Sunday, March 23, 2008

Columbia Visit - Part 2

I walked into the admissions office and it was really tiny. In fact, it was a closet. I don’t think it was the actual admissions office, rather, it was just a 8’ x 10’ room for people to sign in and get name tags. I approached the table and signed in and the guy behind the table encouraged me to sit in on a class and showed me the schedule. I politely said that I already had my classes picked out and he said it would be a good idea to check that the schedule hadn’t changed. I did so and thank goodness I did because it turns out that the majority of the class options (I wrote down 4) had changed! They were in different rooms or had different professors from the ones posted online. Phew. I was curious to learn if the guy behind the desk was on the adcom, in which case I wanted to ask a couple questions, so I asked him what his role was. I guess he must’ve taken my question the wrong way because he seemed slightly taken aback by my question before replying that he was one of the Assistant Directors of Admission (I learned from Clear Admit that Columbia has 4 Associate Directors under Linda Meehan, and then an unspecified number of Assistant Directors, as well as part-time student staff). I was a bit haphazard with the schedule too, cuz I had to double-check it and he seemed to be alarmed by that action. All in all, he seemed a weird dude so I didn’t wind up asking him the questions I had.

I left the building to make my way to the info session which was supposed to be in Warren Hall. Warren Hall is actually on the corner of Amsterdam (the front gates of Columbia is on Broadway) and it was cool cuz right next door was Camille’s (apparently an Irish pub/restaurant), as well as a deli. I could envision myself grabbing many a sandwich/salad from there on the run before class. I was hoping to catch some b-school student on the way to class so I could chat and walk with them but no luck as I was too shy after the weird assistant director experience in Uris. I was so harrowed that I didn’t even want to look at his name badge.

I got to Warren 310 for the info session and sat outside for a few minutes to observe the gaggle of students in the hall socializing (it appears that a class just ended or was about to start). All the students seemed happy and sociable and got along really well with each other from what I could see. That’s a good sign. I saw some people walk into the info session so I followed. The room was (what I would soon learn is a) typical b-school classroom. The front has a couple large screens for the projectors so that everyone in the room can see the powerpoint slides. There’s a lectern in between the projectors. Then there’s about 7 curved rows of communal desks (split into 2 sides) with comfortable swivel chairs. There were about 10 people already there. I took a seat by myself in the middle of the fourth row.

We started about five minutes late at 12:35 and there were about 16 prospective applicants there at that time. A couple more would trickle in later. I would say maybe 12 of the 16 prospectives were males. And out of the few girls, none of them were lookers L hehe. Our host was Michael Robinson, one of the Associate Directors of Admissions. He seemed to be a very happy, nice, friendly guy. Apparently he’s a grad from 2001. He did a decent job going through the major themes of Columbia (new york advantage, broad curriculum, international, entrepreneurial, etc.) but didn’t reveal anything that couldn’t be gleaned from a thorough perusal of their website or other literature. I guess I’ve done much more research than most at this point. Some of the questions that were asked were pretty basic. A funny moment occurred when Michael couldn’t work a short film in the PowerPoint slide and when he finally got it to work, the volume was blaring so loud that it was almost painful. He didn’t alter it though because the last time he did that, the movie shut off and it took him awhile to get it back up. Just a bit embarrassing :P Anyway, I asked about the opening of the Manhattanville campus as I heard Fall 2011 as a target date and also 2015. He said that they don’t really know because real estate politics in NY is tough to predict. This is a positive development because I would really prefer to be integrated with the rest of the Columbia community while at b-school (as much as is possible that is) rather than stuck on 130th street!

He originally stated that we were going to get 10 minutes for questions but the presentation took a bit long so we only got 5 minutes. When I raised my hand for second question, he looked at me and asked if anyone “who didn’t already ask a question” had a good question to ask. Ouch! He said it in a nice, encouraging way for the other prospectives but unfortunately, the person he wound up choosing asked a really basic question that showed he clearly had not looked at the website for more than 2 minutes. Oh well. After the session, I waited to say hi to him and asked him whether the talk about reducing the J-Term class to 100 was true. He said that the talk is currently off the table but the thinking originally was that there’d be more resources for the other students… and something about recruiters that I don’t remember any more. He said that if the talk ever re-surfaced, that the total class size would then be 600 (which means the Fall class would remain fixed at 500). I also asked him if there were any plans to renovate the gym. I could tell he was slightly surprised by this question (I don’t blame him as it’s slightly off-topic but c’mon, it does effect the quality of student life and the gym really is that embarrassingly bad). He said he didn’t know J

It’s interesting to note that maybe 7 of the 16 prospectives in my info session were international students. Not just that, but they were all coincidentally from Latin America (same goes for Jairo, the friendly Student Ambassador who gave me his business card). I can definitely say that there is a large international contingent in the b-school since 40% of them are international. Too bad the female percentage wasn’t higher though. I think getting that 33% figure up to 35% would be a significant accomplishment (how does NYU get 42%???)

Since I waited to speak to Michael (whose card I also have as he laid them out on the table for everyone to pick up), there was no chance of me getting to speak to a Student Ambassador before the 2:15 class. In fact, I couldn’t even make it back to Uris for the Investment Banking Tax class that I had planned on taking. Since I wasn’t going to walk into a class late, I decided to wing it and attend whatever class I could find in Warren at that time. I went to the second floor and was glad to finally see some ladies walking around. I asked one of them what class she was going into and she revealed it was Operations Management (B-6801-007), part of the core. I thanked her and walked in after her. I introduced myself to Professor Gabriel Weintraub and took a seat in the back row next to a student.

Egads, this is already a million pages long. To be continued! (only one more post on this visit I promise)

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