YES to Carlson!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dear Prospective student,

I was in your position the same time last year reading blogs of different schools and scheduling calls with current students and alums. My favorite questions during my calls were :
1. What were their biggest pleasant surprise and shock joining the program? & 
2. What was one thing they wish they knew before joining Carlson?

If you are not asking these questions, I strongly feel that you should ask them! Now being asked these questions, I thought why not write about them! So here I go…

Six months before coming to Carlson, I started working with a Fin-Tech start-up wherein I was working in a combination of operations excellence, strategy and product management roles. Joining the start-up I didn’t quite feel like quitting the firm to travel to the US and to matriculate at Carlson because I felt that I had a strong career ahead of me at the firm. So I grabbed onto the subsidized opportunity offered by Carlson to participate in Up Close - the admitted students’ event to make up my mind. Though I visited Carlson highly confused, before I could leave the MSP area, I was busy trying to make arrangements to leave at least half of my belongings behind so that I can bring in more baggage when I relocate to graduate. I was so sold by the Carlson MBA program and here is why…

Interacting with many students and alums, I was pretty clear that I wanted to study in a top ranked school in a city, with an engaging teaching methodology, a small class size and a tightly knit community that would help me to transition to a career in Management Consulting and to thrive as an international student. Woah, that is a long list of highly subjective adjectives! Here is an attempt to explain what I mean by each of them…

1. Why a top-ranked school? 
This one is a no-brainer for most of us. Top ranked schools draw the most talented students and faculty and bring in the most popular companies and high-paying job offers. These schools also have a very strong brand image and have a very good infrastructure. 

When I was visiting Up Close this was one of the factors that bothered me the most about Carlson. Carlson is ranked in the late 20s and is not a popular school in India. However visiting Up Close, I realized that most of the American students prefer to study and live in the city they were brought up in. Interacting with my prospective classmates and seniors, I quickly noticed that Carlson has a very smart and talented set of accomplished students. I felt comfortable with the student body here in comparison to other schools I visited. Also, the faculty at Carlson are highly ranked and the school has a strong presence in the Mid-West. The school takes students on Treks to the West Coast (where we have a very large student body) to engage better with companies and recruiters.

2. Why in a city? 
I realized that studying in a city has unique advantages because you can visit recruiters and employees in your city within an hour and needn’t travel much for 2nd round interviews. I remember students from college town schools often telling me that planning and traveling to cities for interviews in the time constrained MBA program was a big challenge for many of them. However, the disadvantage of studying in a city is that your classmates might be staying in a largely spread out area and hence you would not spend more time with them due to the long travel and traffic. Being a tier 2 city, Carlson students might still have to travel to cities such as Chicago (an hour away) for interviews and since the twin cities are not quite spread out and do not have bad traffic, Carlson is a good spot!

3. Why an engaging teaching methodology?
I hate lectures and I did not want to be listening to them for 2 years. I wanted to have a mix of learning methodologies and the enterprise program experience debriefs and open house session during Up Close helped me understand how Carlson students work closely with Fortune 500 companies and startups in the Twin Cities. All the students I interacted with during the open house had very positive reviews about the program and echoed how their experience in the enterprise helped them in their internship and job hunt!

4. Why a small class size school with a tightly knit community?

I studied in a school with 10,000 students. We barely knew each other nor could we make many friends. Interacting with many students at Carlson and other schools I enquired how easy it was for them to get the courses, club opportunities and interview slots that they wanted. Many of these school students didn’t have positive responses in comparison to Carlson. 

5. How does Carlson position students for careers in Management Consulting Firms?

Despite Carlson being a relatively lower ranked school, all the top consulting firms have a strong relationship with Carlson and have been recruiting with Carlson in the past. I am not sure how many lower ranked schools can proudly feel the same way. However having said that a lot of preparation is required to become a Management Consultant and a fine balance is required between maintaining once GPA, networking, having a social life and sleep. I do not wish to say that everyone who joined Carlson to become a consultant has been successful. But I believe that most of the people who have put in the hard work have been able to do so.

6. How is Carlson positioned for facilitating international students? 
Recruiting for international students is extremely challenging! The level of comfort with which a current student can thrive strongly depends on the strength of the career center and the level of support from alums in target companies. 

Interacting with students at Carlson, I realized that the current students strongly did opine that getting one's ideals job was tough at Carlson as other international students across all the US schools (except the top 10) strongly feel as well. As I saw it then, the trick for international students more especially to do well at recruiting is to network as extensively as possible and to act well in the recruiting events. 

Having a small class size encourages Carlson alums to spend more time with Carlson students to network better and Carlson’s fully equipped career center (GBCC) facilitates students with Career Treks, training, coaching appointments with career coaches and business leaders to do well! 

Carlson, like most other schools, has not provided all the international students with a bed of roses, but students who have worked hard have been able to join great companies. The management continuously takes an effort to support international students by having special dinners periodically and having a career coach specifically for international students. I was in a very good position in my career with the start-up I was working with and when I asked students and alums should I risk it to the US, most of them told me that I would not regret my decision to come to Carlson and here I am!

So what are the biggest pleasant surprises and shocks 3 months into the program and what are the things did I wish to know before? Good luck with the research! Do talk to as many people as you can.