I visited Yale SOM on my birthday almost a week and a half ago. It was the second school on my New England trip (MIT Sloan was the first and HBS would follow). Apologies for not writing about it sooner but the whole Columbia interview thing sidetracked me.
So on Thursday morning, we woke up early to meet up with HappyBunny (yes, that very one!) and her friend who had kindly offered to drive us from Boston to New Haven for the day. Happy's friend was also a prospective for Fall 2009 so we were all excited to check out SOM. There was some bad traffic for some reason but HappyB was a great sport about it and got us all munchkins!! We got to SOM right at 11:30 am for a welcome from the Student Ambassadors. As soon as I walked into the admissions office, Kathy Frost, one of the staff whom I spoke to on the phone a couple weeks prior, wished me a happy birthday. I was shocked that she remembered me! That was really nice though and caught my friends by surprise as they didn't even know. When I walked into the next room with the student ambassadors, I learned that Dave, my GMAT prep instructor from Veritas (and all-around super cool dude) was one of the ambassadors! He is a 1st year MBA student as well. We caught up for only a minute when the welcome started.
After the ambassadors introduced themselves (there were 5 of them for only 14 prospectives!), we walked over to Donaldson Commons which is the SOM cafeteria. We received free vouchers for lunch which was really nice. The cafeteria was good too. I got a Thai tofu wrap, some pineapple, and an Odwalla shake. Lunch and the smalltalk was nice. The cafeteria was cool and intimate-feeling.
Then we had our choice of classes to visit. I opted for "Careers" since I thought it would give me useful stuff to think about. The classroom, however, was a bit disappointing. The acoustics were not very good (people couldn't hear each other unless they used the mic) and the floor was flat as opposed to raised. This meant that people in the back had their view of the blackboard/projection screen obstructed by the heads of students in the front. I would also say that roughly half of SOM classes are below ground which is kinda unusual. The class was lackluster because it didn't talk about careers at all. Instead, it focused on personal development and Levinson's 8 stages of development (and Piaget's stages too perhaps, I don't remember). I had already learned all that stuff from my extensive psychology coursework during undergrad so I was disappointed. Another prospy I spoke to and a student told me that they didn't think the class was that great either. I was super embarassed when my phone made the largest tone ever when I received a text message. At least half a dozen people turned their heads. Stinks cuz my phone actually was off but then I must've accidentally turned it on again. Ugh.
After class, we had a Q&A with a member of the Adcom which was actually quite boring. I did learn one important piece of info though. She said that we can actually use another school's essay for Yale's "create your own question" option! Seriously! I can't believe she said that but she said that if we created a great story then there's no reason we shouldn't be allowed to use it for Yale's app just becuz another school coincidentally asked for it. I agree- just surprised that she would actually say so! I asked her if the other adcom members felt the same way and she said yes. She also said that the word limits were not strict limits but that a few words over was okay. This is in direct contrast to what Shelley at the Yale Reception (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago) said when she said that the word limits were indeed strict. Oh well.
The Q&A was really boring and monotonous though. I was happy when it was over. Afterwards, we went into downtown New Haven to pick up something from CVS and get HappyB some sandals since she had been wearing heels all day. We then went shopping at J.Crew and the Yale Coop bookstore. I had been super ecstatic about getting myself a Yale t-shirt (not SOM, but just "yale" on the front). When I finally found the perfect one (that fit perfectly too!), I couldn't bring myself to purchase it (even though the price was right). Yale's campus was very nice and the SOM facilities were decent but I wasn't in super love. I would've just been a poser if I bought that shirt I think. Plus I would've had to explain why I was wearing the shirt to people who might ask. So I didn't buy it :(
Dave, one of our student ambassadors and my former GMAT instructor, then told me of a happy hour/bbq that he was hosting on his lawn! That was really cool of him. I said that we'd drop by after dinner because we had dinner plans with some of HappyB and her friend's friends who were also SOM students. We met them for Thai food (don't remember the name of the place) but the food was good enough. It's funny because one of them was actually a co-founder of Google China and the others kept referring to her as "the founding member" which embarrassed her. The SOM students were really warm and friendly though. We had a great time at dinner and we felt very welcomed and included. A part of that might be because we were all Asian though hehe. In fact, everyone could speak Mandarin (including yours truly) and the 3 SOM students were actually international students so maybe that contributed to the bond/kinship. Anyway, we had such a good time at dinner that it was late for Dave's bbq. I still wanted to stop by but unfortunately, HappyB's friend had work the next morning so we drove back to Boston. I did thank Dave for the generous invite though- I really hope he didn't take it the wrong way.
We got back to Boston around 11 pm and we were pretty tired even though we slept in the car hehe. All in all, it was a very enjoyable and fun trip. One of the students was actually looking to do real estate finance so he was a helpful person to talk to as well. Plus, we got to meet "the founding member" haha! A funny thing is that all 3 of the students admitted that HBS was actually their first choice school! Yale's community were definitely very warm and welcoming but the facilities were just okay. The food was good though. I didn't see too much of New Haven but it didn't seem as run-down as I expected. It seemed okay I guess, which is how I would describe SOM overall. I'm sure it'll be amazing once the new building is built but that's not until 2013 or so. I think Stern might have the edge on Yale at this point, not really sure.
I will post about my HBS visit towards the end of the week.... unless I get accepted by CBS in which case I might just say "screw it." My interviewer still hasn't submitted feedback but I'm going to wait til Thursday (1 week) to contact the admissions office and ask them "how long should I wait?" ... don't worry, I won't contact the interviewer directly. A lot of people have commented that I shouldn't have asked the interviewer for feedback on how I did which I now agree with. She was definitely surprised by the question and gave me some generic response about how Columbia looks for people who are very enthusiastic about the program. But the past is the past and I still think I had a great interview (despite that 1 question). So I guess I should stop freaking out :)