Watch out, Johnson, here I come! [Johnson 2016]

Johnson-Cornell-Logo_webI’m sure exactly none of you will be surprised to hear that I’ve put my deposit down for Cornell Johnson!

Even though it was painfully obvious from my recent posts that I had fallen hard for Johnson, the decision was not an easy one to make. As I was considering all the pros and cons, I was also reaping the benefits of living close to UCLA and being able to attend every yield event Anderson offered. I had lunch with Dean Rob Weiler and coffee with my first year buddy. I also attended the Anderson Women’s Business Connection conference, a reception for fellowship recipients and Admit Preview Day. I was especially taken with Dean Judy Olian’s comments at the women’s conference. She was very frank about the challenges women face in business and went as far to say that women can have it all–but not at the same time. Basically, she said that a woman can’t be aggressively furthering her career and having kids simultaneously–one or the other has to take priority. She tried to underline this by pointing out that Julia Stewart (the keynote speaker) had her first child at age 42. It was all very intriguing and I admired Dean Olian for speaking a hard truth, even if it was a debatable one.

What I’m trying to say is that my decision was very personal . It was more about cultural fit and long term plans beyond my two years of business school and less about reputation, the quality of career services and trying to determine which school was “better.” I know it gets really old hearing this over and over again throughout the entire bschool application process, but I really tried to determine what was “better” for me than what was objectively “better.” Okay, now the word “better” sounds and looks really weird. I’m going to stop.

I did receive a Forte Fellowship from Johnson, which was FANTASTIC news. I was so excited! I am really looking forward to getting more involved in the Forte Foundation.

I thought applying and waiting for decisions was hard, but now comes the really terrible part: moving. (Moving–how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.) I’ve done it many times throughout my years, including a couple cross-country ones, and no matter how much I try to plan and prepare (and, yes, I do a LOT of planning and preparing), it always ends up being an excruciating process. And this time I’m moving with a car, which I’ve never done before. I’ve got about 3-4 months to prep everything, which sounds like enough time, but also seems like not enough at all. Here’s to hoping for a relatively smooth transition to Ithaca!

Johnson interview [Hello, Ithaca!]

Johnson AtriumI completed my interview at Johnson, and it was an overall wonderful experience. Maybe it’s because Ithaca is in the middle of nowhere and basically everyone is traveling a good distance in order to interview on campus, but I felt very much cared for (almost coddled) during the entire time I was there by both adcom and the students, which was very nice 🙂

It hit a low of 12 degrees during my stay, but it wasn’t too bad. I grew up in super cold weather, so I wasn’t too put off by it. But this trip did have at least one “first-ever” for me: I brushed snow off my car for the first time in my life. I did brush snow off my parents’ cars when I was a kid, but I did it for fun (why is everything fun when you’re a kid??). When I woke up after my first night in Ithaca and went to my car in the morning, I stopped in my tracks when I saw it. I seriously had a moment of real confusion: “What? Is that snow on my car? Where did it come from???” The rental didn’t come with an ice scraper, so I ended up using my gloved hand to clear my windows…and I laughed at myself the entire time.

Anyway, January is probably the worst time to visit Ithaca, but I could still see the charm of the town. I did not get nearly as much stuff done as I wanted to, but that’s okay. I did get to check out Ithaca Falls, which was so very cool to see all frozen and full of huge icicles. And I was wrong–there is immediate access to pho in Ithaca at Saigon Kitchen, and it was pretty damn good!

Johnson students continued to impress me during my visit. I was able to form (what I felt were) actual bonds with some I spoke with, which is much more than I’ve experienced with students at other schools. I think my interview went fine–the questions were all pretty typical and expected. Regular prep (resume walk through, career goals, why MBA, why Johnson, leadership experiences) will help you with this one. My interview was with yet another amazing and sincere second year student. Altogether, and maybe for the first time, I experienced what all adcom members love to talk about: Fit. The fit was there.

It’s pretty nerve-racking to say (write) that out loud, really. I haven’t even been admitted yet…and with my scholarship offer from Anderson, I’d need more than just an admit to make enrolling a viable option. And competition is fierce. Decisions are scheduled to come out next Wednesday (Feb 5), but from what adcom folks have been saying it seems like it’s not a 100% guarantee they’ll make that deadline. It seems like the insane cold created a bit of delay in the process. I think they probably will make Feb 5, though, and if not, it will be pretty close.

I also sat in on a Sustainable Global Enterprise course while I was there, and it was amazing. It totally took me back to my college liberal arts days with a lot of theoretical discussion, critical thinking and weighing various social impact factors. The professor also struck me as both enthusiastic and entertaining.

I’m kind of sad that I need to stay anonymous right now, actually, because I’d love to publicly thank the Johnson students I talked to in person, on the phone and over email. I’m not sure if I just lucked out with those of you I ended up meeting, but you guys are pretty great.

Things I want to do in Ithaca

operation-iraqi-stephen_day-1_photo-20.jpg

Camo pant suits: The Next Big Thing

My trip to Ithaca to interview for admission to Johnson is coming up fast. I’m suddenly being faced with a lot of new questions, like:

  • My one pair of winter gloves are now 8 years old and have a big hole in the thumb. It’s basically a thumb-less mitten. Should I buy a new pair just for this trip? Is it worth it? My hands won’t get that cold, right? Right?
  • What kind of business clothes do women wear in 12 degree weather? Pumps and skirts are out of the question…does someone make all-terrain business wear? Should I start a company that specializes in that? Camo pantsuits…hmm. Damn, Stephen Colbert and Brooks Brothers already beat me to it. There goes my million dollar idea.
  • Are farmers markets held in winter in Ithaca? (The answer is yes).
  • Is there a way I can see waterfalls and gorges in January without freezing my ass off? (The answer to this one is also “yes”–TripAdvisor says I can view Ithaca Falls from the safety of my car.)
  • Will my cheap hotel room be haunted by a ghost? Just kidding, I don’t believe in ghosts. Or do I…

Aside from visiting the Ithaca farmers market and waterfalls (which I’m told are an absolute must), a few other items I’m thinking about doing are:

  • Explore the Cornell campus as much as possible (I’ve never been, but I’ve always heard that it’s crazy beautiful)
  • The Johnson Museum of Art has also been strongly suggested to me. I’m not a big museum person, but if I can’t take the cold I might find myself wandering through here to relax and recuperate (free admission!)
  • Eat somewhere in the Commons (Moosewood, maybe?).

In the end, though, I might just be too anxious about my interview and/or too wussy to brave the cold to get these things done. I won’t be there for very long, so we’ll see what I’ll be able to fit in!

I’ve been contacting Johnson student ambassadors to learn more about the program, and, hands down, they have given me the best impression all around compared to student ambassadors I’ve spoken with at other schools. First of all, they all responded to me (and promptly), and second, they all gave me very thoughtful, thorough and honest responses. And by “honest” responses, I mean their messages did not solely consist of, “Johnson is the BEST! It’s perfect for you! Whatever your desires are, Johnson can fulfill them better than all the other business schools out there!” I mean, I completely understand why they sound like this (they are ambassadors, after all), but it was actually nice to hear a student share some challenges s/he was facing. Paradoxically, it made me feel better about Cornell.

Johnson interview invite

Bill Nye the Science Guy, '77 Cornell alum (ok, engineering, not business, but still! It's Bill!)

Bill Nye the Science Guy, ’77 Cornell alum (ok, engineering, not business, but still! It’s Bill!)

I’ve been invited to interview at Cornell! And I’ve decided to fly to Ithaca to do the interview in person. I haven’t flown anywhere yet to interview on campus for business school, but I decided to do so for Johnson for a few reasons:

Skype = Blech

The only alternative to interviewing on campus was interviewing via Skype. So far, I’ve been able to do all my off-campus interviews in person with an adcom member or alum in my city, so I haven’t had to face the prospect of interviewing on my computer, which is pretty unappealing. So, in my back of my mind, I knew that if this situation ever came up, I’d look into flying out.

It’s actually affordable

I looked up flights with the full expectation of seeing a $500+ price tag and was shocked to find a flight from California to Syracuse, NY for $250. $250!! And this was with less than two weeks until the flight! When I saw that, I knew that I needed to take that option.

Things are different

I’m in a different position now compared to when I started this whole application process last fall. I have one solid admit under my belt (Anderson), but I want more options, and those options have greatly dwindled. Johnson, Fuqua and Ross are all I have left–literally. There’s no round 3 or reapplication for me. For round 1 apps,I was blundering around and really unsure of my chances at various schools. I was basically taking stabs in the dark. But now I have a much better understanding of my candidacy, so my path is much clearer and I can make more distinct decisions.

I need $$

Since I have a good scholarship offer from UCLA, I’d really need a fellowship offer from another school for me to be fully able to consider taking it. I know Cornell especially wants applicants to come to campus (I think it might be similar to Tuck’s stance–since they’re a small community in the middle of nowhere, they want people to know what they’re getting themselves into, perhaps?) and I really need to make as strong a showing as I can, not just for admission, but for scholarship consideration.

Ithaca: I need to know!

This trip has added value for me for reasons unrelated to business school. I picture myself living in the New England area for the long term. I’ve always been attracted to cities like Ithaca and other spots including Burlington (Vermont), Portland (Maine) and Providence (Rhode Island). But I actually know very little about them, and it’s time I started finding out. I’m sure I’ll be stressed out about my interview during my short time in Ithaca, but I’m going to do my best to get to know what I can of the town while I’m there.

Which MBA Programs I’m applying to and why

Here’s my list:

  • Stanford
  • Yale
  • Berkeley
  • Cornell
  • Northwestern
  • UCLA
  • USC
Beautiful Ithaca, NY

Beautiful Ithaca, NY

Yup. Seven schools. Seven. A ton, right? It just goes to show exactly how unsure I am of what schools will admit me. There’s lots of reasons not to admit me. And lots of reasons TO admit me. I just have no idea who will think what of me, because I am a big weirdo…at least when it comes to bschool applicants.

I currently live in SoCal, so deciding to apply to UCLA and USC were no-brainers and a matter of practicality. The other schools I narrowed down to for location and financial reasons…or a combination of both. In some of these locations, I have potential access to housing from family that would save me a ton of money. And I do not want to live in a big city for business school. I know that’s totally illogical and I should be wanting to live in a big city for career opportunities and recruitment fairs and whatnot. But I am just over living in big cities for now (and paying the tons of money on rent and food and everything else that comes along with it). I know these schools are not in the boonies or anything (well, maybe Cornell), but I just did not want to be in NYC, Boston or Philadelphia. After those considerations, I moved on to evaluating the actual programs.

Stanford, Yale, Berkeley and Northwestern all stuck out to me for their well-known nonprofit programs. And, for one reason or another, I have positive associations with all of them from looking into schools for undergrad or taking extra classes/doing summer programs there in the past. Does that have anything to do with the quality of their MBA programs? Probably not much. I just like the schools overall and could picture myself on their campuses.

After talking with alumni, I especially liked how Berkeley and Yale both seemed to pride themselves on admitting nontraditional applicants. A Berkeley alum even told me that the MBAs there tend to be more “granola.” Now, I am quite sure these people are nowhere near hippies, but the mere fact that they are happy to share that fact means something.

And that brings me to Cornell. I first started thinking about applying there because I’ve always heard so much about how Ithaca is so beautiful. And I am nature-starved right now (in case you couldn’t tell), so that sounded really, really appealing. I didn’t know much about their programs until I spoke to a rep at a recent Forte Forum. The rep was from Cornell’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. I know that schools like to make a big fuss over how diverse they are, but I actually believed Cornell after hearing the rep speak about it. I’m no minority (Well, in the business school sense. Except that I’m a woman, I guess. I can’t believe I have to say that), but I really appreciate the efforts of that office. And even though I don’t have the impression that Cornell has a full and robust nonprofit program, I really liked how the rep went about explaining options to me. Other school reps I’ve spoken with are just clearly uninterested in my nonprofit background and make minimal effort to show how their school can accommodate my interests (I’m looking at you, UCLA), so that’s how Cornell won me over.

Overall, a very scientific process, as you can see! A lot of it was gut instinct, past experiences and what I happen to feel like doing at this point in my life. Stanford, Yale and Berkeley are at the top of my “wish list,” but, honestly, I think I can get what I need out of any of the schools I’m applying to, so here’s hoping to at least one “You’re in!”.