Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sloan visit

MIT was the surprise of the tour, moving up to second place after my visit (although the practical me would still apply to Wharton even though the emotional me liked MIT better). MIT gets points for offering a customized, concise experience and buying us lunch :) Loses points for only allowing us to visit one class. (Actually, I think you can visit another class, just not through the Ambassadors Program.)

I signed up for the afternoon session which I was very grateful for since my plane from Philly to Boston was 2 hours late and I didn't get to bed until midnight. They started out by providing a me with a welcome packet with a personalized letter. Small things count! The info session was led by the Associate Dean of Admissions who sported a pony tail. I loved that after the parade of slick business men I'd been seeing all week! He also talked about avoiding rhetoric and bs (paraphrasing here) in the application which won him more points. He just seemed really sincere and real and it was a nice change. It was a small group but I also liked my fellow prospectives - two of which were from Austin. Funny.

The session was followed by a student lunch which again suffered from questionable organization. It was in a room crowded with students all eating lunch and watching a televised class from some auditorium that one can't bring food into. So it was hard to have a conversation with our student hosts but we managed. I ended up talking to a young woman who had done her undergraduate work at MIT (also from Austin, ha) and definitely seemed like someone I could get along with. The theme of the day was top-notch academics, no bullshit. She commented that MIT students, for better or worse, tended to be less polished than those at other top schools but for some, like herself (and me) this is a welcome fact. On the negative side, the facilities were not very impressive and, according to her, overcrowded. They are building a new building apparently but that won't be finished until about 2010. Another big negative is that there is absolutely no flexibility in the core although luckily it only lasts one semester instead of a year. In fact, her opinion about the core was not particularly positive. (On a side note, she was refreshingly disparaging of the idea that top MBA programs can't get any closer to a 50/50 male-female ratio. I say so! There are more international students than women at most of these programs.) Towards the end of lunch a student (male) with a super cute cute baby strapped to his back wandered over and introduced himself. The admissions office, upon me asking about being a student mother at Sloan had tracked him down and asked him to introduce himself. Impressive. We exchanged emails later about parenthood at Sloan and the bottom line was, it's tough and much tougher for women! Well, I wasn't expecting otherwise.

After lunch, I headed to a class of my choice. I chose a Finance class, can't remember if it was in the core ... Anyhow, the professor, a woman (!) with a lovely accent, had me introduce myself. When I mentioned that I had just quit my job that got lots of applause and hoots which was fun. Overall, I found the dynamic sufficiently fast-paced, interactive and friendly. The classroom felt a little dark and old and my chair was very stained but facilities aren't the top decision factor. (Though they do factor somewhat.)

Bottom line - I felt like Sloan was a place that I would feel comfortable, enjoy my classmates and get a good education. They're not particularly high up for Finance but the course selection seemed decent and there is a Lab for Financial Engineering (which actually may be too much for me in the quant department anyway). I like the friendliness of a small program although it does feel more limiting. They emphasized the hands-on, lab approach to learning which is very appealing. Overall, Wharton and MIT are tied for second place.

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