Another Good B-School Walks the Plank

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of not ignoring red flags during b-school visits.

Well, I’ve decided to take my own advice and drop another B-School from my list–except for I wouldn’t say that this one was necessarily a safety school–at least not completely. Its a solid top 15 program, well regarded and (IMO) quite underrated.

I’m dropping it because I experienced some things during my visit that let me know that we just aren’t the best match. Additionally, there are some intangibles that have transcended from “nice-to-haves” to “must-haves” that this particular institution cannot provide of no fault of its own.

Today, I am releasing UCLA Anderson from my target school list. Here are my reasons:

1) I can’t get over my tense, awkward conversation with that admissions staffer.

That infamous grade nondisclosure conversation that I had with him back in March/April has has nagged and nagged at me for weeks. It has been similar to the nagging feeling you get when someone you’ve just met makes a bad first impression and then tries to clean it up later; you’re inclined to believe that what you saw first was the most accurate and natural depiction of the subject.

If you haven’t read that particular blog post yet (despite my shameless attempts at getting you to do so with not one, but two previous links to it thus far) here’s the quick-and-dirty of how it went down (DISCLAIMER: grossly paraphrased):

mbaover30: “Does Anderson have a grade nondisclosure policy? Or is it something that you’re considering?”

admissions person: “I’m not sure what you mean.” (or something like that)

mbaover30: “You know, when students don’t disclose their grades to each other or to employers.”

admissions person: “Well, this is an academically competitive program. You should want to perform well academically.”

mbaover30: “I understand that; but that’s not what I”m saying. I”m talking about the idea of fostering an entrepreneurial environment where students are encouraged to stretch their boundaries and take risks.”

admissions person: “UCLA is very entrepreneurial. Guy Kawasaki went here.”

mbaover30: *crickets*

admissions person: “(still not getting it….) Every year we have a handful of students who end up on academic probation. If you think you might be in danger of that I recommend looking into some quant-heavy business courses like economics or accounting.”

mbaover30 (who got A’s in Calculus I, Calculus II, Statistics, Signals and Digital Logic): “I don’t think I’m being effective in communicating what I’m trying to say. That’s ok; thanks.”

admissions person: *crickets*

I could have easily gotten over this exchange if I had had the same conversation with a student. On second thought, scratch that. That may have been worse (for many reasons).

At any rate, the larger implication that concerns is me is that if the leadership of the program views someone who wants to stretch and take risks as someone who’s trying to dodge accountability for their performance, that’s my cue to exit stage left.

2) Seems more corporate: I’m looking for an undeniably entrepreneurial culture and environment.

Even though this institution has a well-funded center for entrepreneurship, I get the feeling that its bent toward the subject is more corporate; I get the feeling that the bent of the entire school is more corporate in general–and there is nothing wrong with that; it’s just not the right fit for me.

It all reminds me of my years working for huge, stodgy Fortune 50 Company X. During my final years there “entrepreneurship” had become quite the buzz word. It has, in fact become a buzz word at many such companies since the advent of all this bullsmack about being an “entrepreneurial employee”, which is nothing but a bunch of corporate spin (“entrepreneurial” and “employee” go together about as well as “hemorrhoids” and “comfort” or “pregnant” and “six pack abs“; they are two completely different mindsets).

In these environments, all that “entrepreneurship” means is that the company wants you to put in an all-consuming entrepreneurial effort, make entrepreneurial sacrifices and bring an entrepreneurial work ethic to the table without hardly ANY of the entrepreneurial rewards. Yeah, no thanks.

I can remember times when I listened (in agony) to my old district manager giving one of his hot air speeches about how we needed to be more entrepreneurial in our jobs. I’d smirk and think to myself this dude wouldn’t know true entrepreneurship if it were biting his a$$Running a company after someone else has already taken the risk to establish it is what makes you a manager; having built it from scratch would have made you an “entrepreneur”.

I hate that I”m so sensitive about the subject, but I’ve had my hide burned too many times taking real entrepreneurial risks to stomach an environment that talks about “entrepreneurship” without exhibiting it through ever fiber of its being.

3) Anderson can’t give me a new environment (of no fault of its own)

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I need to be in a completely new environment to experience the kind of transformation that I want; and UCLA, while a phenomenal institution, just can’t give me that by virtue of the fact that its sitting right in my backyard. Though it was never really a “safety school” in terms of rankings or prestige, it was an emotionally safe choice being that it is literally up the freeway from where I already live.

Also, like USC Marshall, it has a reputation for being slightly more open to older applicants. Oh well, if I weren’t willing to take calculated risks, then I wouldn’t really be an entrepreneur anyway.

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About mbaover30

Wharton MBA and admissions expert

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8 Comments on “Another Good B-School Walks the Plank”

  1. OhDenny Says:

    I think you are doing everything right so far. That’s not a comment on the quality of the schools you’ve eliminated from your targets, and more a comment on the quality of your school search in the first place. I wish that I’d had this kind of foresight when I first began my application process (the first time). Am loving the series. Keep ’em coming.


  2. bschool2013 Says:

    This post shows the importance of visiting a school before you commit time and money to an application. I had a similar experience with Duke – I liked them for their overall reputation, marketing specialty, NYC placement, and generous GI Bill coverage. However, after I visited, I just didn’t like it compared to other peer schools I visited and had no problem in taking them off my (unlaminated) list.



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