How to Choose a Business School That Will Fit You

Discover your own path
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Your years post-college have been spent working with the Peace Corps and later at a job you really have no interest in. Now, you’ve decided to really take matters into your own hands and change things up. But, switching careers means you’ll need a new skill set, so you decide to enroll in business school.

Rifling through your closet until you find that navy blue blazer and plain white button down shirt, you pick out a pair of fitted black slacks to go along with them. Add a gold watch, brush your hair out of your eyes, and you’re done.

Staring into the mirror you feel you look the part. You’ll totally fit in with the drab accountant types that circulate Yale School of Management’s halls.

But, upon entering the classroom, you’re surprised by the bustling life just inside the door. Your classmates are filled with energy and a creative light that shines through each project you tackle together.

Vice President at ideas42 Katy Davis decided to go to business school in order to switch careers. She talks to us about her choice to go back to school, her experience there, and the incredible people she was surprised to meet.

Where did you go to school and what was the title of your MBA program?

I got my MBA from Yale School of Management in 2012.

What made you want to go to business school? Did you have an end goal in mind? If so, what was it?

Before business school, I had worked in two really different settings: first serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, and subsequently working as a Mergers & Acquisitions Analyst at Glass, Lewis & Co.

I went to business school to blend my interests in economic development and finance, and shift into a role in the economic development sector where I could use my experience to (hopefully) make the world a better place.

What was the most surprising part about business school?

I expected business school to be challenging and eye-opening. What I didn’t expect was how much fun it was. My classmates were a creative, passionate, and high-energy bunch—a far cry from the buttoned-up accountants and investment bankers I had anticipated. I found myself involved in video projects, fundraisers, international voyages, and flash mobs. I made friends that I will have for life.

What do you feel were the benefits of attending business school?

Putting aside my diverse and talented classmates, as well as the benefits of tapping into the Yale network, I really valued the opportunity to engage in experiential learning. Yale and many other business schools offer project-based programs that allow you to lead consulting-style projects with social enterprises or private sector businesses on a short-term basis, both in the US and internationally.

I found those programs really useful because they gave me a sense of whether I liked that type of work, and also helped me establish industry connections. For career switchers like me, I would advise finding opportunities through internships and consulting programs to actually try out working in your target field.

Business school is the perfect time to stretch your boundaries.

What (if any) do you feel were the cons or challenges of attending business school?

It’s no joke; b-school is expensive. Make sure you really understand the costs before you decide to attend. Seriously, don’t put off using those online loan calculators to figure out what your future salary would need to be to support your loan payments. Know that number! Look into scholarships, fellowships, and programs like Yale’s generous loan forgiveness program for students aiming to work in the nonprofit sector.

How much work experience do you think is necessary before applying for an MBA? This could be years of work or types of experiences.

I would recommend working for at least 2–3 years (or in a couple of different settings) before going to b-school. It’s hard to say without hindsight bias, but I found that my past experience made the material much more meaningful and relevant—much more than reading out of a textbook. Work experience gives you the context to understand the insights.

What are some things that students or recent grads who are considering business school should know?

I chose Yale School of Management over other business schools not only because of the strong social sector focus, but also because the community just felt right. All too often, we are blinded by what looks good on paper and ignore what our gut instincts are telling us about the people and the culture. Visit. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Make sure that these are the people with whom you want to share pretty much every waking moment for the next two years.

What advice do you have for students or recent grads entering into a business school program?

B-school will be over before you know it. Enjoy it!

Homework time! Katy talks about the benefits of getting work experience before applying to business school. Spend some time working after college so that you have the context to apply your “b-school” lessons. Also, Katy chose Yale School of Management because of the payment options and community. Take some time to research and visit different programs to find one you’ll feel comfortable in and that will support you and your career. Don’t just go for the name.

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