As I alluded to in my Ross debrief, I had a Johnson interview a week later, so you all could expect another
painfully long debrief this week. Unlike my Ross visit, I had never been to Ithaca, Cornell, or Johnson. Therefore, I will try to balance information about my interview with information about my visit.
I drove to Ithaca on Sunday afternoon, through a lot of the wind that caused massive damage in the Midwest. Monday morning in Ithaca was beautiful – mid 50s and sunny. Talk about fortunate planning. I was in Ann Arbor and had great weather, and now in Ithaca had great weather. If I had scheduled my interviews the other way around, I would have had snow in Ithaca, and tornados in Ann Arbor! In Ithaca, there are several places to stay, but be mindful of the elevation change on campus if you plan on walking; the hill to get up to campus is not insignificant, and actually drives much of where students choose to live. I stayed downtown, which allowed me to check out some of the things Ithaca had to offer away from Cornell and Johnson. Ithaca is a neat little town, and has a lot to offer; I can’t confirm, but someone told me there are more restaurants per capita than NYC!
On to the interview. I arrived at campus much earlier than needed; it was better than sitting in my hotel room. I was so early, that admissions had not arrived to open the office yet, so I sat in the beautiful atrium and watched the students filter in. Like Darden, Johnson provides coffee for its students in the morning, often with professors and other administration people partaking in the social event. Once admissions arrived, I began knocking off things on my pre-determined schedule by attending a first year finance course. While the course was not the most interesting of options I had, I felt it was a good way to see what a normal/required course looks like at Johnson. As such, I was not too impressed with the content – working in finance has helped me understand a lot of what the course was covering – but I think the professor did a really good job making the course as interesting as possible. The class was surprisingly large for such a small MBA program, though it did not seem like the students had to fight to be heard. Good thing too, since there were TA’s in the back of the room, marking participation grades. Which brings me to another point; there is no grade non-disclosure at Johnson. I was assured by several students that it was not a big deal, but I think that GND leads to a less competitive environment, where students focus more on grades than education; something that does not always go hand in hand. Nevertheless, I am not too worried about grades; I am much more interested in learning.
The curriculum at Johnson is something I am really interested in. Instead of having dual semesters of core classes, Johnson knocks a whole bunch of them out in your first semester, and then second semester is filled by something called immersions. Immersions are career-focused classes, that allow you to get some hands on experience in an academic environment that simulates the work you’ll be doing in your desired industry. When I say simulate, I do not mean hypothetical problems – you will work on real world issues within your immersion group. These live cases stand to give you a leg up during your summer internship, as you will have already accomplished similar work before the first day of your internship, as opposed to only having accomplished core classes. Seems like a good idea to me.
Immediately after class, my interviewers greeted me. Yes plural – I had two interviewers. At the same time. Seems that Johnson was still in the process of training its second year students for interviews, so my interview would be conducted by a 2nd year student AND an admissions member. The interview was similar to the previous 3 I have had at Fuqua, Tuck, and Ross. Standard walk-me-through-your-resume, why-boots-to-suits questions. Very few curve balls or questions I was not expecting. After 50 minutes of questioning and conversation-ing, I was done. I did not feel that I left much on the table, and perhaps this was my best interview yet. The questions just really seemed to play to my strengths and preparation. That being said, it is really hard to tell how you did on an interview like this; sometimes you walk away feeling completely different about your answers than your interviewer does.
After the interview, I had a few hours to kill. After dropping back in the admissions lounge for a few minutes, where oddly enough I saw another candidate who I met at my Ross interview (if you are reading this, drop me a note in the comments!), I went out to meet some of the Johnson students. I had organized a meeting through a mutual friend with an engineer turned MBA, and eventually banker. Since we have similar goals, he was a great person to meet and shared plenty about his rational for choosing Johnson, the benefits of the curriculum, and the culture at the school. We also talked about the Park Fellowship at Johnson; it is definitely a game changer if you are awarded it. After he had to run to class, he dropped me off with a 1st year who chatted with me for an hour or so over lunch. Throughout my whole visit, the current students went way out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and made time for me and the other prospective students to chat with them. This definitely made me feel good about the culture at the program.
Finally I was on to my last event of the day – a tour and information session hosted by 1st year students. The tour was fairly standard, I thought the facilities were very nice. Everything seemed pretty new, though the whole business school is hosted in 1 building. When you think about it, though, that makes sense. At 279 students per class, Johnson comes in as one of the smallest business schools in its peer group, so a massive building is not needed. Sage Hall sits on the corner of the overall Cornell Campus, and provides an excellent view of the town and Lake Cayuga. The surrounding area is quite beautiful with several hiking trails that take you to the many streams, gorges, and waterfalls in the area. After our hosts dropped us back at admissions, I
repelled walked down the hill to my car, and headed home. My overall experience at Johnson, if you have not guessed by now, was quite strong. I came to campus not knowing exactly what to expect; I had read plenty, but was not sure that Johnson would be the right place for me, despite what I wrote in my essays. I left campus knowing that I would be thrilled to spend 2 years in Ithaca. If you have the opportunity, I suggest you attend campus, if only for a visit: Like Tuck, Johnson is a program that is best appreciated in person.