I detailed a list in another entry that I laid out. And it rattled off a number of items that are notable about top MBA programs.
But instead of diving into each one separately, I’m going to discuss the primary answer that you hear on actual business school campuses, from students, faculty, and alumni alike.
What is it that makes this place so special?
The answer is…. You guessed it. The people.
But what does that mean anyway?! And how does it impact those who are currently applying for these programs?
Well, it’s a bit complicated. It means different things for different programs. Keep in mind. The people that comprise any of these programs include, again, both students and staff/faculty. Among them you will find people who have been very successful (and very not) in business, career staffers who love the university climate and the students, and the students themselves – a continuum of 2-year students (assuming we are talking strictly about full-time programs here).
And while we could discuss the tiny little nuances about how Stanford wants us to change lives, organizations, and the world, or Harvard seeks to make us global leaders, or MIT wants us to innovate at the intersection of business and technology, instead, let’s talk turkey.
I have written this entire entry to intrigue you and embed one solitary pro tip. And that is: VISIT THE SCHOOLS YOU ARE APPLYING TO!!!
It’s in all-caps because it’s important. Not just important – it’s vital. No, it’s not necessary. I know one applicant who had never been to Stanford campus until the day he showed up to move in. But the exception generally proves the rule.
And even if you were a shoe-in, which may be the case, Ms. GMAT rock-star, 4.0 GPA, just launched 2 VC firms after selling her company, it still will help inform your own decision.
Sit in on a class at HBS and revel in the revolving door of Professors. Puzzle at how Stanford students can deliver on-point comments after their Wednesdays off. And marvel at how everyone at Tuck seems to know each other. More than anything, make a point to have a real conversation with the students.
I promise, they won’t bite. Be courteous and watch for their body language. But in large part, most are happy to rep their school, and if you ask nicely, you can get a feel for what they don’t like, which is just as, if not more important, than what they do.
I know that’s a lot of commas, but it had to be done. When you hear their stories, reflect on your own. Not only will it help your application, but it also might help you get a bead on the true narrative you’d like your education to follow.
Is business school right for you?
Go forth and see for yourself.