Friday, May 23, 2008

The travel gods smile on me.

Well, sort of. I am in Singapore, and what should have been a nonstop flight from Newark to Sinagpore was diverted to Bangkok for fuel because we got rerouted over China. But other than arriving in Singapore 2 hours late, recently the travel gods have been nice to me. Last month my travel schedule resulted in weekends in Malta and the Dominican Republic, and now this weekend I am at the very nice Amara Sanctuary Resort in Sentosa, Singapore. These are certainly some of the perks I will miss when I give up my current role in the next few months. So this weekend, besides enjoying the tropical weather (current temp 86F, although with the humidity it feels much, much hotter than that), I will be giving some serious thought to positioning and themes for my essays, as well as how to best frame my career goals/aspirations/vision.

In the meantime, as promised in my last post, here are my initial pros/cons on schools. I'll start with the two schools I am considering re-applying to this year. Please recognize that these are my own subjective views, and that the characteristics that I've noted as pro or con are based on what I personally am looking for in a school and not any objective criteria.

Chicago GSB
Pros: academic powerhouse and intellectually rigorous program, high degree of flexibility of curriculum, very strong brand (though not quite as strong as Harvard or Stanford), nice location (I like Chicago) and facilities are top-notch and contribute to a strong sense of community.
Cons: despite efforts to build capabilities and reputation in other areas, still very much known for people looking to go into quantitative fields (I am not); student housing spread out between different neighborhoods (Hyde Park, downtown and northern areas).
Overall impression: I really like Chicago. I liked it when I first started school research last year, and liked it even more after I visited. The students I met and talked to were all very friendly and happy with the school (even the students that didn't work for the Admissions Office), the academics are incredibly strong (even though somewhat tilted towards quant) and professors are easily available to students, and job prospects (even non-quant) are very good.

Harvard Business School
Pros: It's Harvard - the brand name is second to none. Very strong academics and professors that seem to enjoy interacting with students. Best general management focus in the world, which fits with my non-quant career goals. Very large, very influential alumni network. Sections help build community within a large class. Great location (after NYC, Boston is my favorite US city) and facilities.
Cons: Very inflexible curriculum. I'm not entirely sold on the benefit of 100% case study as a teaching approach. Culture is more competitive than many business schools.
Overall impression: Last year, Harvard was my top choice (big surprise there). I do have my concerns about the rigid curriculum and teaching approach, and about the culture (I can be just as competitive as the next guy, but find I learn better in a collaborative environment), but these are minor concerns since the students tend to be positive about use of the case method and the curriculum. While they acknowledge that each class does have people that live up to the HBS stereotype (interviewing people for study groups, ultra-competitive, etc.), they stress that these people are a small minority of the overall class. As I said in my last post, I would still love to go to HBS - the only reason I'm on the fence about applying is whether I think I have a realistic chance of being accepted.

So there you have it. As I continue my research on the rest of my list, I will post my thoughts. Also, since I have another 19 hour flight ahead of me this week, I'll try and put up a post about GMAT prep for all you first time applicants out there.

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