Here’s a talk with David Schuette, MBA candidate at Cornell Johnson.
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Accepted: First, some basics: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
David: I originally hail from a small (less than 4,000 people) town in Wisconsin, and have spent most of my life within Wisconsin. My undergraduate major was in Operations Management at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. After graduation, I worked in the digital analytics space for 5 years with both Lands’ End (in Wisconsin) and Catalyst in Rochester, NY.
Accepted: Which other programs did you consider when applying to b-school? Why did you choose Johnson?
David: The primary thing I considered was fit – both personally and professionally. My approach was different than many; I didn’t have reach and safety schools, only schools I would love to go to – schools where I would have to think really hard about picking one over the other. I spent a lot of time making that list and only applied to and interviewed at HBS and Johnson.
Johnson, for me, was a story about community. It was about a very tight knit group of people that would be my classmates from day one but my network for the rest of my life. It was a huge draw to hear that at any point in time, even after graduation, I would be able to reach out to a Johnson alum and they would make time to talk with me. I found many programs where that is not the case, or is only true while you’re in school.
On a personal level, the people you meet are representative of the people you’re going to spend lots of time with. That means hours in the same room working on a presentation or grinding through a case. If you don’t feel a connection with the people, you’re not going to be happy with the program no matter where you go. It’s hard to think like that when you’re so focused on “best school possible” but don’t discount its importance.
Finally, make sure you know what your target schools are known for and think about if those careers would be for you. A great tipoff is to see what the school talks about in its own materials. Johnson is strong in many areas, but does a killer job in marketing, finance, and consulting – the three areas I was interested in. A quick anecdote for you: I was at a conference and had the chance to talk with a CMO of a major company about my search (before I limited it to just 2) and I indicated my interest in marketing or finance and that I was looking at 5 schools. After I named off the schools, he looked at me and asked why I’d even consider 2 of the schools if that was my focus; he would never hire somebody for those roles from those two schools. I then stumbled my way through an answer to avoid saying “because they were ranked highly”. Clearly this is just a single experience, but it articulates a very valid point – rankings are not everything. Furthermore, rankings change, as evidence by Johnson’s newBusinessWeek rank of #7. Don’t over rely on rankings; there’s no story there.
As a disclaimer, I did use rank to initially narrow my search, but after that it wasn’t my primary motivation.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about Johnson, what would it be?
David: If it could somehow be closer to major highways or airports, it would be a huge plus. But what I want to stress is that that is largely for personal travel reasons. I recruited across a variety of functions – marketing, finance, and consulting – and the major firms that you’d expect to see at a top 10 school all had on-campus recruiting events and interviews. Off campus recruiting takes a bit more effort – as it would at any campus, but even then Johnson has a strong presence at a various career fairs/conferences, including one they launched this year in a partnership with Darden and Tuck.
Accepted: What is your favorite class so far?
David: It is really hard to pick a favorite class since Johnson does such a good job of making sure each class builds on or pulls from the others, particularly with the first semester Core courses. The faculty even meets on weekly basis to coordinate their lecture topics in terms of what current events to discuss across the various classes.
If I had to pick one, I would say Operations with Vishal Gaur. He has a way of really bringing the whole class into a discussion of a case and I find the material very interesting (probably due to my undergraduate major in ops.). I would also encourage everybody at Johnson to take a class with Nate Peck, and I think anybody at Johnson will tell you the same. He’s fantastic at helping students bring focus to a case analysis at a rapid pace.
Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?
David: The clubs at Johnson are very active, particularly clubs which are career focused. As the VP of Education for the Consulting Club, I’ll be responsible for working very closely with our Career Management Center on conducting all of the training for aspiring consultants in the Class of 2015. I’m also involved with Student Council as the Facilities Chair.
Beyond professional clubs, there are a ton of lifestyle clubs organizing all sorts of trips, activities and competitions (chili cook-off!). It is very easy to get involved and it’s a great way to meet people. Interestingly, I would almost say that club roles, as it relates to student life, is less important than you might think because we’re such a close community. Many of the activities are posted all over the place and are open to anybody. In addition, we have a private Facebook page that people use to organize spur of the moment events.
Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up for the summer? If so, what role did Johnson play in helping you secure that position?
David: It is extremely exciting to say YES! I’m all set for my summer internship with Accenture Management Consulting in the strategy area. My situation was unique in that I was part of a team that won the internship by winning Accenture’s national case competition (read more!), but I can say that Johnson was a huge factor in our success.
Johnson has such a good relationship with Accenture, and the other big consulting companies, which is how I had this opportunity in the first place. In addition, there were concepts we applied to our presentation which were a direct reflection of principles learned in just those first few weeks at school. That’s Johnson’s whole goal and our Immersion differentiation strategy – prepare you as fast as possible for success in your internship.
Accepted: Can you share some application tips for our b-school applicants who are applying to Johnson?
David: When you hear the advice of “be yourself,” it’s hard to know what that means. Still, it’s the feedback you’ll probably hear most often. My advice to you would be to think about what that means from the school’s perspective. When you interview, the school is trying to see if there is alignment between what you said on your application and how you are expressing yourself.
You’d be amazed at how obvious it is when there’s a disconnect or when a person hasn’t clearly thought through why something makes sense for them. So when you hear “be yourself and have fun” what it really means is make sure what you’ve written and what you’re saying really reflect where your mind is at because they’ll know. They’re scary-good at reading people.
This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of Accepted.com.
Accepted.com, the premier MBA admissions consultancy and essay editing company, has helped applicants around the world gain acceptance to top business schools worldwide since 1994. Accepted.com’s founder, Linda Abraham, is the co-author of the wildly-popular book, MBA Admission for Smarties. Visit Acccepted.com for all your MBA admissions consulting needs today!