Friday, April 12, 2013

Some thoughts on how to choose a school

Darden is buzzing in April with second years excited to graduate, first years looking forward to their summer internships and newly admitted students trying to decide if Darden is the right choice. I have been speaking to some prospective students about why Darden was a good choice for me and how everyone's choice is very personal to their circumstances and personality. Here is my framework (can you tell that I am going into a consulting internship?) on how to decide on which school to choose -

  1. Will it help me achieve my career goal?  Some incoming students know exactly what they want to do after they graduate.  If you are one of them, go to the school that is strongest in your field.  By "strong", I mean if they are a core recruiting school for your dream industry/company and if the school has a strong and responsive alumnae base in that industry.  I however, was not one of those who knew exactly what I wanted to do after business school but had a squishy general idea of where I wanted to be.  I  benefited greatly from the fact that Darden is a general management school that could give me exposure to a variety of industries.      
  2. Is it geographically where I want to be? The geographical location of a school is crucial if you have a strong preference for where you want to be.  It is just so much easier to recruit if you are near the companies that you are targeting. At the same time, it is important to think about location in terms of the two years you are going to be at school. Do you need to be near family? Would you be better off in a city or in an urban location?  I personally, wanted to be in place where you have fantastic weather, good food and great community but also quick access to a large city (DC!).   
  3. Go to the school that gives you money! Surprisingly, this turned out to be quite controversial when I was discussing this post with friends.  Clearly, you should choose a school that is a good fit for you and what you want to do. But I do feel that graduating with little or no debt opens up a world of possibilities not only in your professional life but also in your personal life (when to have kinds, when to buy a house etc).   At the end of the day, all the top 10 schools have great alumnae, wonderful professors and fantastic community. Graduating without debt from any of them will just make life easier.
  4. Do I 'fit'? Though I discuss it last, I think this is the most important criteria for picking a school.  Fit is when you know you want to belong to this community, when you know you can learn from it and when you realize that it would be an honor to give back to this community when the time comes.  

So best of luck to all incoming students! And you really will not go wrong wherever you go as long as you fit!

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