Pruning down my school list!

Decisions, decisions! It was unbelievably hard for me to pick exactly which schools I should apply to. I had very happily assumed that my consultant would take care of this for me, unfortunately (and appropriately), he refused to make the decision for me based on my ‘chances of getting in’. I am usually a very decisive person, however this situation was made complicated simply because I am also very adaptable. I can pretty much live in cities or in the suburbs, I can handle hot and cold, I can do the case study method and the lecture method. I do have preferences of course, but if I see something else I like about the program, that instinct kicks in and all my perfectly calculated nuances go right outside the window.

I finally decided to stop meandering back and forth and make a scientific decision instead. Hello Excel sheet. I loosely based it on the one made by MBA Girl Journey, but I put my own spin on it. 

Took me so much longer than you would imagine.
Took me so much longer than you would imagine.

So I basically started by taking the rankings and kind of aggregating all of them to group schools into three classes. I removed the top 5 at the get go (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth and Kellogg) and grouped the remaining in the 5 – 10, 10 – 15 and 15 – 20 category. I then assigned weights to them assuming that the lower ranked ones would be less competitive and thereby easier to get into. With that done, I needed to figure out what mattered the most to me.

In India, even if some of the larger schools are unknown, people have generally heard of the Ivies. This is an important distinction to make since I know I want to come back to India 2 – 3 years post an MBA. So the Ivies got multiplied by a factor of 2 just for that reason alone. I know my interests lie in consulting and although all the top schools act as feeders to the industry, I just highlighted the ones that seemed to have a better conversion rate. It was kind of difficult to do this objectively since the data is all over the place, but I tried. Next, location. I went to college for undergrad at this university town and I absolutely loved it. You could walk around everywhere, have the typical college experience, you would bump into 10 people you know just about anywhere and the feeling of camaraderie was just awesome. I decided that I would like to live on a campus town and not in a big city. This also led to a preference for slightly smaller class sizes (but this wasn’t an actual factor). Finally, the must subjective of them all… fit. I seriously wish I had time to visit at least some of these schools, but I just have to go by the stuff I read and hear from people. I spoke to a LOT of people from Yale and I love the sound of it. Darden is the one I’m not too sure about fit wise, but I have mailed a few current students and recent alumni to ask them about it, let’s see what I hear.

With all the factors in place, the maximum possible score was a 10 and as you can see, Yale ticked all the boxes for me. I have a really good feeling about Yale since it is ranked right where I feel like I would have a competitive chance. For me, it has that prestige of a Harvard or an Oxford, you know that old world charm and sometimes I can’t even imagine brown skinned me playing croquet or whatever on those green lawns. Luckily, that’s only my mental imagery and Yale is a beautiful mix of the old and the new. It is absolutely my number one choice. Next comes Tuck which by all accounts is a really great school. Again, it has that Dartmouth Ivy thing going for it apart from the obvious benefits… and their consulting stats look pretty good. Last two are Johnson and Darden, but I think I’m going to replace Darden with Said (Oxford) as I do want to throw a European school into the mix and I am only applying to four schools. I’m a little put off by the fact that Said is a 1 year program and I will barely squeak past the required 2 years of work experience, but consulting seems to be one of their strongholds and the Oxford brand is inimitable. 

This is what it looks like in order of priority:

  1. Yale
  2. Tuck
  3. Johnson
  4. Darden/Said

I think this is the final list, but I will probably run them by my consultant and see what he thinks of them. I would love to hear you guys’ opinions. Bring them in!


29 thoughts on “Pruning down my school list!

  1. Great list! Sooo glad Yale made it! 🙂 Its a fantastic school!

    You might also want to take a look at specific concentrations a school offers/ is best known for. For instance Yale is a great school for general management, entrepreneurship (every school seems to jumping on that bandwagon) and has a long pedigree in social enterprises. Classifying schools according to their strengths goes a long way in ensuring you are among the right set of people ( ie, in the line of work you want to be in).
    Hope this helps you add a few more schools to you list! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gotcha! But after speaking to a bunch of Yale students, I’m hearing that only about 10% of the class is involved in the social sector. Apparently, a lot of people do come in with that kind of background only to leave it behind in favour of the private sector.


    1. Hi Farhan. Just wanted to start off by saying that my reasons for picking schools are probably very different from yours. LBS is an amazing school, probably comparable to Harvard outside of the U.S, and that is exactly why I didn’t apply. I don’t think I would be a competitive applicant there at this point of time because I am on the lower end of the spectrum work experience wise and traditionally, the average applicant is much older in European schools. The same is the case with INSEAD, way out of my league plus about 5 – 6 years of work experience is the average if I’m not mistaken.

      Said is a younger school, with a big brand powering it. It’s in the top 10 for European programs but I feel like it’s somewhat within my reach. That is my rationale for picking it over other schools in Europe. I’m sorry this explanation was probably not what you were looking for but I hope it explains my choices.


      1. Hi,
        It’s exactly what I was looking for. Your rationale is very valid. Both INSEAD and LBS are very competitive and require that 5-6 years of work-experience.I recently spoke to a current student from SAID, if you are looking at coming back to India Oxford recall is much higher in all industries. And it definitely has the old school charm you are looking for. A brown skinned playing a croquet is not unheard of at Oxford 🙂


      2. Just had a look at your blog, good luck with your applications to INSEAD and LBS (of course, Said as well). All great schools!

        Yes, definitely. I would consider Judge too but they require a minimum of 3 years of work experience which I don’t have. Brand value for Oxford and Cambridge is super high in India… I think it’s a throwback from the British raj!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done. You have overcome a significant hurdle (I was still juggling some schools right up to the finish line last season – not a great strategy!).

    Are these just your R1 schools or the total, i.e. you might apply to some more in R2? Have a think about that as you might want to focus on a mix of ‘stretch’ and ‘safety’ schools in R1 and then adjust your R2 strategy accordingly.

    Just thinking. A lot of people got unexpected good news in R1 and really aimed for the stars in R2 – those top 5 schools could still enter the mix… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes, I can’t imagine leaving that to the very end! Scary thought. These are all the schools I plan on applying to, hopefully all of them in Round 1. I’m considering applying to Tuck Early Decision though. I’m not sure if that will be too many for a single round, but I really want to get them in as early as I can assuming of course, my application is at the quality I want it to be.

      Oh wow, that would be such an idyllic situation 🙂 Do you mean that they only applied to the stars in R2 after hearing the R1 results or were they planning to apply anyway? If it’s the former, that wouldn’t allow for much time to even get the essays written would it? I don’t know I feel like I would be happy if I got into any one of these programs. I would probably not apply to any of the stars, except maaaybe Sloan/Stanford 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it was a case of having a mix of stretch and safety schools in R1 and, seeing as they got interviews at the stretch schools, being even more ambitious in R2. Also, the time difference between European and U.S. schools (some with two entrant classes per year) worked out well for one of them.

        I agree it is an ideal situation, but I should be careful saying “a lot” of people experienced this. I would say it is a small but encouraging number. Although, I commonly hear of people who get interviews at HBS or Wharton but not at, say, Tuck or Darden. I’m not saying they are better schools but the rankings are only one resource for making your decision.

        And, as an applicant looking for a global career (Asia, Latin America, bring it on!) I totally agree with putting a few Ivy names in the mix! 🙂


      2. Ahhh, okay that’s useful information to have but until then, I’ll only cross that bridge when it comes. Woohoo global career seekers! I would personally love to work in Europe and Asia. I feel like staying in the U.S for too long would get boring real fast.


  3. Interesting list of schools and rationale behind choosing them. Where do you plan of working post-MBA. The reason I ask is that if you plan on staying in the US to work, the concept of Ivy is not necessarily the be all and end all.

    If you plan on going into consulting, you may want to dig deeper into the stats. For example, consulting is growing at Yale SOM but it’s definitely not a consulting powerhouse whereas Darden, Fuqua and Ross definitely are. Similarly for Johnson, it does OK in consulting but more people tend to trend towards investment banking due to its location. Also look deeper than rankings. So Yale is currently ranked a bit lower but with Ted Snyder as their dean they are making a charge up the rankings. Therefore they are really emphasizing good GMAT and GPA scores. Also even though it is slightly lower ranked, the Yale name actually means their admission rate is still very competitive.

    The last thing to add would be your age. As a Tuckie about to start this fall, I would love for you to apply but I would caution that some schools like Tuck, Said, and others trend older. For the Class of 2015 at Tuck, it’s around 27-28. I have met a bunch of my classmates already and most are of that age. So you will really need to nail why MBA and why now for the adcoms to overlook your lack of work experience and lower age. If they feel you are really going to add something different and that your work experience is short but incredibly rich, then you have a shot.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Domotron! I want to start off by saying, love your blog and your comments, you always have something insightful to say. Post MBA, I would be happy to return to India if I did find a great role or work for around 1 – 2 years in the States and try to network my way back to India (perhaps within the same company). That would actually be ideal because all of the MBB have offices in India. But the end game is to come back.

      I know that Yale is climbing up the rankings pretty quick, but I have a solid GPA and my GMAT isn’t too shabby either. My scores are the least of my worries. Yale applicants do tend to be on the younger side and this is definitely to my advantage. I know it isn’t a consulting powerhouse, but the other factors really overweigh that for me. Same is the case with Johnson.

      As for Said and Darden, I know it’s a toss up… that one is something I need to think about some more honestly. I can probably only decide once I speak to more people from both schools. I knew Tuckies were generally on the older side, but damn! I was really excited about applying and now I’m second guessing myself. My work experience is rich, but I’m not sure if it’s THAT rich if you know what I mean. In your opinion, do you think I would have a better shot at Haas? I mean with my limited experience, age is going to be a problem in most schools so I have to pick my battles.

      But, congratulations on Tuck! It’s a great school from everything I hear 🙂


      1. Haas has a lower admit rate than Tuck but have very similar cultures. Think of it as a Tuck but in California.

        As for your experience, just make sure you really highlight what you have achieved in a short amount of time. If you can demonstrate you are mature, have a legit reason for getting an MBA, and can address why it an MBA makes sense for you at your current age you will be fine!


  4. Ahhh Berkeley was so close!!!

    Great analysis. Picking schools is honestly way harder than people realize. I struggled with being decisive and objective when making my selections as well, but the most important is being able to look at your list and definitively say “i love this school and would love the opportunity to go here” about each one then you have made a good decision.

    That’s also great that your first choice, Yale is very favorable to younger applicants!! Good luck


    1. I’m still tossing it around, but I love the sound of Tuck! I’ve always wanted to learn how to ski 😀 But then again, it would be super cool to go to school with someone like you who’s been there for the whole ride!


      1. Yeah I strongly considered Tuck as well before eliminating it due to weather and my competitiveness. Tuck was the one East coast school that really made me step back and think “Do i really hate cold THAT much??” Haha.. But unfortunately yes.

        Berkeley is actually only 3 hours from Lake Tahoe, a really popular ski resort, and via student blogs, I know cohorts take at least one trip there every year so you could still learn 😉


  5. As a California native, I think Berkeley should get bonus points for location! Great blog, and I love the write up of the choice! Really, really strong. How are you going to decide between R1 and R2? Are you going to adjust your strategy if R1 doesn’t meet your expectations?


    1. I know, but Berkeley comes with a strong hippie vibe and I am the total opposite! 😛 Thank you, it was the result of a lot of hair-pulling and stress. Your last two questions actually inspired a blog post, so I’m going to get into it there. Thanks for asking!


  6. This is wonderful – coming as someone with a science background I can appreciate your quantitative analysis. The only thing I disagree with is Charlottesville being green and Durham being red!


  7. Hi ! I have an honest question. Could you briefly explain how you concluded that McCombs is not a good school for consulting ??

    Thanks !


    1. Hi Sid,

      First off, I want to put out a loud disclaimer that this wasn’t a 100% scientific analysis and was probably subject to some subjective bias from me. But with that being said, I concluded that McCombs isn’t the right school for consulting for me primarily because from what I could tell, the number of students that were able to do a career switch into consulting post MBA at McCombs wasn’t as large as some of the other schools I was comparing to. I have also heard (anecdotal evidence) that the MBB hire just about 1-3 MBAs each every year, so the odds don’t look too good. They also don’t seem to be very forthcoming about employment statistics which makes it harder to judge. The combination of all these factors led me to decide that McCombs isn’t the right school for me. Plus, I don’t see myself living in Texas for very long! I strongly encourage you to conduct your own research though, there may have been stuff that I missed.


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