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Columbia vs. Booth (my analysis) | From CPA to M&A

Last week, Columbia graciously accepted me into their MBA program and gave me a deadline to enroll by 2/27, which is after I’d receive an interview invite from Booth (2/15) IF I get one, but before I’d receive the final decision (3/21). Columbia’s enrollment deadline is also a little more than 2 weeks before I’d hear back from Tuck (3/16), but I’ve pretty much ruled out going there primarily due to its small size and remote location. Don’t get me wrong though, if I was single and not planning to intern/work full-time in NYC, I’d be extremely happy at Tuck, which is a solid and extremely unique program. I should mention that I proudly wear my Tuck Diversity Conference shirt when I snowboard.

Having said that, the question isn’t necessarily Columbia vs. Booth. After all, Columbia is the only one of the two that has accepted me, and at this point I don’t even know if Booth is interested. The question I’m asking myself is, “If I’m invited to interview at Booth, should I ask Columbia for an extension?” Also, as fellow MBA-applicant and The Brain Dump blogger asked me under a previous post, “…would money from CBS trump any other offer you could get?” This is actually the better question because if the answer is “Yes,” I might as well withdraw my application from Booth.

To help answer this question, I created a list of reasons for me to go to Columbia over Booth and vice versa. For kicks, I checked out what others have had to say on the message boards when comparing the two programs, but I should’ve known better – there’s really a lot of garbage out there. For these two schools, I don’t care about rankings, unless of course it’s my ranking, which is based on a very specific set of criteria that changes multiple times a day. Surprisingly, I still haven’t found a ranking that achieves this. Comparing schools of this caliber based on ranking, brand or prestige is like trying to make a decision between Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, McKinsey and BCG, or Deloitte and Ernst & Young. You can’t really go wrong so the set of criteria used to make a decision has to be one that’s highly personalized (and perhaps a little silly), which you’ll see reflected in my lists below.

Reasons for me to attend Columbia over Booth:

  1. Columbia accepted me and didn’t waste any time in doing so! I submitted my application on 12/13 and was admitted on 1/18. It happened very quickly for me as opposed to other CBS applicants I’ve seen on the gmatclub message board. Also, when you consider the holidays were in between the dates of my application and acceptance, the time period my application was in review was even shorter. I just think it’s a great signal from admissions, and I really appreciate them not holding me by a string. The waiting game physically hurts.
  2. My girlfriend, family, friends, my dog are only a 45-min flight/3-hr train/4-hr drive/4.5 bus ride away, whereas Chicago is a 2-hr flight or a long, long drive I don’t plan on making. Cupcake also plans to attend grad schools in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic so we’ll be in this area for at least 3-4 years.
  3. Media Program – As an investment banker, I want to specialize in the media & entertainment industry so it’s nice that Columbia offers the Master Class, Mergers & Acquisitions in Media. I can also take related courses offered by the film, journalism, and law schools.
  4. I won’t have to make 4 big moves: 1) hometown to Chicago, 2) Chicago to NY for summer internship, 3) NY to Chicago to start 2nd year, then 4) Chicago to NY post-MBA. Also if my girlfriend came with me to Chicago, she might have to move back and forth as well. She could easily get a job in Chicago (she’s a nurse), but would she stay in Chicago during my summer internship in New York? It starts to get complicated.
  5. Proximity to Haitian food. There are a number of Haitian restaurants all over New York and one that I frequent whenever I’m in the city is only 15 blocks away from campus. This might be the kicker. Also my relatives on my dad’s side are spread out all over NYC, so I could get the same food for free.

Reasons for me to attend Booth over Columbia:

  1. Private Equity/Venture Capital & Social Entrepreneurship labs. These courses would provide great exposure to my long-term goal of social venture capital.
  2. I really love the city of Chicago. It’s like a nicer, cleaner NYC. I also like that it’s easier to escape to the suburbs than it is in Manhattan. I have a love/hate relationship with NYC. Growing up, I spent my summers growing up about 15 blocks from Columbia, but sometimes the city just annoys the crap out of me. It’s actually big part of why I declined my offer to attend NYU Stern for undergrad.
  3. Harper Center. I really shouldn’t have visited Booth before Columbia, especially not the day before. The morning I arrived at Uris Hall, three capital letters came to mind: W, T and F.
  4. I’ll have a reason to keep my motorcycle, which I can use to commute from downtown Chicago to Hyde Park. Most if not all of my dad’s motorcycle accidents occurred in Manhattan, so I don’t plan on bringing my baby with me to Morningside Heights. Hopefully, I don’t end up having to sell her; the grief I received from both my girlfriend and my mom was bad enough when I first bought the motorcycle. I can’t imagine having to buy another one later on just to go through all that drama again.
  5. Portillo’s. Something about tomatoes on a hotdog.

Based on what I have so far, my reasons (particularly #1 & #2) for attending Columbia over Booth are much stronger than the other way around. Something crazy would have to happen when I visit Columbia in February for me to decide that I need to wait for Booth. As for what that means, I don’t know, maybe one of my future CBS classmates punches me in the face. Everyone I’ve met so far at Columbia has been really nice so I’d be surprised if something like that happened. I kind of hope that Booth doesn’t invite me to interview so I won’t have to even think about it anymore. At this point, I should just 1) enjoy Columbia Connect and 2) wait and see if Booth invites me to interview. I have plenty of other things I can do in the meantime and being 90-95% certain I’m going to Columbia helps me relax and not worry about whether or not I get an invite from Booth. One thing I need to do is prepare my taxes for 2011 because I need the final numbers to complete my FAFSA. Unfortunately, Columbia has the highest cost of attendance among business schools so I’ll need all the help I can get.

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One Response to Columbia vs. Booth (my analysis)

  1. Columbia (and Booth) are tremendous opportunities, especially for someone who is going into M & A. CBS has unprecedented access – and an impressive finance network. I think you should leverage the possibility of the CGSM Fellowship with CBS, even tho I know you said Tuck was out, to get some help from CBS.

    In the end, I’m in favor of Dream School no matter what. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

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