Thursday, February 11, 2010


Last month I decided to apply for Kellogg's Student Exchange Program, which allows you to spend either the fall or winter quarter of your 2nd year at an international partner school.  The list of schools is pretty impressive, so it should be possible to find a program that meets your needs.  In my hastily concocted opinion, the exchange program is the best way to gain international experience at Kellogg.  There are other opportunities, like Global Initiatives in Management, where you spend a semester learning about a country before visiting for 2 weeks in March, but in my opinion, that will mainly provide you with insights.  I think that in order to truly broaden your perspective you have to spend a prolonged amount of time immersed in a different culture.

My main objective was to gain a better international perspective without sacrificing on the quality of the MBA program;  inevitably, that led me to the London Business School, which has a student body that is 90% international and a good set of MORS-type leadership and finance electives that fit into my curriculum.  Unfortunately, this program is one of the most competitive, with only 5 slots available to Kellogg students for next year (there is a whole market for exchange slots I 1 Kellogg slot might go for .5 LBS slots out on the market).  Yesterday, I got an email with the dreaded DING!

Needless to say, I was bummed for a little while about not getting in, but honestly, it's hard for me to complain.  Not getting in means that I'll spend another quarter at Kellogg, which is itself an amazing program.  Now, I'll just have to find another way to eventually live abroad (consulting career...I'm looking at you).  I'm also hoping to spend the summer after I graduate traveling.  

I did everything that was in my power to put together what I think was a strong application.  I spent some time reflecting, researched some target schools, finally got around to updating my resume, and then spent an exorbitant amount of time writing my essays, which went through a few rounds of edits/reviews with  my friend.

I gambled on the fact that the review committee would appreciate the fact that outside of my KWEST trip to Hong Kong, I have absolutely no international experience, meaning that I stood to gain a lot from the program.  I wrote my first essay around that core theme. I'll never actually know what the right approach was because we don't get any feedback.  They do give you an opportunity to apply for any open programs after getting gently rejected, but after putting so much thought into why LBS worked for me, it seemed too disingenuous to turn around and write about why another school fits.  Ultimately, I chalked up my ding to the fact that there were limited spots and selection factors that were outside of my control.  I have no regrets about what I submitted, because I tried (not applying and knowing would have been worse). 

This is a bit like recruiting during grad school.  It is easy to forget that only about 40% of students get their internships from on-campus recruiting (see page 35 of the Kellogg 2009 Employment PDF).  Assuming that rate holds across industries, it means that less than half of the students that apply for consulting spots will get them; furthermore, if you look at just the "top" firms, I'm sure that percentage becomes smaller.  In the end, you are able to control for some factors (fit and case performance), but there are a lot of things that are out of your control (interviewer, the cases you get, what they are looking for, the number of available spots, etc).  That said, I'll close with a quote that came from a 2nd-year student's professor:
"Relax.  The worst thing that can happen is that you eventually get a job after Kellogg only making $100K a year."
I hope that all of the exchange students have an amazing time next year! We'll hold down the fort back home.


  1. Last line sounds like Prof Rogers. :) He said that a couple times in Entrepreneurial Finance...

    Sorry to hear that the Student Exchange program didn't work out. I think you'll be glad to have the extra time to network with Kellogg classmates. You've got the right attitude about it. Cheers!

  2. interesting. Is LBS the hardest to get in? What are the slots available at some other exchange schools, such as those in asia?

  3. Thanks Katie!

    @Anony: From what I understand, LBS tends to be the hardest one, though this year they added INSEAD, and I imagine that program would also be popular. I don't know what the slot situation is with the other schools, but it varies.

  4. sorry about the rejection. It's not the best outcome, but it's just how life goes~ I actually had a similar experience in undergrad when I was trying to get the one spot to exchange to Cambridge for a year. In the end, I still had a great time at another uni in the UK. I totally agree that the best way to get international exposure is living abroad for months of time. It's totally worth it. So I would encourage you to look for more of those opportunities. After-all, it's a lot easier to do that when we are young :)

  5. what does the last line mean? is 100K not good money leaving Kellogg? I mean it seems that if you graduate law school, you'll make 160K and in medicine, there's more money, like 200-500K depending on what you specialize in, so back to the question, is 100K not enough for a MBA program?

  6. @Anony - I think the point of the prof's line is that you'll be OK after grad school, even if you don't land your top job choice. If you look through the employment report, you'll find a wide range of outgoing salaries, especially when comparing non-profit to something like ibanking; whether or not 100K is good money is probably up to an individual.