How can that be possible? I even don’t know about my personality, leave alone aligning that with the persona of the university. Most people decide their college of choice basis the rankings (and also whether they could get in...), median SAT (or GMAT or GRE) scores, finance and scholarship availability, etc. However, in our experience, this is an ineffective way of choosing your next education destination. Selection basis university rankings or SAT scores not only reduce your chances of getting in but also (on the perchance that you get in) builds you up for 4 years of misery and dissatisfaction.
An ideal program selection heuristic is based on the following factors –
- Personality alignment between the candidate and the college
- University Education Quality (proxy – university and program rankings)
- Your ability to get into that university (proxy – how close your SAT scores are to the median score, your profile in comparison to other students at that university, etc.)
While points 2 and 3 are easy to establish and measure, they do not convey a complete picture. Most students end up selecting colleges basis rankings and median SAT scores because of easy availability of these data points. However, in so doing, they may miss out colleges that are better aligned with their way of doing things (and learning styles) and are more suited to their narrative or profile. While, I have talked about the narrative and/ profile in another post of ours, herein we shall talk about personality alignment between the candidate and the college.
Let us look at some top-notch business schools and try to understand their personality. Also to help you understand better, I have given you’re an analogy from my favorite Harry Potter series. I am trying to compare Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Chicago Booth – part of the super-elite M7 group of Business Schools.
In my opinion,
- Being a part of Stanford GSB is like being in the house of Ravenclaw.
- Being a part of MIT Sloan is like being in the house of Gryffindor.
- Being at Harvard Business School is like being at Slytherin and
- Being at Chicago Booth is like being at Hufflepuff
These associations should give you some sense of the personality of that specific business school. And hopefully, you could appreciate my point that if you are like a Slytherin and we put you in the house of Gryffindor, how much of a horrible time you would have!
Let’s explore these associations a little bit further.
"For Ravenclaw, the cleverest would always be the best." GSB students take pride in effortless perfection. They like to think of themselves on the lines of a duck in a pool. While it seems calm on the outside but underneath, its feet are paddling at a breakneck speed. That is a GSB student for you – extremely clever and seeped in the valley culture of entrepreneurship who is willing to apply his mind and take risks to build businesses which have never been thought of before! However, he is casual and calm, loafs around wearing a sweatshirt and is supremely confident of himself (sometimes a little arrogant too!)
"Their daring, nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindor apart." Frankly, I had trouble picking out MIT Sloan or the Stanford GSB for the house of Gryffindor. Both MIT and Stanford are distinctively similar – focus on risk taking and entrepreneurship; have great relations with their university’s engineering schools and want to explore the unknown. I think what helped me pick out MIT out for the house of Gryffindor are principally two factors –
- Rivalry with the upstream HBS (which is about a mile upstream on the other side of the river Charles)
- Stanford, with its location in the heart of the valley is naturally entrepreneurship oriented. MIT, on the other hand really had to try harder to become a top destination for entrepreneurially aligned. Also it dared to challenge the much older and institutionally more powerful HBS in its own backyard – required guts and daring!
"Power-hungry Slytherin loved those of great ambition." HBS was a natural choice for the house of Slytherin. HBS, with its focus on legacy, leadership and blue blooded persona is extremely Slytherin like. Its legacy is epitomized in oak paneled walls and plush, deep carpets and a campus (unlike the open campuses of GSB and MIT) which is designed to keep people out. So much so, that while the entire Harvard university is on one side of Charles, HBS sits majestically on the other side emphasizing its ‘exclusivity’ and unique ‘legacy’.
"For Hufflepuff, hard workers were most worthy of admission." Chicago Booth is a great school. The underlying thought when I think of Booth is ‘stone’ – unyielding, strong, a bit like many of its underground lecture theatres and its older buildings. Booth students are extremely hard-working. As mentioned on the website, “we empower bold thinkers and inquisitive minds to dig deeper, discover more, and shape the future”; Booth is quintessentially Hufflepuff!
There are pedagogical differences as well! At HBS, all you get to do are cases – running into a few hundred during your entire stay. While at MIT, you are expected to be more ‘action-learning’ oriented and learn through a combination of case-methods, lectures, but more often simulations and projects. Hence you need to pick out your learning style and let it have a bearing on the school that you choose.
On another dimension, Booth, Sloan and HBS have horrible winters. MIT students have even changed the school’s Latin motif IHTFP to ‘I hate the fucking place.’ So, if you like your sunshine, better go to Stanford or other great schools in the valley like Berkley Haas or USC Marshall rather than stuck in a place where you don’t see sun for 5 months of a year!
Aligning your personality with that of the college is even more important at an undergraduate level. For one, you are going to be a part of this college for four years or more, plus for many of the students it is their first time away from home. You really need to be at a place that you can blend in and feel comfortable at. For example, if you want to focus on sports and academics alike, it is better to be at GeorgiaTech rather than Caltech or MIT. If serving humanity is your calling, then be a Hokey rather than a Beaver. Likewise, if you want to be a part of a city-campus, then go to Columbia.
In summary, aligning your personality with that of the school that you are going to get into is as much a part of your selection process as rankings, generalized test scores, profile match, etc. Do not select schools basis easily available metrics like test scores and rankings alone. Rather, focus on finding out what that college truly offers and how well does it align with your learning style and personality. It shall ensure that you will not only have great education, but also be happier!
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