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The night before first-year orientation, I called my mother and cried. Not an all-out messy-faced-sob type of cry, but a more gentle-smeary-mascara stream of tears. Literally, in my twenties, crying because I was afraid I wouldn't have any friends: "they're going to be smarter than me, and cooler than me, and prettier than me...." I was [completely irrational but mostly] just new and nervous. After day-one of orientation, I called my mom back, this time laughing at the audacity of the girl I'd been the night before--what a crazy girl she was to be crying like that, because this girl had a bunch of new friends, lots of really cool classmates, and already plans for the weekend. That poor girl from yesterday... if only she'd taken a moment to remember: I'm at Carlson.

Like any real product of our generation, Carlson's MBA class of 2014 has a Facebook group. What began as the forum for awkward "hi, my name is" introductions, quickly morphed into a full-fledged forum the interesting, the funny, and everything in between. The group gets several posts a day (more during finals and other periods of intense procrastination), but what it is, is more than somewhere to drop news articles and happy hour shout-outs, it's a 21st-century symbol of the comradery we've developed, it's evidence of our wacky, unconventional, 107-way friendship.

Taking a quick glance through a few weeks on the group, the following events have transpired (and been advertised there in a "come all" fashion): a beginners' ice climbing adventure (instruction by my most adventuresome peer), a rollerskating party (a 90s-throwback birthday), a ski trip, a silent-auction for charity, baseball games, basketball games, a photo contest for a dog magazine (voting for a classmate's puppy), the Tough Mudder challenge this summer (by a navy vet in my class who thinks I could do that and not die partway through), a Spring bicycle ride, a global food fiesta, a B-school prom (with dresses, limos, royalty, and the whole nine yards), and a Goldeneye tournament. Literally, that list is just the highlights from a two-week window. Anything and everything can happen here--we work hard, and then we play hard.

At any of the schools you're considering, someone in Admissions is telling you about the great culture they have (or at least they should be), and I'm sure every one of them is right, in some way--there is an obvious culture (a "vibe," if you will) at every school, but is it the vibe you're looking for? Is it "great" for you? This is TWO YEARS of your life you're about to sign away, at the very least, you should be sure you like the place you're sending the paperwork.

Professors are important, rankings are important, job placement is important, that's all very true, but after a late-night of studying, a difficult job interview, or a long day of school work, rankings aren't going to buy you a drink and placement statistics aren't going to cheer you up--but your classmates can. I spend close to 50 hours a week with my peers, and I love it, because I love them, but if I didn't... well that would make for a really long and pretty miserable day. Every. day.

If you're looking for a school where you can run in, listen to lecture, and run right back out, then this may not be the place for you. But if you're looking for somewhere to learn and grow, somewhere to feel comfortable and welcome, and somewhere with a support system of faculty, administration, and peers... well, then we should talk, because I think you've found your place.

Carlson is a community (of the small-town, everyone-knows-your-name variety), where everyone is welcome and embraced. If you want to go camping, or biking, or play video games, or go out to eat at a new place, or do anything else to keep you sane during school, we'd really love to do it with you... all you have to do is ask.

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