One of the reasons I applied to the GSB is the strength of the brand. When I applied I had a very clear picture of my long-term goals, but was a bit more fuzzy on what my path would be in the years immediately following school. I wasn’t in love with any particular industry or job function, so it was important to me to pick a school that had a good reputation across many different areas.
That was a couple of years ago, and today I realize that the GSB brand is both stronger and more important than I had expected. I have realized this because I plan to be a triple-jumper, changing my location, industry, and job function. To get a head start, I have begun contacting people who work in the companies I am targeting. The minute I mention the GSB these people become more attentive and, if they are recruiting reps, they immediately offer to introduce me to just about anyone in the organization that I want to talk with.
To some people this might not seem all that surprising. But for many, including myself, this reaction is mind-blowingly impressive. The people I have been doing informational interviews with don’t know me at all. I could be an olympic athlete who has started five companies all worth a billion dollars or I could just be an ordinary person who wrote an interesting “what matters most” essay and got lucky. But that doesn’t matter. They assume that because I will be attending the GSB I am worth their time and effort. They willingly take a few minutes, or even a few hours, out of their busy schedules to help me figure out if I would be a good fit at their company. For me, trying to make the triple jump with work experience that is limited to mostly unknown nonprofits, the strength of the GSB is proving to be of vital importance.
Back when I was deciding which bschool to attend, I didn’t realize how important the brand would be. I read about lots of other applicants balancing out brand, fit, and the total cost of attendance. When I was applying, I ranked my favorite schools based mostly on fit- the strength of the brand was a secondary concern. I just got lucky that the GSB accepted me and that it happened to be the best school for me in terms of both fit and brand.
In hindsight, I probably should’ve been much more concerned with the strength of each school’s brand. Of course, it’s not the be all end all for everyone. For prospective students who expect to return to their pre-bschool employer it hardly matters at all. For others who are targeting a specific industry or job function long before they apply they just need to make sure the brand is strong enough to help them get the job they want. If you’re in one of those categories, then you certainly have the freedom to pick fit over brand. But for many of us trying to make an ambitious change in our careers the brand definitely counts. And in my opinion, the GSB brand is as good as it gets.
(Yes, that entire post was biased. Before you complain, please consider that I am writing from the perspective of a future GSB student. I can guarantee you right now that EVERY post will be biased).