How did you decide which schools to apply to?

plskystks's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 557

As the title states, curious how people came up with their lists to apply for and perhaps what they'd recommend in my situation. I'm currently a private equity fuccboi associate looking to make the transition out of finance into a corp strategy / operations role. I had previously been focused on PE recruiting at MBA programs but given my situation doesn't require that, think it opens up the list of schools I should be considering.

Given I have limited time and bandwidth for applications, curious how people came up with lists of school to apply for and how you'd narrow it down if you were me. I'm currently thinking of throwing in round 2 apps for hbs / stanford / wharton for sure and deciding between some combination of kellogg / booth / sloan as well (no interest in columbia). Any thoughts on how to narrow this list to something manageable?

Comments (28)

Aug 18, 2017

I would certainly have your round 1 be the top schools (HBS/W/B) assuming good exam scores and decent undergrad experience. Out of curiosity, why not just apply to the top M7 schools? If I was just going to apply to 3, I would just hit the generic 3 by rankings. Tough part will be deciding once you have acceptance letter from 1+ schools. Booth has a lot to offer and everyone I have spoken to has had nothing but great things to say about the program. It is also a little easier to get into, friends sisters BF just got in and had an above average gmat score, but nothing too crazy, and average undergrad & previous employment stats (big 10 state school, non-semi target undergrad, non consulting/IB/PE/HF experience, I think corp fin or something of that nature). Just my 2 cents, haven't gone through the process myself yet.

Aug 18, 2017

Thanks for the response. I'm taking the gmat for the first time at the end of this month so unsure if I'll have a score good enough to apply round 1 nor have I put any thought into my application and getting recommendations which is why I'm shooting for round 2. If I score decently I might consider round 1?

I am aiming at top schools but realize it's a bit of a shitshow/luck based and I kind of hate my current gig, so don't want to end up in a situation where I apply only to H/S/W, get rejected, and am trapped at my fund for another year (would probably quit and end up not pursuing an MBA). I basically listed M7 besides for Columbia (not a fan of NYC) but still think that may be way too many apps to fill out?

Aug 22, 2017
Deal Team Six:

non-semi target

I love that phrasing

Aug 22, 2017

I couldn't specify as I know he didn't got to a target, but couldn't narrow it down further. I was trying to imply either or

Aug 18, 2017

i applied to all M7 in one round but it was a lot to handle and wouldn't really recommend it unless you have a lot of time to devote to the process. what's your background? a lot depends on your WE, GPA, GMAT. everyone wants to go to H/S but it may be not worth the time and money to apply there if you aren't a competitive applicant.

without knowing anything else, I'd probably apply to HBS, Stanford, Booth, Wharton, Kellogg. Unless you are very into tech and want an engineering heavy culture, I'd leave Sloan out (it's also a smaller class than Booth and Kellogg and therefore has a lower acceptance rate).

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Aug 18, 2017

I'm applying to 5 schools in R1 and it's a lot of work. I got the GMAT out of the way early (took the test in March) and started focusing on essays the day they came out. Even with lots of hard work, I'm sweating HBS's September 6th deadline. I wouldn't recommend more than 5 in a given round. Your gmat score will help you narrow.

My process was this. I knew I was applying to H/S/W. Then I thought about regionally where I'd be happiest and what schools were best for my goals (VC, Entrepreneurship, or Tech) and then took the second best school in those regions (Sloan and Haas). I ruled out Kellogg and Booth for R1 because I'm not a big fan of Chicago. In my opinion, Sloan gets a rep for an "engineering culture" but I've done a ton of student chats and networking and it seems to be really diverse, but the focus is more on innovation or entrepreneurship in all forms. Just keep this in mind. Sloan is a special place, but not for everyone, just depends on your goals. Do you want to do corp dev in a specific industry?

Also, it's good to think about things statistically knowing at a certain point it can be kind of a crapshoot. You can get awesome corp dev gigs from a lot of schools - it's not like PE where there's really only 2 or 3 options. So, for example, Stanford is harder to get into than Harvard. If you'd take Harvard over Stanford anyway, I would take it off your list. The application is a bitch and incredibly time consuming - requires a lot of introspection. The chances that you'd get into Stanford and not Harvard are minimal. Think about ways to hedge your bets and put yourself in the greatest position to execute on at least one of your schools.

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Aug 18, 2017

Thanks frank and lil monkey. I think you guys both raise good points. I'd take Stanford over any of the other schools but I don't realistically think I'll get in. Given they have a later round 2 date than the other schools i'm considering, was planning on throwing some shit together in one week and lobbing a hail mary app into the school after I submit my other apps. Definitely will be focusing my efforts on Wharton and HBS. I'm not a fan of Chicago either but given I don't have a strict industry focus like you do, feel like Franks suggestion may be best for me.

Aug 19, 2017

Out of curiosity, what was your hit rate with m7?

Aug 19, 2017

two admits, one WL

Aug 21, 2017
Frank Slaughtery:

i applied to all M7 in one round but it was a lot to handle and wouldn't really recommend it unless you have a lot of time to devote to the process. what's your background? a lot depends on your WE, GPA, GMAT.

Would you say that when people apply for MBA programs they should only apply to a few rather than a ton like 10+?

Aug 21, 2017

yes, i'd recommend doing a max of 4-5 in a single round

Aug 22, 2017

Thanks Frank. Quick question on Recommendation Letters. How did you manage obtaining that many recommendation letters? Some schools require 1 rec letter and some schools require 2...so that's about 7-14 rec letters. How many recommendors did you use? I'm currently going through the application process and have been advised to apply to 3-5 with dedicated focus on each.

Aug 22, 2017

i think all of the schools except sloan had the same generic recommender prompts so it wasn't too much of an ask of my two recommenders. may not be this way anymore as i applied a few years ago.

Aug 18, 2017
plskystks:

I'm currently a private equity fuccboi associate

lol

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Aug 21, 2017

I want to end up in Europe when I'm done my MBA so that definitely limits my top choices.

I'll be applying to LBS and Oxford on the strength of their finance placement. I'll apply to HEC Paris and Cambridge as they're good European school, but not exactly strong in finance. INSEAD is a no go as I only speak English.

Aug 21, 2017

Duke. Tim Cook went there.

Aug 21, 2017

EDIT: never mind. Already answered.

Best Response
Aug 22, 2017

For me, location wasn't a factor, I came to believe that regional differences are miniscule from the M7 programs. Yes, folks tend to skew towards local markets for opportunities, but a lot of that is self-selection. I was targeting consulting, so even more so on that front.

I applied to H/S/W/B in round 1. I cancelled an app to Kellogg at the last second but Kellogg/Columbia/MIT/Tuck/Duke were going to be my round 2 apps with UVA as a safety (warm weather please).

H/S were aspirational (though I ended up getting some traction at HBS). Wharton was just rankings. In hindsight, they weren't a great fit for me. I picked Booth as my #4 because of their flexible curriculum - the idea that I could take whatever I wanted from semester one was very attractive to me. I found that the flexibility was more valuable to me than I could have imagined - the fact that you can tailor your schedule in each quarter based on recruiting was a big plus. I ended up at Booth. I also like their 'data driven' approach. In practice, I don't think the school is nerdier or harder per say than other programs (unless you choose an ultra quantitative path with the flexible curriculum). I did enjoy, however, how professors really pushed you to use data in defending your arguments. I had one professor who has taught at multiple top programs comment that Booth is the only one they have taught at where students really challenge each others opinions rather than groupthinking through class discussion. This was also a pro in terms of my classroom experience.

If you're wondering, I wanted to try a school outside of Boston (excluding HBS) which is why MIT wasn't in my first round cut. Columbia never resonated with me, I didn't enjoy their recruiting events. I won't share why publicly because I think they're a great school but their admissions staff blew it for me. I would have gone if I didn't land at another M7 but it was my last choice in the tier.

I had decided that if I get into H or S I would go (I didn't think I'd get in to both, but HBS is more rigid so I would have taken Stanford). If I got in to Wharton or Booth, I wasn't sure which I would accept but decided to base it on admit weekend. Outside of that, I prioritized M7>Tuck>All Else. The recruiting opportunities really do change between tiers.

I think 4-5 per round is the sweet spot. Once you put the legwork in for round 1, R2 is much easier. But if you're a little more focused going in it makes the decision easier when you start getting to admit weekends. It would suck to get into 3 M7 schools but have to miss one or two admit weekends.

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Aug 22, 2017

Wow thanks for posting that - you had a very well thought out process. Just curious -- any reason why you cancelled Kellogg?

Aug 22, 2017
plskystks:

Wow thanks for posting that - you had a very well thought out process. Just curious -- any reason why you cancelled Kellogg?

It was literally in the last day of applications that I dropped it in round 1. I ultimately decided that I wouldn't take Kellogg over any other round 1 app, but there were definitely round 2 apps that I would have thought twice about before going to Kellogg. I didn't want to end up in a position where I had been accepted to Kellogg but wanted to wait through round 2 to see where else I'd get in. The four schools I applied too were the ones I felt comfortable signing with no hesitation.

There were a lot of personal reasons that Kellogg wasn't a perfect school for me. Right or wrong - I thought it played too much to my strengths (high fiving groupmates instead of focusing more on analysis and approach). I'd prefer to be closer to a city center, living in Evanston wasn't appealing. Having been to a non-target undergrad, being associated with a top 10 undergrad program was a plus for me, though certainly not a deal breaker. There were other reasons too that I would have taken into consideration for round 2 if I made it in to Kellogg and any other round 2 targets. I just decided round 1 wasn't the time to be deliberating that particular program for me.

For a little while I wished I had applied a few more schools to leverage potential scholarship offers (I didn't get one) but what I largely found from those I met in application season was that Booth tended to win most of the cross offers from Kellogg and they didn't really offer a lot of money to sway people from Evanston, so it ended up being the right move. I'm sure there are exceptions, I don't mean this to be a "booth vs kellogg" post, but that was my observation.

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Aug 22, 2017

Had a similar experience with CBS ad com people.

Aug 22, 2017

Well, what's the honest answer? Perhaps we can work with that.

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Aug 22, 2017
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Aug 22, 2017
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