April 2, 2009

George vs. George

The statistics show that some people really take the time to read what I have to say, which is a great deal of satisfactory for me, and I want to thank you for that. I also wish to have some feedback (which I'll screen in case I don't like it :)) and areas on which you want me to elaborate on.

I want to dedicate this post to explain the line of reasoning that has led me to prefer the London Business School over 3 other American business school I've been offered a place at. Please be VERY careful with making an analogy between the considerations that I had with those you have (see... now you can't sue me :)).

Let me first summarize my considerations, and then I'll elaborate on every item:

  1. Ranking
  2. Exposure to the world
  3. Life in an exciting city
  4. London's role as a key financial & business hub
  5. Visa considerations
  6. Proximity to family in UK
  7. Proximity to family in Israel
  8. Gut feeling
Now that we have the list organized by priorities, I'll try to explain my point of view on every item in it:
  1. Ranking - I admit. The ranking is very important for me. You can say that I'm primitive or shallow, or any other accusation. However in my opinion, if the schools can rank their applicants (by GMAT score, years of experience, ...) the applicants should do the same. Numbers do matter. I'm not saying that this is the only factor, but I do say that it is a VERY important one. The problem is - there are just too many ranking charts, and each of these claims something else. So how could I decide? I looked for overall consistency - which means that there's a consensus over the school's rank. Here's the ranking summary of LBS (cited from Wikipedia)
    • Joint 1st in the latest Financial Times Global MBA rankings (2009). The program shares this ranking with The Wharton School82 of the University of Pennsylvania83.
    • 3rd in the international ranking by The Wall Street Journal84 (2007)85
    • 5th (outside the United States) by BusinessWeek (2008); It is the only MBA programme to have been ranked in the top five in every BW international ranking.86
    • 2nd (for two year programs outside the United States) by Forbes (in 2007)87
    • 3rd in the latest Best Global MBAs published by CNN Expansion88 (2008)89
    • 9th by the most recent (2008) Economist Intelligence Unit rankings
    I translated this consistency into the following insight: There's a wide consensus about LBS's place among the top 10 business schools. None of the other options I had offered this kind of consistency.
  2. Exposure the the world - As I said in my first posts, and as the name of this blog implies, I look for a true international experience. What I mean is that I want to make sure I'm not leaving one bubble in favor of another. All US schools work hard to offer international experience and attract many international students. However, as I see it, the dominating mindset remains American. There's a big difference between being in a class where 15-20 percents of your peers going through the same absorptions difficulties as you do, and a class where 90% are outsiders just like you are (including the faculty members). My family and I came to Israel 20 years ago from the former Soviet Union. This experience has taught me that immigration is a cultural shock, and you'd better go through this shock with as many friends as possible. And there's one more point I want to mention about exposure to the world. If you see yourself as a future leader making an impact on people's lives, especially on the international level - you'd better do your homework getting to know as many as possible cultures, styles and attitudes. An empathy is the core skill of every leader, and it is based solely on the personal experience.
  3. Life in an exciting city - I think that the 2 years of my MBA should also be exciting outside school. I really think that this is part of this bundle called top-notch MBA. Living in London seemed to me as the most exciting offer I had. This is a really very personal consideration, especially for candidates with families. I see life in a city like London a lesson by itself - a 2yr cultural festival.
  4. London's role as a key financial & business hub - Maybe I don't know enough about the interaction between business schools and recruiters, but it seems to me that 'the closer the better'. In the last 10 years London become a crucial financial & business hub, therefore the amount of options for personal development and impact is very high in this city. Of course we live in the 21st century where you can be everywhere through the cyberspace & other communication means - but there's no substitute for the real face-to-face presence when it comes to recruitment & leadership.
  5. Visa considerations - The visa related laws in the UK are much more subtle than those in the UK. Many applicants/admits have US citizenship/green-card, so they have other considerations, but for me this aspect is very important, especially in the current financial crisis. First of all your partner gets an almost automatic work permit, so there's no need to beg for J1 visa. Secondly, students may work up to 20 hours per week, which can help finance your MBA. Third, you can get a work visa without having a sponsor (which is attractive for both the employee and the employer). Then after 5 years, you can apply for "Indefinite leave to remain for a work permit".
  6. Proximity to family in UK - We (my future wife and I) have family in the UK (near London), which will make our stay much easier and warm. I've never thought that this would be a consideration - but you learn new things as you grow.
  7. Proximity to family in Israel - 9 hours door to door is an amazing advantage both financially and personally. Your friends and family will probably want to visit you here and there, so it will ease the trip for them too.
  8. Gut feeling - At the end of the day, all considerations mean nothing if you don't believe in your decisions. I have a very strong feeling about London Business School and plenty of excitement.
I didn't refer here to all the educational and cultural differences between US and Europe because I think that both are very interesting environments to leave in. I wish I could enjoy both somehow (maybe through an exchange program). If you are interested in reading material about these topics try googling: europe vs us mba.