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by Janu Venkatramani (2Y 2021)

While I was applying to business school, I had one, singular goal in mind: getting in. As decisions rolled out, I was grateful, excited, and frankly relieved to be accepted. But too soon the initial joy wore off, and I was left with a choice that I found myself unprepared to make: Where do I go?

The data-driven approach

Despite all of the research I had done before applying, I felt lost. I could no longer articulate the differences between different schools: looking for a great education? for recruiting opportunities? to build a robust network? When I made pro-con lists on paper, each school looked strong in all of the areas I cared about as a prospective student.

I started searching for other ways to evaluate. I had heard of people who built models assessing different schools and their attributes, and I thought taking a data-driven approach would give me a defensible “right” answer. I pulled together a spreadsheet, weighting different factors based off of their value and quality, assuming that it would spit out a clear winner.

It didn’t. Even as I was going through the process, I deep down knew the approach wouldn’t work. It was too easy to adjust the scoring to get a different result, and I lacked a clear idea of why one criterion might rank above another. Instead, I self-sabotaged, lining things up in such a way that there was no definitive outcome.

The polling approach

Since that approach didn’t work, I tried yet another one: asking for opinions. I assumed people in my life would coalesce around one school, and that would mean it was the right school for me.

I got the opposite – each person I spoke with told me to choose a different program for a different reason. And no matter what anyone said, their response wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what I wanted to hear, but I knew I wasn’t hearing it. I asked more and more people, and during each conversation, I could feel time slipping away. The decision deadline was looming, and I desperately kept hoping that the next person would be my savior; that they would share that one profound insight that would make all of the chaotic ideas in my mind click into place.

Visiting campuses and trusting my gut

A month went by, and still nothing. I was exhausted and disenchanted with the whole idea of getting an MBA. In a last-ditch effort, I signed up for admissions weekends, hoping to recapture some of the spark that had originally excited me about school.

As I boarded the plane to head to Kellogg, my fingers were pulsing with a nervous anticipation. It was the first time since I had been accepted that I felt any excitement. I knew then that all of my rationalizations and models and lists were futile; I had to follow how I felt.

I spent the weekend immersed in everyone around me, and some questions started floating around in my head, like:

  • It’s 8 a.m. on a Tuesday in February and -3°F outside. Would Kellogg make me want to get out of bed?
  • During the big moments and the small — from traveling the world to a random Wednesday movie night in sweats — could I see spending time with the people here?
  • When I undoubtably doubt my life goals, will the people around me help me refocus?

I realized that despite all of my research, I couldn’t actually imagine what it would be like to be a student. So, I started noticing how current students interacted with each other. That’s where it clicked. Kellogg stood out as a community of people who not only went to school together, but genuinely liked each other. I couldn’t put words around it, but there was an energy — one that was frantic and energetic, but also supportive and warm — that I felt at the Hub. It was an energy I wanted to soak up. On my way home from the airport, I sent in my deposit.