Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Cambridge?

Today I’ll go a little back in time and explain why I chose Cambridge and how I made my mind up.

After getting my Gmat score I realised I could apply to some of the best universities with a chance of being successful. That was a good thought but having so many alternatives made my choice a lot harder. So I shortlisted the ones I thought to be the best and also looked through the MBA rankings (like the Economist and the Financial Time rankings).
So I ended up with the following MBA list (with no specific order):

America - Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Chicago;

Europe - INSEAD, IMD, Cambridge, IESE, London Business School.

I know there are some top universities missing but this was my shortlist according to rankings and the prestige these schools have in my country.
It was very hard to decide between all these good schools. Names like Harvard and Stanford are part of my imaginary since I was in high school.

But in order to make a good choice, I had to look into the little details and ask specific questions. So my first questions, asked almost simultaneously, were: Do I want to go to America (I’m European) or do I want to stay in Europe? Do I want a two year programme or do I prefer to spend only one year doing an MBA?

And the answers were quite clear to me. Although the thought of attending Harvard or other top American school seems very appealing, the truth is I didn’t want to go to America. It is too far away for me and travelling back home during holidays would be hard and expensive. On the other hand I don’t feel like spending two years studying. After working for more than 6 years it is hard for me to stop working for so long. I prefer a shorter and more intensive programme. And, of course, a 1-year programme has a higher value-for-money and the return on investment is quicker. Usually, American universities offer 2-year programmes whereas European ones offer 1 or 1 and a half year programmes.

So I was down to my European options. I must confess my first thought was INSEAD. INSEAD has a very good reputation where I live in and it is obviously a good school. But there was something that didn’t please me very much. Each year, there are nearly 800 intakes. That’s a lot of students. I find hard to believe they have a personal approach. On the opposite side was Cambridge, being the MBA programme with fewer intakes each year (around 100).

Another thing I looked at was the programme itself. Both Cambridge and IMD had an interesting feature (although a little different from each other): consulting projects. I wanted a programme that had a very practical approach.

Although IESE has a case study approach, it is only discussed in the class room. It hasn’t real life work with real life companies. So again, Cambridge had the thumbs up.

The third question was: where would I like to live? After visiting Cambridge on the interview day I was completely overwhelmed and the answer become very clear to me. That place is amazing. And I would rather live a year in England than in France or Spain because: 1) speaking English all the time will make me improve my English; 2) it is near London, which is the European financial centre. Once again, Cambridge won it.

Cambridge is also a synonym of prestige and tradition. The environment surrounding Cambridge is fantastic and the city seems to have been built from the university. So, for all the above, I chose Cambridge.

Big disclaimer: This is my viewpoint and my opinion. Maybe my idea regarding other schools is not correct but that is my idea and I based my decision upon that.

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