When I expressed my intention to attend business school, I was met with justified resistance. I had, in fact, already attended law school and managed to call myself an attorney, although I never practiced. I studied what I wanted to as an undergrad (theatre) and took on considerable debt to study what I didn't want to in law school (the law) and wound up with a job I generally enjoyed that barely utilized my JD (producing commercials). Therefore, it was understandable when my husband questioned my motives, my parents rolled their eyes and my friends joked that med school was inevitable.
With considerable research, I set my sights on that shiny goal at the end of my educational path: I wanted to be a consultant. And with said research, I learned that goal was a long shot (even as an attorney) without an MBA. My circumstances were not exactly ideal.
I took the GMAT and the bar in California and I thought about b-school, then. I looked at Stanford and HBS and all the other mouth-watering schools you can think of. I felt like I was 17 again, looking at colleges and deciding on cities, the world was my oyster. But I couldn't justify the move. It was expensive and impersonal, and I hadn't worked in 3 years. It just was not the right time.
I moved to Minnesota, bought the house and worked a job I enjoyed for two years. And then...I still wanted to go to b-school. However, we were committed to Minnesota; we had moved here to start a family near my family. I didn't feel I had a lot of options. I somewhat reluctantly applied only to Carlson.
And quite frankly, it's one of the best things I ever did.
I knew Minneapolis was great, that was why I had moved here initially, and I realized the school had strong connections to local businesses and that I would likely get a job I enjoyed upon graduation. What I hadn't thought much about was my experience while being here and the ultimate outcome of my choice.
B-school is two years of your life, and while it goes quickly, it is two years of your life (read: you ought to enjoy it). Because the Carlson School of Management is a more reasonable size, the experience of Carlson is close knit. I know my classmates. Not just by name but by personality. I know their spouses, their goals, their dogs and their favorite foods. The faculty knows us; they know our goals, our backgrounds and our hobbies. I had a professor ask me how my dog was doing after surgery and the head of the career center text me a congratulations 10 minutes after I received a job offer. These anecdotes are not unique. This community cares about its students and about our experience.
Carlson, while externally competitive, is internally supportive. I want every one of my classmates to succeed and I know they feel the same. I witness networking help, advice on career paths, tutoring on school work and personal support on a daily basis. We all genuinely want our classmates to achieve the career to which they aspire, with the love of their lives by their side and a smile on their face. There is always a person to explain a concept, find an employee at that company you've heard of or listen to your woes. It's astonishing.
That being said, Carlson is externally competitive. We compete, on par, with all of the mouth-watering schools previously mentioned for the best jobs at the best companies. In, fact, we get to know these companies and their employees, personally. Example: I called a recruiter to turn down a job offer and wound up talking with her for ten minutes about her career path and my long term goals. We have since had drinks and stayed in contact. The connections I have made through Carlson are not "networking" in a "you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch yours" sense. They are personal connections and potentially, long-term friendships.
Carlson was one of the best choices I ever fell into.
Had I gone to b-school two years earlier, I would have selected a prestigious program and gotten a job I wanted. Instead, I wound up in a prestigious program, in a great city, with fantastic peers, supportive faculty and an incredibly close community. And I got the same job: a consulting gig at a top firm.
I have absolutely loved my experience and I'm thrilled with the outcome, even if it took 21 years of school to get here.