This is the second in a series of information session reports written by our correspondent during his attendance at the MBA Tour’s July 23rd event in New York City.
Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management
Cornell was represented by Christine Sneva, Acting Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.
Sneva talked about meat and potato topics like “experiential learning” that goes beyond case studies and immersion programs. And she talked about areas of study including finance (and how Cornell has a trading floor on the premises, which I thought was very neat), sustainability, and entrepreneurship. (At which point she said either you’re an entrepreneur or you’re not, and if you don’t understand that, you’re probably not.) She talked about dual degree programs. And then–
This was only my second information session of the morning and I already was starting a bit of eye rolling. So every school prides itself on academic quality and community. She talked about how the Cornell community is tight knit, that students mingle with faculty in social events. There’s even a place for social gatherings, called Sage Hall. Because Cornell is in Ithaca I just picture people all hanging out locally on campus simply because there’s nowhere else to go. At NYU I imagine students probably have their own friends outside of school and socialize with them. Professors may be working at night (this is speculation on my part.) At Cornell people tend to live and work in one general area. Someone in the audience actually brought this up. He asked why on earth anyone would want to go to school in Ithaca. (OK, those are my words but he basically asked this question, just a bit more diplomatically.) Give credit to Sneva, who was prepared for this question. For one, it’s a beautiful campus. The classes are smaller and Cornell makes it a point to keep classes smaller rather than bigger. Then she launched into her spiel about the vast alumni network of Cornell. I wasn’t wholly satisfied by her answer and wasn’t convinced as to why I would potentially want to spend two years of my life in Ithaca but to her credit, she did not make a hard sell. Ithaca is not for everyone. (Side note: Cornell undergraduate alumni, whom she referred to as “Cornellians,” appear to have an edge in the admissions process because they, like no others, are intimately aware of what it’s like to live and study/work in Cornell.)
What reached me about this information session in a way that NYU did not was how Sneva talked about Cornell looking for leaders that will influence their organizations. If Cornell is successful in enrolling such people, I get the sense that Cornell is not populated with people who just want to make riches. I liked this criterion. And in speaking about alumni, she talked about “passion” and “legacy”–because after graduation these students, now alumni, will represent the Cornell brand. I found this appealing as this should make for a stronger network.
She then went into the application. The resume is very important. The essay is important. Why Cornell Johnson? Why an MBA? This was all quite conventional advice but this tidbit was gold: ONCE YOU MAKE IT TO THE INTERVIEW, 90% OF YOUR DECISION IS BASED ON THE INTERVIEW.
To me this was a bombshell because it would probably encourage me a little and scare the hell out of me a lot. So the weeks and months of preparation and essay writing and GMAT taking have brought me to this place. And the future course of my life boils down to this 45-minute conversation. Wow.
Actually, I think it’s good to know this because then it means, as an applicant, I’m close. She gave more information and advice. The nature of the interview itself is spontaneous, conversational. There are no staged questions. Show enthusiasm. Do your research. Visit the school (especially for New Yorkers, who are at least in the same state.) She mentioned the Cornell Club in midtown and buses that go to Ithaca.
The evaluation covers three areas:
2. Career decision-making and self-efficacy. This means one’s belief in one’s own ability. (She added, to my amusement, that this was probably “through the roof” for the people in this audience.)
3. Leadership and community.
They’re looking for people who are easy to talk to (extroversion/introversion doesn’t matter but outliers are obvious. In a small class, it’s easy to tell who sticks out.) Is the applicant proactive? Connects with people? Has a good sense of the school?
When the Cornell information session ended I felt that I had some sense of the school, and a positive one at that. I’m still not sure I’d want to study in such a remote location but at least now I’d be willing to look into the school, which I previously hadn’t considered before. On that level, at least, I think this session was a very successful one.