I’m researching schools and have ranking charts, student reviews and all the good stuff. So how do I measure fit, and how do I decide if I fit in with the school? Confusing right? I had even developed distaste for the word ‘self-assessment’. This was my state of mind as I was looking at potential schools to pursue management education – not to undermine the fact that this was going to be the next turning point in my professional and personal life.
Now step back for a second – what really is ‘fit’, and where in the world do I find it? Now, you may have an admissions consultant helping you out with your research and application process and they will tell you a few things about… uh…you? With all due respect for the profession, I’d rather make those decisions myself – Well, I know what I like – I seek advice when I need some and of course I’d love to help people out when they come to me, I’d rather have a close group of friends that I can regularly hang out with, grades to me are an outcome and what is more important is the learning process. Having said that, these simple things form the very basis of your ‘fit‘ with a particular school’s culture.
In case you didn’t see through it already, let me explain. My first criterion – I must seek advice and be able to give some, this meant that I was looking for my GPA/GMAT and experience to be near the average for that school and the faculty and staff be friendly and approachable. For a close-knit group of friends, I looked for a small class size and for the final one – the learning process, I made sure that the school had the finest faculty. With this ‘grading sheet’ I found my target school and decided to get the ‘real picture’ by visiting the campus not once, but thrice – during a student visit, called MBA for a day, for my admissions interview, and for a Visitation Weekend which gives full-blown insight into the school’s culture and capabilities!
Just to put things in perspective, and in case you’re still reading this, I can say that I have a real dollar figure that I can associate with this unusual concept called ‘fit’. Oh did your ears perk up just now? Well, I had a free ride from another school – a full two-year tuition, an assistantship with a stipend and would’ve been able to graduate debt free. But… I let that go! So you can do the math (hint: excess of $100K). And if you ask me if I regret it, I’d say – Absolutely not! Not even a bit!! The Smeal MBA Program has been exactly what I thought it’d be and being a part of the Smeal family is priceless…no seriously, I mean it!
Having said that, I do not advocate a defined 3-step process for determining the right fit with a school and I do not know if one exists. Although I will say that there is a fair amount of soul searching that needs to happen before you do find the right school. Just so that you know, it need not necessarily be crystal clear – there is a lot of gut instinct involved. Because when you do make the decision, you will know if it is the right one. After all, it is you who will bear the consequences of this key decision – So would you rather have someone else make that decision for you?
MBA Class of 2012