After transferring colleges multiple times throughout my undergraduate career then feeling coerced into enrolling in a graduate program the semester following graduation – not to mention amassing a precarious amount of student loan debt along the way (See Thought #5: 3 Ways to Manage Student Loan Debt) – I’m not done with school yet.
Perhaps it’s from binge watching episodes of House of Lies and enjoying the process of building a small business, but my heart is set on attending a prestigious business school and earning an MBA (Master of Business Administration), and I’ve started to shop.
As many of us prepare for college application season, I wanted to share my journey finding a college that aligns with my goals and aspirations in the hopes that something said will inspire and assist you through choosing a college that is going to work best for you.
My first step towards being more bold yet shrewd moving forward with my academic pursuits was attending a Harvard Business School (HBS) recruitment event at the LinkedIn offices in downtown San Francisco. I’ll go over my impressions as well as some of my key takeaways from this event for Thought #13.
HBS is LinkedIn
It’s no accident HBS chose Linkedin, arguably the most popular social media platforms that is dedicated to professional network building, as the location for their recruitment event. The message comes across loud and clear: HBS, and Harvard more specifically, is one of best known and well connected institutions of higher education in the world – you’d be lucky to get in.
It also happened to be the case that a majority of the alumni that constituted the panel held executive-level positions at LinkedIn, and other prominent tech companies.Panelists shared memory after memory of how HBS introduced them to celebrities of industry.
One panelist, a recent graduate, shared how Elon Musk, as a token of his appreciation, brought a fleet of Tesla vehicles to HBS so students could test drive them after working through a case study on the company.
Other panelist spoke at length about how easy it is to get linked in with faculty outside of the classroom and develop Independent projects and customize the second year of the program to align with your interests. Collaboration and relationship building were recurring themes at the event.
When you are shopping around for programs or colleges, it’s helpful to know what your experience as member of your chosen community might look like. I learned that HBS offers high-level connections and incredible access to diverse industries, which might be what I’m looking for. Still, it’s hard to know exactly what the right school is until you’ve seen a few. Once you have an idea of the type of community you’re excited to join, finding the right fit becomes easier.
The Jargon is Real
While waiting for the presentation to begin, one of the participant leans in confidently and asks, “So what do you do?” I explain that I’m an educator, to which he responds, “I work at EY.” Noticing the puzzled look on my face, he continues, “you know, Ernst & Young,” as though it were common knowledge. Overhearing us, another participant joins our conversation with, “My girlfriend works at EY! I’m at Mercer in the Innovation Department…”
They continued to converse for a couple of minutes until the presentation began, then the panelists started mentioning companies and industries I’m not familiar with, and throwing around acronyms like “PE” (Private Equity) and “VC” (Venture Capital), which aren’t terms I encounter on a daily basis.
As a long-time student and educator, I’ve experienced firsthand how challenging and alienating the process of acquiring a new Discourse can be; however, I believe the best way to start is to read.
If you’re applying for college for the first time, I recommend reading the news as often as makes sense for you. With apps like Twitter, Instagram, and more recently Snapchat, it’s easier than ever to access the news. If you’re applying for graduate school, I recommend kicking it up a notch and reading popular journals or magazines related to your field. Journals are a great way to survey trends in an industry and stay updated on current jargon.
HBS is Looking for…
The characteristics that HBS seeks in candidates for admission vibed with me because I’m actively trying to cultivate similar habits both in myself and with my students. According to HBS, top candidates share the following characteristics:
- analytical appetite
- engaged community citizenship
- a habit of leadership
Similarly, every college and university has an unique mission and set values, which should be compatible with your own mission and values, which is why I recommend going online and doing your homework and arranging meetings with colleges – nothing beats interacting with real members of a desired campus community.
Something I (probably) wouldn’t have been able to do online is interact with other prospects and discuss my concerns with alumni. In that regard, the HBS admission event was a great opportunity to learn about and see examples of the types of individuals that are admitted to the MBA program, and an invaluable way to begin acclimating to the foreign world of Business.
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