Applicant Question: Career Changing and Kellogg Class Size

The MBA admissions process is difficult to navigate. Not only does it take a lot of work to get admitted but it’s also enormously unpredictable. As a result, a lot of people get started doing research early to get a head start on putting together a quality application. They do their best to get good scores and write great essays, and they  also do a lot of research beforehand to find a school that’s the perfect fit. With that in mind, I recently received an email from one of my readers about my experience at Kellogg as she is gearing up to apply to business school next fall.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a pretty large number of questions about interviews from aspiring MBA and JD-MBA applicants. Given the applicant pool for top MBA programs is highly competitive, filled with applicants applying with perfect GPAs and GMAT scores, this year, it seems as though a lot of applicants are ahead of the game.

This reader asked me two specific questions. One in regards to career changing while at Kellogg. And the other with regards to the culture at Kellogg, given the size of the school.

See below for the question and below that for my response.

Jeremy,

Thank you so much for taking some time out of your schedule to speak to us and answer questions during the student panel at the MLT Kick off.

As I mentioned, I am interested in transitioning from the oil and gas (energy) industry to the health care industry. Can you provide any insight as to the challenges of going through a career change during the MBA process?

Also, more specifically to Kellogg, I am really interested in applying. However, I am concerned about the large class size and whether it hinders a close knit community feel between the students. Any thoughts on the culture at Kellogg and your experience in general? I’ve read a lot about the reasons to go to Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, what are some of the reasons why someone should not go there?

Thanks again for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

(name)

—-

Hi (name)

Great to hear from you. And sorry its taken a few days to get back – we’ve been taking final exams all this week. That said, I’m glad I was able to make it out to Charlottesville to speak to the group.  Here are a couple of quick responses to your questions.

One, career change is hard but it is doable. I mentioned this in the session a few times – that changing careers in school is not a walk in the park. Why? Because there are usually fewer spots available than there are people going after the spots. So if two people with similar credentials are applying for the same roles, the one with the better background, more relevant story, and more applicable skills might have a bit of a better shot at getting the job offer.
However, fortunately there is good news too. One is that you get two tries to find your perfect role since you can recruit both in the summer, and then again for a full time job in your second year.  Second is that the career change you mentioned is seemed pretty aligned with some of your skills so you’ll definitely have a head start on people doing a pure change.  Likewise, if you know exactly what it is you want to do ahead of time, the process is usually much easier, especially if its a job in industry rather than services.
So while the consulting/banking route might be saturated with lots of people and have a somewhat ambiguous process that doesn’t always reward those who do the most research, the healthcare industry is more specific and you can specific knowledge to really stand out. And finally, another thing to note is that most people go to business school to do some sort of career change. And everyone comes out with a good job. You just have to work hard to make sure you’re successful.
Two, you’re absolutely right. Kellogg is definitely bigger than some of the other schools you might be considering – Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, Duke, Tuck, and Johnson to name a few.  On the other hand, Kellogg is also smaller than some of its peer schools – HBS, Wharton.  To that end, I’m of the opinion that picking the right class size for a school really comes down to personal preference, since there are pros and cons to the different classes sizes.
The advantage of a smaller class size is obvious – you get to know a majority of the students there, on average you get to know students a little better than you otherwise would, and often times the community and alumni base is more close knit. On the other hand, a big class size also has its advantages. Big classes usually translate into having more alumni taking part in more activities, more access to professional resources, more on campus activities, and more classes offered by the school.  So in the end, I think it’s a pretty personal decision. Personally, I’m glad I chose big. And even though Kellogg is about 600 students per class, I’ve still developed a good number of close friends.
Anyhow, I hope this information is helpful. My contact info is below in this email. Please do not hesitate to keep in touch as you navigate the admissions process. Also, feel free to reach out if you make it out to visit Kellogg at any point. Happy to help however I can.
All best,
Jeremy
Thursday, March 24th, 2011 Business School

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.

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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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