Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How I picked my schools…

So HBS, LBS, Haas and IESE might sound like a weird combination of b-schools, but I sure did my research and ended up with these 4 programs. In order of my preference of schools, here are my pros and cons:

1. HBS
Pros: Harvard was my top choice simply because of the brand. Who wouldn’t go there if they got in? I also liked that HBS was strong in General Management and Entrepreneurship (I want to pick Strategy and Entrepreneurship as my majors). When I visited I was also impressed by the current students and the class atmosphere – most students there are not of the arrogant / full of themselves type but are rather kind and helpful. Of all places, however, I was least passionate about HBS, simply because of the cons below.
Cons: The location – but don’t get me wrong here, I love Boston! It’s my second home. But after having lived here for almost 7 years I have the strong desire to live in a new city and experience something new while I still can. 7 years in the same place is way too long at this age. Plus, did you know that HBS doesn’t have an exchange program? That would have meant another 2 full years in Boston.

2. LBS
Pros: The city – I know the weather there isn’t the best, but I love places with diversity. I mean just take the subway there (excuse me, the "tube") and you will hear hundreds of different languages and see faces from around the globe. Now to the program, the same is reflected in the student body at LBS – almost 90% is international! I love this! Compare this to any top US b-school and you will find that most have merely 35% international students, many of whom have already lived in the US for several years. Another big plus for LBS is its brand – also outside of Europe, which is why a wide range of leading companies recruit there. And LBS has quite an impressive exchange program (plan to go to IESE for a semester if I can).
Cons: It is known that LBS is a top destination for people who want to get into Finance. Since I want to go into the industry (maybe a rotational program or strategic planning) I hope LBS has strong enough recruiting ties in this field. A last con: The city – because it is damn expensive.

3. Haas
Pros: If you had asked me 1 month ago I would have stated Haas as my clear #2 choice. However, that would have been before I went to London to check out LBS. I must say though that my preference shift to LBS has two causes: I have an admit from LBS (while I will most likely get dinged from Haas – no interview invite so far) and my Haas visit was last year in April (while my LBS visit is just a few weeks back). Also, while I was just back home in Europe for 4 weeks, I realized I really wanted to make my move back across the Atlantic – and going out west to California was clearly the wrong direction. Now back to the pros: So during my visit in April 2007 I was really impressed by the current students – the most laid back students of all places I’ve visited. One guy I was sitting with in class really fascinated me, he had tattoos and piercings all over (and made great contributions to the class discussion), which speaks for the diversity of characters at Haas. Another pro you can’t go wrong with is living in San Francisco with warm temperatures all year round. Lastly, Haas is also a powerhouse when it comes to Entrepreneurship.
Cons: Well I think I covered them under the pros. If you go to Haas, you will most likely end up in the Bay Area, which just wasn’t my plan I realized.

4. IESE
Pros: Of all programs it is probably the most similar to HBS (100% case method) which is no surprise because HBS helped found IESE and both schools still have a strong cooperation. This means a strong focus on General Management and Entrepreneurship. Another pro is definitely Barcelona, a great city to live in and like LBS it brings me back home to Europe. If I can, I plan to go on exchange to IESE, also because I always wanted to live in a Spanish speaking country and this would be a great opportunity to polish up my Spanish.
Cons: Opus Dei. Just kidding, the organisation (and your religion) has absolutely no influence on admissions at all (but many professors do belong to this bizarre club!). The reputation. While IESE is well known in Europe (esp. Spain) and South America, it does have a quite limited brand reputation beyond that. Also, I know this makes me sound like a lazy slacker :-), but I’ve heard from so many current students that the 1st year at IESE is just killer, leaving you virtually no time to enjoy other things like club activities, etc. A regular day involves 3 classes, then a mandatory class of Spanish, and then preparing 3 cases for the next day, which takes another 4-6 hours according to the students I spoke with. Sounds like work hard play little to me.

A fifth school that initially made it on my list was Kellogg. However, when I saw how many essays I would have to write for my other 4 schools and then looked at Kellogg's application I decided not to apply. I was initially interested in Kellogg for its strong community (Chicago GSB I felt was more like a commuter school) and I was just slightly more impressed with the current students there than at its local rival. But in the end my passion for Kellogg was not strong enough to keep it on the list. Another school I considered was ESADE in Barcelona, as a backup since I had no idea how my low GMAT would effect the outcome of my applications. Once I got the IESE admit, however, I canceled my informational interview.

4 comments:

Miguel said...

What are your toughts on IE Business School?

Thomas said...

Never considered a 1yr MBA so can't really say much about IE. But overall in terms of brand and reputation I'd first apply to IESE. Heard mixed things about IE.

Alice said...

Any thoughts on INSEAD? just wondering since IE and IESE and LBS were considered...

Thomas said...

I did not consider IE because it's a 1 year program, for the same reason I also did not consider INSEAD.