The timing of this post is not a coincidence. There is plenty of discussion happening in school regarding the U.S. News & World Report rankings—what happened; why it happened; what the administration, faculty, and students can all do to address the situation. I did not intend at all to write a post about it, but the other day I was inspired by some of my professors, who have privately voiced to us the efforts they pledge to make to ensure that we the students do not suffer as the result of one slight but unfortunate oversight.
Honestly I did not expect my professors to get involved, and when I was applying to Stern I definitely did not even think about how important it might be to have professors that do care about a situation that might adversely affect their students. So I feel very fortunate.
I can tell you what I did think about though when pulling the trigger on which school to attend, why I had (and have) no regrets about leaving behind my past life and why I turned down a considerable scholarship at another top MBA program to go to the school that I saw as the best fit for me and the best fit for my future:
I chose Stern because I saw unparalleled opportunities.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN WHAT I WANT:
One of my professors today pointed out that Stern weirdly doesn’t advertise the number and diversity of the courses you have access to as a Stern student—so here I am to fix that. Stern has over 200 electives and over 20 specializations. This semester alone, about 140 electives are being offered, among which are nine “Doing Business in…” (DBi) courses (one- or two-week experiential study abroad courses that you can read more about in my classmates’ blog posts). Check out more details in the graphic below:
You first need to get through your Core Classes (two “required core” classes plus five out of an available seven “menu core” classes) within your first year. As someone who had no business background but who wanted flexibility and choice when it came to what I was learning, I appreciated the concept of the menu core. Meanwhile, if you do have some experience and want to jump ahead, I can say that many of my friends were able to test out of their remaining requirements and take all electives by their second semester.
Straight out of my own admissions essay, what I loved about Stern is that when I visited the school I got “the sense that Sternies coexist happily with one another because each has been given the capacity to pursue his/her own personalized goals.”
THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WHERE I WANT:
We all know that networking is key, and so I knew I had to pick a school that would allow me the most touchpoints with the companies I’m interested in, whether through official events and/or alumni. Geographical area was also a factor, but it was a preference for me rather than a necessity (though you seriously can’t beat the location, as my classmate Alex will tell you in his blog post, “Downtown New York – Why It Matters”). Upon arriving at Stern, as I did with my classes I decided to take advantage of the slew of possibilities before me and expand upon my initial target interests. I participated in investment banking recruiting with over 100 of my classmates, and I must admit that the access I had to people at these firms is not for the faint-hearted (I also need to mention that IB recruiting is as extreme as it gets, and that it was my choice to take on as much as I did):
Including the case competition (at the very top), that’s 16 touchpoints with 11 different firms in one week (admittedly my busiest of the semester). If this is what you want, regardless of industry, I really don’t know many other schools where you could do this. And I can’t even tell you how many different people I met at these events, although many were alumni eager to recruit their own.
Indeed, lest the outdated belief that we’re “just a finance school” still persists, Stern alumni are active across all industries. As an admitted student at Preview Weekend (which I highly recommend you attend if you can), I was impressed by the accomplishments of our alums and the sheer number of them who came back to campus to share their positive Stern experiences with us. Personally, I felt that the best indicator of the quality of a school is how willing students and alumni are to give back and help each other succeed—and I haven’t been proven wrong yet.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT WITH GREAT PEOPLE:
On that thought, while meeting those alums at Preview Weekend reaffirmed for me that I had chosen the right school, the Sternies I’ve met since then have only continued to surprise me with their magnanimity. After Preview, but before I moved back to New York from Los Angeles, a friend introduced me to an “MBA3” who had just graduated and was moving out to L.A. Unsure of what awaited me in the Fall, I requested a coffee chat, and he was more than happy to meet with me. He also introduced me to two MBA2s, who were out in L.A. to intern for the summer. Seven months later, when I lost out on a summer internship opportunity I really wanted, I contacted him again for general advice, and he responded immediately. His busy schedule required him to reschedule our phone call about seven times, but each time he apologized profusely to me, telling me that he didn’t want me to get the impression that helping out a fellow Sternie wasn’t important to him. When we finally did have the phone call, he gave me the most helpful, relevant advice I had received in my job-search process, something I had hoped for but couldn’t have possibly expected to receive when I was making my decision to attend Stern.
That may be an above-and-beyond example, but it isn’t too far off from the kind of support I’ve received since being at Stern. As I mentioned in my first blog post, “Block 2, I Love You,” my classmates have only helped me be better than I would have been without them. They’ve encouraged me and helped me prepare for interviews, they’ve kept me posted about events and opportunities, they’ve stayed up studying with me the night before an exam in the Starbucks Lounge, pushing me to get through a practice exam even as I was so physically exhausted from recruiting that I was nodding off at the table as they spoke to me.
So there you have it. Opportunities I knew I wanted but didn’t know how or when I would take advantage of them. To that point, as much as you think you know what you want when you’re applying and choosing to go to business school, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less, but when you’re taking into account the slew of decision factors, know that making the “wrong” choice isn’t the end of the world, but making the right one, the best one, can introduce you to a world you never knew before. When making your decision, ask yourself what really matters to you and your future, where you foresee yourself having the fewest or no regrets, and if possible, choose your best fit based on that.