Here’s a talk with Cindy Law, a 2nd year Wharton student who attended UC Berkeley Haas as an undergrad. Cindy tells of her experiences at both places, as well as her post-MBA plans. Thank you Cindy for sharing your thoughts with us!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Cindy: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and have also lived in Wisconsin, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2006, majoring in psychology and business administration at the Haas School of Business. After graduation I worked in management consulting and was based in San Francisco.
I am currently in my 2nd year at Wharton, pursuing interests in finance, social impact, and entrepreneurial management.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend Wharton? How would you describe your unique fit with the program?
Cindy: The distinct strength of Wharton’s network, the caliber of people I met, the high level of student engagement, and the overall UPenn environment all stood out to me. I loved that Wharton’s culture is incredibly student-driven and dynamic; the school is constantly being pushed forward, shaped, and redefined by its students, who are leading incredible initiatives across many fronts. These elements can seem intangible until you visit and see them come to life through the amazing breadth of talent and energy on campus. I was impressed to find peers who are ambitious, spark challenging conversations, and epitomize the “work hard, play hard” mantra.
The multidimensionality of my classmates is what makes the school so interesting – it is humbling to see my classmates lead global treks and conferences, sing and dance at the Follies show, apply their skills to the social impact sector, and push their comfort levels on leadership ventures in all corners of the world. These overarching qualities, coupled with the strength of the Wharton program itself, made Wharton an easy choice.
Accepted: How do the teaching style, student body, and school philosophy/mission differ between Haas and Wharton?
Cindy: I’ll start by saying I’m a proud Wharton MBA and equally proud Cal Bear! I’d highly recommend each program based on the right personal fit.
The mixed lecture/case/experiential teaching styles are common to both schools. The biggest difference in the student body is the class size (~250 in the Haas MBA, ~850 at Wharton). This leads to different opportunities in the type of network and interactions in each school. Both schools have great diversity, and it’s exciting to see Wharton lead in women’s enrollment, with a 45% female class!
Hands-on leadership is deeply embedded into the Wharton fabric, as are rigor and innovation to make new and traditional fields such as marketing, healthcare, finance, and social impact more relevant. Some themes that I saw at Haas included innovative thinking, social responsibility, and a strong commitment to personal learning and growth. As you can tell, there are significant overlapping philosophies across top MBA programs and it’s about finding the people and approach that you best connect with.
Accepted: Which do you think is a better environment for studying business — the west coast or east coast? Are you enjoying living in Philadelphia?
Cindy: I had a fantastic experience at both schools and was lucky to have had complementary east and west coast experiences. Each geography has its advantages in terms of industry concentration, regional network, and lifestyle, and of course there is the differing access to Silicon Valley vs. Wall Street. Still, it’s a shame that schools tend to be labeled because there’s such a wide spectrum of opportunities beyond those labels. Ultimately both coasts can provide powerful personal and professional opportunities and the MBA is what you make of it – so I’d encourage prospective students to spend the effort to really understand the nuances of each program.
Philly has been a terrific environment for developing shared experiences on campus and in Center City, where most students live and the hub of social activity for Wharton MBAs. The city is very walkable, with great restaurants, bars, and cafes around Rittenhouse Square and Old City – perfect for happy hours, small group dinners, coffee chats, and Wharton traditions!
Accepted: What is your favorite class so far?
Cindy: I’ll name a few: Venture Capital with David Wessels, Corporate Development with Saikat Chaudhuri, and Entrepreneurship through Acquisition with Robert Chalfin. Not only are the professors incredibly dynamic, but I appreciate that our discussions are grounded in practice and draw from the experiences of my professors, guest lecturers, and peers. Seeing how practitioners think about these topics is what makes the course that much more impactful, thought-provoking, and relevant. I’ve been impressed with case facilitation that goes beyond surface impressions to extract underlying tensions that I would not have otherwise considered.
Accepted: What did you do for your internship last summer?
Cindy: I interned at Credit Suisse New York in its Retail & Consumer investment banking group. I came to Wharton to pursue finance so my summer provided terrific exposure to banking, strong networking opportunities, and the foundation to help solidify my longer-term career goals.
Accepted: Do you have a job lined up for next year? If so, what role did Wharton play in helping you secure that position?
Cindy: Post-grad I will be moving back to San Francisco to join Credit Suisse in its Technology group. Wharton was instrumental in my summer internship and full-time career decisions. Having a global, top-tier b-school name and being a target school for many recruiters accelerated the process and made access that much easier. Career services facilitated the on-campus recruiting process, but equally important were my 1st and 2nd year peers who provided candid conversations, coaching, and feedback through every stage of my recruiting process.
I can’t speak highly enough about this aspect of Wharton – we all rely on one other and are invested in each other, so everyone is constantly reaching out to other classmates for information, contacts, and advice. When you get 1,600 students (and 80,000 global alumni) together with this mutual accountability and “pay it forward” mentality, it’s a pretty incredible thing. We independently and collectively have strong ownership of the Wharton experience.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our Wharton applicants?
Cindy: In many ways Wharton is a microcosm for the working world – a million opportunities coming your way, many interesting challenges, and a finite amount of time. You have to navigate your experience deliberately, knowing how you want to prioritize each hour of your day. Your two years here are precious. Have fun, travel the world, meet people who think differently, try something uncharacteristic. It’s the best kind of problem to have when you’re choosing from the many things you’d love to do at once!
Also remember that the self-reflection process you’re going through now will stay with you for a long time. Being grounded in these motivations will help you keep that “stay hungry” mentality.
From an admissions perspective, candidates who are genuine in their applications and have been thoughtful about their progression, goals, and the MBA program really shine. This authenticity and enthusiasm for what they do is truly contagious.
Accepted: Can you recommend a good spot — coffee shop, library, park, or some other spot — where you enjoy studying?
Cindy: One of my favorite study spots is the Fine Arts Library at UPenn, which is architecturally inspiring and provides a quiet space away from the buzz in Huntsman Hall and the MBA Café. I’m also a coffee fiend and love the various coffee shops in Center City. Elixr Coffee has hand-poured coffee and latte art; Pure Fare serves Blue Bottle coffee from San Francisco; and Miel Patisserie also has delicious pastries and desserts to snack on.
This post is part of an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
For complete, soup-to-nuts guidance on the MBA admissions process, please purchase Linda Abraham’s new book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools – now available in paperback and Kindle editions!