Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finding the right business school fit

The Right Fit 
Guest article by Rick McGuire (Cornell '14)

The search for your ideal business school results in many questions. What is the program’s rank? How much does it cost? What’s my expected post-graduation income? How competitive of an applicant am I? What is the school’s brand? Does it align with my future goals? How strong is the alumni network? 

Serious applicants put forth much thought and research towards choosing their ideal b-school. However, it is easy to listen to other people’s opinions on what schools are right for you, and fall into the trap of applying to schools that are not your ideal fit. Fit is an important, and often overlooked, aspect of choosing which business schools to apply to, and ultimately, which one to attend. It is one of the most important considerations of a positive school experience. 

Applicants often overlook less quantifiable and subjective categories, but they can be just as important as the numbers. Choosing a business school that fits both your personal and professional needs will ultimately provide a positive school experience.  It is the difference between two uncomfortable years and two amazing ones.

So, how do you know if the business school feels right for you? Aside from physically visiting the campus, military applicants should reach out to target schools’ Veteran’s clubs. Club members can explain daily life, the student culture, and their transition challenges. It is likely that their current experience will mirror your future one. Additionally, the support you receive from the school’s veteran’s network can give you an idea of how strong the schools’ students and alumni will be in the future. 

What questions should you answer? Start by creating a qualitative list for your ideal business school.  

Do you want a large program, or a smaller one? 

A large business school allows more potential classmates to bond with now and reach out to in the future, but a smaller program gives you the opportunity to know everyone by name. Additionally, large programs have a more robust alumni network, but smaller programs tend to be more responsive.

Is there an ideal geographic location? 

Business schools located in large cities have plenty of positives. They are closer to key job markets and allow for a variety of non-academic activities. However, smaller college towns allow for a more focused learning environment, and have less daily distractions. 

What are your target schools strengths?

Top business schools are recognized throughout the US, but studying close to a specific industry will help expand your network. For example, if you have a passion for web tech companies, a West coast school is a plus. If banking is your target industry, an East coast school may be preferred. 

Some more thoughts...

As I begin my first semester and transition to student life, my focus as an applicant towards finding my best-fit school is paying off. I feel at home, and in the right place. Developing in an environment I am comfortable in will ultimately allow me to realize my potential in school and in the rest of my career. 

Numbers and rankings are objectively important and are given weight for a reason. However, look beyond the rankings and ask yourself which business school is right for you. It should be intellectually stimulating, and a place where you can make life long friends. It’s a place where you want to call home, where you can be yourself. It is where you will be inspired to work hard, be happy, and pursue your dreams.


Note: If you would like to share your own b-school experience, please write militarytobusiness (at) gmail com.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Where are HBS 2012 military veterans going?

In about a week or two, most of the HBS Class of 2014 will be showing up on campus. Echoes of "What did you do before school? Where did you go to undergrad? What do you want to do after HBS? Where are you from? Wow... that's so amazing!" will be heard on a non-stop pace for at least the next 30-45 days. Some people will absolutely fall in love with the idea of having 900 new potential friends, a few will really question what they got themselves into, and most will just feel awe-inspired that they're even at HBS and take every day as a gift.

HBS offered over 50 seats this year to military applicants, which is a higher number than in recent years. A couple of applicants will be going to Stanford instead, and a couple deferred by a year due to deployment or other military commitments. Plus there is one student who started with the Class of 2012, deployed to Afghanistan as a Marine reservist after his first year, took a 7.62 AK round through the shoulder, and is coming back to finish his final year at HBS this year with the Class of 2013. The student had a full recovery, and even managed to squeeze in his management consulting summer internship after coming back from demobilization!

What's important to note is the higher number of military students this year invading the halls of Spangler and Aldrich, with approximately 5 military guys/gals in every section. This is not an indication of a new trend necessarily, but it does continue to reflect the great emphasis and respect that HBS provides to the military community.

So what about the outgoing class? What are they doing? I've compiled some data...

So here are some observations:
  • About 60% of graduating military folks are heading to the traditional big three functions: Consulting, Banking, and General Management. So no big surprise there.
  • The rest are fragmented between Real Estate, Business Development, Investment Management, and a few are going into niche private equity positions. 
  • The "other" include marketing, product management, and two very unique positions which have very little to do with an MBA... just going to show that HBS spreads its seeds far and wide.
  • Interestingly, no traditional entrepreneurship coming from this year veteran's class. In frequent conversations with potential applicants and students, military students appear to have the least confidence in their entrepreneurial skills - which I think is a completely false position to hold, as some are the best qualified of all  - but that is the topic for another day.
So congrats to the outgoing Class of 2012! And welcome to the Class of 2014! Get ready for an incredible two years!