there’s quite a bit of data on LinkedIn.) Research the schools that show up most frequently. Try to speak with recent alumni in that industry, they may be able to tell you a bit more about how they got from MBA to wherever they are.

    3. No, we can’t convince you that you really should apply to Tuck. You need to convince yourself, based on not just the curriculum and the opportunities post-MBA, but also on fit and whether you could see yourself happy in that b-school for two years. I decided not to apply to a number of schools after visiting (I won’t mention names here), and re-ordered my preferences quite dramatically, because there was that intangible “fit” that made certain programs just feel “right”. Sometimes, it has very little to do with analytical logic and a lot more to do with a “gut” feel. What I would say is that MBA programs, especially in the top 10 or so, have very distinct personalities. You want to know if their personality and yours mesh well, because that will also affect your enjoyment of your time there.

  7. Ade says :

    Hello Sarah, i really enjoyed reading your blog…apologies since I am directly contributing to the discussion….I am also in the GMAT study process, hoping to rebook the exam for sometime in early december… For B’school, big choice between INSEAD and LBS but LBS seems to be the front runner..any reason for not wanting any European school??

    • sarahrs81 says :


      Good luck with the GMAT.
      Ah! So your focusing on the European business schools. I liked INSEAD but I don’t meet the language requirements. While LBS is out my price range, I am interested in their offer. London is a great place to live.
      Haven’t thought that much about EU schools, but thought I could have a look after Christmas as I don’t have any visa concerns.

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