The phone conversation began similar to the hundreds of others I have seemed to have over the couple of weeks after my acceptances. I told her what my goals and ambitions were at this point and what I thought were the pros and cons of both Harvard and Stanford. She gave me many of the same statistics and figures that I have heard many times previously and it seemed that this would be the last call before I would "accept Harvard's acceptance!" We were wrapping the conversation up when she changed from giving me the facts to talking to me in the most straight forward manner I could have ever asked for. She told me that the name really doesn't matter and the Stanford name would open just as many doors as the Harvard name. While I think that is probably the case, I am already quite familiar with having an unknown undergraduate university on my resume' so it would be nothing new if I had to work just a bit harder to open those doors.
Our conversation came down to one thing that really stuck with me which would ultimately result in my decision. Yes, both Stanford and Harvard would be great schools and could easily propel me down the road of becoming a successful business leader. With either degree, I could be financially secure and would have incredible opportunities afforded to me. But, she told me I need to ask myself... do I truly want to be the best leader I can possibly be? If the answer is yes, then I need to put aside rankings...prestige...name...others' advice... and reflect on myself.
What program suits who I am? Which institution will focus on developing my weaknesses, push me to the limit and create that top leader that I want to be?
I hung up the phone, so thankful to this woman who just changed my entire thought process on choosing my graduate school and so "un-thankful" that I was now back to square one. I grabbed the Harvard acceptance form and slid it in a drawer where it stayed.
Over the next few weeks, I did visit Stanford. It was not admit weekend so I had my own personal tour where I met pretty much everyone involved in the program, from first-years up to Dean Joss, each offering their own insight about the Stanford MBA program. I can honestly say I met some of the most amazing, humble, and kind people I have ever known that weekend. I came back to Ohio Wesleyan and, as the woman suggested, sat by myself and reflected on the questions she posed.
A few hours later, I called my father and told him I would be attending Stanford's Graduate School of Business next year.
Why? Every person I met there was incredible! They were so diverse in every way and had ambitions of changing the world. Everyone seemed to have ideas and there is nothing I love more. The program is much smaller (370 students vs. 900 students at HBS) creating a smaller, more intimate environment which I am more familiar with and thrive off of. Their curriculum is more personal and offers greater flexibility. Finally, in entrepreneurship it is unbeatable due to its proximity to Silicon Valley.
My decision was made and final. I am a member of the Stanford GSB Class of 2009!
Note: This was a VERY abbreviated version of my decision-making process and there were many more people who graciously gave their time to help me think through it. I thank everyone who helped me and would most definitely help anyone else who is going through a similar decision!