Six years of planning while living in four countries, two stabs at the GMAT, MBA conferences in three continents, several business school interviews and countless hours spent drafting essays – my journey towards business school was a test of patience and perseverance. This persistence was rewarded three months ago when I was admitted to, among others, two of Europe’s top business schools – Insead and Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. The news of my acceptance has taught me the value of remaining resolute and unimpeded by distractions. So my first advice to business school aspirants is to be patient!! Don’t let the dings discourage you. My plan now was to spend a few weeks soul searching on a beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I didn’t care about what was to come. It felt like I was already an MBA from a top business school.
How do you compare one of the most international business schools in the world with campuses in three countries, with one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial schools that is associated with the oldest university in the English-speaking world?
The answer is – you don’t. You do your due diligence, understand the strengths of the schools and where you fit in best and go with your gut. Most importantly, never look back. I truly believe that the return on investment of an MBA from any of the top business schools depends on what you make of the experience and how you use the resources at your disposal, irrespective of where you decide to go.
Unquestionably, incentives such as a scholarship tend to become decisive factors. Other dynamics to reflect upon – location, class size, infrastructure, future vision of the school, quality of faculty, length of the programme and the often under-estimated element – business school life.
My decision was relatively easy – I knew what I wanted from a business school and most crucially, I came to a quick conclusion and stuck by it through the following months. I decided to accept the offer from Saïd. Two of the decisive factors for me are the school’s strengths in general management, entrepreneurship and social sustainability and recent innovative developments that make this an exciting time to be studying there. Having spent so much time over the last few years chalking out my goals and researching business schools, I could seriously consider a side job as a counsellor, but that is probably a topic for another day.
It is now two weeks to the start of pre-MBA programmes at SBS and I can’t wait to get to Oxford.
The last few months have been nothing short of a roller coaster – travelling Monday to Friday between Toronto and Calgary to wrap up work, moving countries even before the move to UK (tip – quit your job in advance – you will not regret it), renewing my passport, finding answers to a thousand visa-related questions (no exaggeration), completing admission-related formalities, applying to one of Oxford’s many colleges (and you thought you were done with applications?), speaking to alumni, meeting people at my target companies and finding accommodation at Oxford (still in progress).
Life could not be more exciting. A well-paying job in an industry barely hit by recession, a recent promotion and opportunities to travel the world – I am giving it all up to gamble with my career, to take a risk and compete with 200 of the brightest minds out there. What was I thinking? A full-time MBA is a huge commitment and an important step that one has to think carefully about before taking the plunge. My short and long-term goals are very much dependent on what I seek from an MBA and I am glad that I waited for the right time in my personal and professional life before going to business school. Had I not waited, I would have probably not known why I really need the MBA. That I guess is the reason why I found it easy to take the plunge and accept this transition. So my advice for anyone looking to go the MBA route – take your time and think about your objectives and what motivates you. Don’t rush in!!
Having studied, lived and worked in several countries, I embrace change like it is my best friend. The consulting profession has further enhanced my capacity to accept constant change as a tool for continuous development. Yet I have a feeling that this change will resemble nothing I have experienced before. The comforting feeling is that I will not be alone in this extraordinary journey.
Of the many things I am looking forward to at Oxford is to meet and connect with the 200 or so classmates with whom I will build relationships that will last a lifetime.
Since the day I was admitted, the ‘networking’ that all business schools frequently talk about started taking momentum. From helpful advice and discussions on Facebook and LinkedIn groups, to coffee meetings in different parts of the world, to setting up our first pub crawl in Oxford even before the orientation kicks off, the class already feels as if it is in the process of merging into a cohesive group.
There is a nascent excitement as well as a quiet anxiety about what each of us will be facing in the coming months. As I look through my ‘to-do’ list, it seems to be increasing each time I open it. MBA students need to get used to this. I’ve been told that free time is highly valued in business school. Hence, I have chosen to take whatever time I can now to recuperate from work and travel and to simply do nothing.
A few interesting items on my other (shopping) list – buy a sub fusc – the formal gown worn during matriculation at Oxford, buy a tux – for the many formal events and look for funny costumes – for the many Bops aka student-run theme parties, all of which are considered equally important events at Oxford.
I leave for Oxford this weekend and am excited to have been given this opportunity to share my experiences with you and to provide a deeper insight into MBA life. I look forward to writing as often as I can and to post pictures of the ‘City of Spires’ very soon.