Friday, 9 March 2007

World MBA Tour (except not really much of the world)

I have been running with song titles as blog headlines for quite a length of time now (in such an infant page, this claim can be dealt with the disregard it deserves). But last night was one of those things that fill rare qualities on here. “Relevance”, being the main one of those qualities that is so rare, we best dwell on it.

The World MBA tour thing hit town. It was in Holborn, and I was interested in going along for a variety of reasons. First, I have the big dinner thing coming up at the same venue in a fortnight, so I could scout for pubs. Second, I have done very little of the “conventional” MBA research stuff. I did GMAT from a whim in a NYC bookstore (well, a bit more considered than that, but lets sell it as “self-started” and move on), I selected MBA schools without them trying to select themselves onto me, and I have only really talked about what and where with people [i]once[/i] I had applied. Third, there were some schools there where meeting them might be a good idea.

So, I trekked across town (WC sucks), the Central line in rush hour being the typical bandit-fare as ever. There was a lengthy queue outside the venue. This was the first bad sign. A queue to get to see some tables. I got flyered for courses in the queue. This was fun – the last time I got fliers in a queue I found out that Ariel Pink was doing another show in town (outside the Boredoms gig, it actually gave me the url for upset the rhythm so I knew of their shows). These were not so fun. Do people really spend £1000 on a training course on GMAT? If so, I have dead-straight got myself a sideline earner when I get into school. I would guarantee one-on-one tuition to get someone up to their required GMAT for $1500. Reasonable cap meaning I don’t get people saying 800 and all. That will safely cover the bills.

Anyway, that isn’t the point. I am waiting outside what is little more than a recruitment fair, at 6pm in a street in London. Because the registration is taking too long (this being after online registration – registration appeared to be checking your name on a bundled list, taking some money off you and giving you a sticker). I waited about fifteen minutes, mostly with the aim to see one school and then float around.

Once I got in, it was like societies fair at university. Tables, little presentation screens, gimmicks to try and draw you in. It seems very odd to me that Schools are so keen to make an effort to recruit – it almost points to the fact they are struggling for numbers or quality applicants I find. Sure, this is not a factually based thought, but it is the impression that you get – a desperate desire to increase numbers, quality or whatever. I think this is actually partly based upon the fact that I hate this type of event.

Anyway, World MBA tour was somewhat a misnomer. Several of the schools advertised on the site earlier in the week had pulled their stands, most significantly including the one that I wanted to see. International scoring on the stands was three Australian, one Windies, one Singaporean, and seven US. The rest were European. Not wanting to go to a European school, this kind of killed the night off for me. Sure, before I get told I should research these things, I was there for one school, that I found out was pulled as I went in. Having queued and paid, I had a look around (and picked up a ugly toy thing.) As for the popularity, the LBS and INSEAD stands were rocked off their feet, and every other stand was trying to lure people in. Not much surprising there, then.

The crowd was very representative of every business school trend I have seen reported. Sure I had read that there was the huge surge in Indian applications, but I was taken aback when I was in the fair. I had lazily assumed that this would be a localised effect on global applications, whereas it became rapidly apparent that the MBA is a big thing to Indians, full stop. It was very fun to be in a space where there as such a demographic mix Рsadly, there was little reason to be there. There were lots of really quite serious looking people there too. I suppose I should have expected this, but it left me feeling quite distressed. I hoped for lots of work hard, but look like they would be fun in the pub folks. I got people who would probably order cr̬me de menthe. Not good.

I looked into the presentation rooms, but it was a talked-to powerpoint on preparation. Given I have applied to three schools, interviews with two, it was all a little late for me. Given that I hate powerpoints even when they are even relevant (unless the presenter is actually captivating, which is sadly rare). Lots of people were there, and I hope some got a lot out of it. It was disappointing for me that none of the major schools were there, but I suppose this sits so badly in their schedule of stuff to do, it is hardly surprising. As I alluded to earlier – having your admissions staff here would suggest you are low on applicants to review, or – maybe – you are in town interviewing around the date.

Whether I get in or not, I will not be heading back to one of these events. Interaction with the desks for the schools didn’t look as though it would be particularly beneficial to any applicant’s case. It was more having someone to speak to about things, formulate their first ideas about MBAs, GMAT, in a place where you know they will try and sell whatever you want to hear to you. If you want that, these things are great. If you don’t, then you will probably feel the internet has superseded the necessity for such road-show events, as you can find the information yourself. I am firmly in the latter category.

It did look like a good party venue though, and at least when I return to the venue, there will be alcohol.

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