Friday, March 29, 2013

Decisions, decisions. . .

So, I decided to put my visit reviews on hold momentarily to write down/think out my decision. In the beginning (well, when I started this blog), I thought going to an MBA program in 2013 was out of reach. I guess it still may be as i havent yet been accepted to any of these schools that i am about to mention. However, I feel good enough about my odds of admission that I am starting to weigh them against one another.

New Orleans!!!!!
Student managed fund AND equity research program
Able to do a regular corporate finance track and an energy finance track in 1 degree
Multiple international trips as part of curriculum

Most expensive school with smallest median salary & bonus
Farthest away from family and friends

Highest ranked program of the 3
Best on campus recruiting
Best salary numbers
Seemingly large amount of financial aid available, even in second year if I didn't get it at first
Closest to family & friends
Cheap cost of living

Very high percentage of foreign students (over 50%)
Not a great location
Without any type of aid, could still be over 100k in debt

Least expensive of the 3
Salary numbers comparable to Purdue & better than Tulane
Very highly ranked accounting program with opportunity to double focus accounting & finance
Cheap cost of living
Also close to family & friends

Location: least appealing of places I've visited. Not as far away as Iowa but not as much going on
Less financial aid available

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My visit to Ilinois. . .

University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign
Poets & Quants rank: 43
Mean GMAT: 650
Tuition & fees: $34,482

I had not originally considered Illinois when i went through my first selection process, I probably should have. I actually found the program at an online MBA fair held by the economist. I wasn't sure ahead of time which schools would be there, it turns out Illinois and Purdue were both there, I talked to the admissions people there and set up visits to both schools. Illinois is actually a lot closer to me than I had originally thought, only about 4 hours away. The visit was on a friday 10am CT, so I woke up early, drove there, did the visit and drove back.

Campus was very nice although totally in the middle of nowhere. of campuses I've been to, I think it reminded me most of Indiana. There isn't much city around it at all, some residential stuff and then BAM! you're on campus. With that being said, the college of business is in, from the schools I've been to so far, the most impressive building I've seen. From the entrance, it looks like the rest of the buildings on campus, but its an open atrium design from the inside. All of the schools I've been to have impressive buildings, that one is just the most impressive so far. During the visit we talked with current students, had a mock lecture from one of their marketing professors and learned about their in depth consulting program for students.

From a program standpoint, they have a very large option as far as finance classes go. They are very well known in both accounting and finance and MBA's take classes with the other masters programs. Another strong point would be their consulting program. You can actually start consulting in your first semester in school and do it all 4 semesters of the program. That is going to be a huge advantage in looking for internships and work. Another huge pro is that they actually have some on campus recruiting. Most schools I'm looking at have little or none (with the exception of Wisconsin and maybe Ohio State).

The most obvious one is a comparative lack of financial aid. It seems, from the discussion I had, like they spread it around so a lot of people get something, but its less than some others. Also, although they have a pretty large consulting program, the students doing the consulting don't get paid.

I liked Illinois. I am definitely going to be applying there in the fall (assuming I don't go to one of my 'last minute' options). I feel like they are super focused on the most important part of an MBA: getting a job afterwards. I think that if I went there, I would definitely get a good job and at the end of the day, that is what is most important. . .

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My visit to Wisconsin

Wisconsin school of business
Poets & Quants rank: 26
Average GMAT: 675
Tuition & fees: $31,221

Wisconsin was my first out of state MBA visit. I visited on a designated "preview day" with a lot of other people. We started with a breakfast and met a LOT of current students. One of the things that really impressed me were the number of current students who attended the event. I would estimate the number around 15-20 over the course of the day. Wisconsin being also an 8 hour drive away, I had every intention of leaving after the tour and heading back home. I ended up staying quite a bit later for the meet & greet session, it was a blast.

One of the things that impressed me the most about Wisconsin was how sharp everyone there is. Not just the staff, but students. In visiting schools, I can usually get a gauge of how smart I am in relation to the people there. Hands down Wisconsin is the top program I will visit from an overall intelligence perspective.

As I stated above, this is a smart group of people. Depending on the school, I have felt about average or above average intelligence-wise. Here I definitely wouldn't be the smartest guy in the room, and I think that would allow me to really grow. Madison is a great city for young professionals. It houses the college but is also the state capitol and it has a lot going on. It definitely isn't just a college town. Recruiting is a huge pro as well. Wisconsin probably has the best recruiting of anyplace I visited. Their placement stats reflect this in that they have the highest reported median salary of anyplace I have looked at. Financially, in a vacuum, they have the best combination of cost and future salary of anyplace I am looking at (not taking into account scholarships).

Well if you've read this far, you know I'm rather bullish on Wisconsin, but there are a few cons. The biggest con for me is that it is super competitive and I very well might not get in. Wisconsin is definitely a stretch school for me and even with a 700 GMAT (which I haven't even gotten yet), I am not 100% sure I'd get admitted. And a minor gripe, it is cold in Wisconsin.

I am really enamored with Wisconsin. I can probably say they are the best school I am applying to. I really liked Madison and felt really comfortable with the students. I can probably say they are the one school that I might pass up a scholarship to the others to go to. They are about as close to a "dream school" as I have (yes more so than Ohio State).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crunching the numbers

     As someone who intends to pursue a career in finance, I am very numbers oriented. One of the things I like about looking into MBA programs is the ability to quantify almost everything about a program. Everything has been ranked multiple times by multiple sources. In deciding where to apply, it is then necessary to take a look at where a person feels competitive with the applicant pool & where there is good overall value (at least for me). In compiling a list of schools, I had a few criteria: Overall ranking, Geographic location, Finance concentration (I require one), Top 50 in Poets & Quants' overall rankings (one school I'm considering dropped out), and low relative cost. The data is as follows:

School P&Q Salary Tuition + CoL Avg GMAT
Wisconsin 26 53 98,662 675
Ohio State 28 46 92890 673
Penn State 34 48 114536 643
Purdue 39 29 115316 635
Iowa 42 NR 108176 660
Illinois 43 39 103542 657
Georgia 49 38 96664 637
Tulane 61 51 145386 630

I got the overall ranking from Poets & Quants', the salary rankings here, and financial data & GMAT scores mostly from the schools' own web sites. This data is based on out of state tuition for every school except OSU as I'm an Ohio resident. It doesnt take into account any sort of scholarship or award as I wanted to look at just raw numbers.

I have visited or will visit most of the schools on the list, and I will post reviews similar to the Iowa post on all of them, but I want to make this just about the data. . .

Looking at the numbers, a few things pop out. UGA is an excellent value for the low tuition & cost of living. Their ranking in salary surprised me since they were higher than all but Purdue. Wisconsin also surprised me as their publicized average salary is the highest of all the schools I have visited so far. I don't know how the payscale data works, it obviously isnt in a vacuum and every case is unique. Another thing that pops out is Tulane. I recently visited there and had a great visit. Given their relatively lower GMAT, I feel competitive for the program and they did make the top 57 in salary. They were in Poets & Quants' top 50, I believe this had something to do with them slipping to 61. However, 145k is 30k more than the next highest school (Purdue). Another note, Iowa didnt make the list of top 57 schools by salary. I know they are ranked relatively highly on the Poets & Quants rankings due to their high return on investment. I know this is due to the large percentage of scholarships they give out, which could make them the least expensive school in the group. However, I wanted to look at things "all things equal". Of course, the 680 GMAT required to get into OSU or Wisconsin would probably get you a scholarship on every other school on the list.

Another thing to note, I am fully considering all 8 schools. I think all of them could get me where I want to be career wise. I just think an MBA is the biggest decision I have made in my life, I should do all the examining I can. I wanted to put this out there in the hopes that it might help someone else as well. . .