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Secret Pro Tips for International MBA Students who Want to Work in the United States

(image borrowed from: https://journeytobschool.wordpress.com/)As a former Northwestern Kellogg MMM (MBA + Masters in Design Innovation), I’ll tell you something that you want to know but that no one at Kellogg will ever tell you:

Secret Pro Tip:

If you’re an international student who REALLY wants to work (and  / stay) in the United States (USA) after graduation, invest in the MMM program.

Here’s why:

  • As an international MBA student in the US, you will be on a F-1 Student Visa for full-time students (if you are an exchange student, you will be on J-1). You are allowed to work up to 1 year in the USA on OPT period (Optional Practical Training), given that you find a job no later than 3 months after graduation.
  • In the unfortunate situation you have not found a job three months after graduation, you must leave the United States.
  • If you find a job with a company that is willing to sponsor your H1B Visa, you enter a one-time lottery for the H1B Visa. The probability of winning this year (2016) was just 40% for those holding a Master’s degree from the US. The odds were lower if you only held a Bachelor’s degree. Generally, this percentage becomes lower with each passing year due to increases in demand (from people like you who are reading this).
  • If you lose the lottery (odds are you will), you go back home.
  • Now, with MMM, the M.S. in Design Innovation is an engineering degree (that does NOT require an engineering background) from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern. This engineering degree allows you to stay in the US an extra two years (3 total) and participate in the lottery a total of 3 times.

It can be said that the MS DI program is not really an engineering program, in the way that most people think about engineering (hardcore math & science). Nonetheless, it’s classified as an engineering program.

Beyond that are the more traditional reasons to be part of Kellogg: long-time elite business school brand, the amazing new all-glass lakefront building, rise in the rankings, leading percentages for diversity in gender and internationality, continued emphasis on tech, and my articles on the experience). Plus the MS in Design Innovation offers a great core of classes that will help you understand problems from bottom up (“what is the user/customer thinking?), rather than just top-down (“well, it’s clear from the financials, we have too many employees, let’s just fire them”).

All that sounds sound great, but let’s be real. The reason you go to business school is to fulfill your professional goals. If your goal is to be in the United States long term, apply for Kellogg MMM.

The simple math: at today’s acceptance rates, you have a 60% chance of getting rejected and having to leave the country after one year. With MMM, you can stay at least three years and the chances you will end up having to leave the US without a Visa is only 21.6%.

Is this worth an extra quarter of tuition? Of course it is.

5 Tips in Bidding for Classes at Kellogg [MBA]

Click to see original image source

Incoming Northwestern Kellogg MBA students tend to be worried about how bidding will work, and even though everyone has tons of questions in September, I noticed that most people have forgotten all those answers by the time bidding actually begins in November. Thus, here are some tips from my own experience to help you through the process.

1) Do not worry about this in September (or if you are MMM, June). There will be plenty of guidance as the first bidding opportunity opens up. This is one of those things that you won’t understand too well until you see it. Plus, it really isn’t that complicated.

2) Do not bid on multiple class times for a class. It is better to simply select the time that you want and bid more for that one time than trying for multiple times. I made this mistake and lost out of both classes even though I bid higher than what history dictated.

3) Bid 25% higher than the highest amount bid for the class for your respective round over the last 3 years across any quarter. The key here is to match the round you are in – Round 2 scores are often inflated because people are desperate to get in second choice classes at this point, and will use more points to get into something. Thus, if a class has maxed out at 500 points for Round 1 the last 3 years, and you are in Round 1, bid 625 points. Make sure you are matching professors as well, same class by a different professor will generate different results. Round 1 is the most important to be strategic as you will get the most value for your points. For 1st years, this doesn’t become that important until the Spring quarter of your first year as you will be primarily be on core classes before that.

4) Do not assume that a class that goes for a lot of points (ex. > 1,000) is really that good. Try to understand what you want out of a class before you bid that amount of points on it. If you simply follow the “wisdom” of the crowds or want an easy class, there will be plenty of cheaper alternatives. When you are bidding over 1,000 points for a class, you should really be sure you want that class – I would recommend talking to other students about it to see if what they did in the class really matches what you want to do with it. With Harry Kraemer, you are getting a great networking connection that you can reach out to in the future. There is nothing wrong with this, but for classes in which you hope to build a connection with the professor teaching it, also make sure you become the class liaison. Don’t waste the opportunity. For Kraemer’s course, the learning material is great, but you will probably get 80% of that by reading his book. Remember, you don’t just pay bidding points for classes, you also are paying $5K for each class you take. Each class you waste is a waste of time but also paid value in learning. Experiential classes can be great for contacts (for example, I worked in a couple of sports business projects), even if the projects aren’t always great. I took a class with a professor rating of 6/10, but it was my favorite class (of 5) that quarter.

5) In general, even if a class has low student TCE’s, if you are interested in the subject, that will go a long way towards your enjoyment of the class. I felt that TCEs are often reflective of entertainment value, especially for classes that also have high bidding points, rather than true academic value. If you are not interested in the subject material, you will find ways to not like the class, even with a renown professor. Remember the opportunity costs.

There you go, 5 simple tips to guide your way. Bookmark this page if needed and send me your own tips as well!

What It’s Really Like to Take Classes (and Pleasant Surprises of the Kellogg MBA Experience)

imageBefore starting at Kellogg this past summer, I had been away from school for over 10 years, and I really do not remember my undergraduate years.

That said, my time at Kellogg has been different from what I had been expecting. For example, if you are taking four units (the minimum is three, but four is probably normal), you are in class about twelve hours a week, and with Wednesdays off for most people, that’s only about three hours a day, four days a week. And yet, you will find that all of us seem incredibly packed with group work, recruiting/job –related activities, competitions, and then only if you are lucky, study time and social activities. Oh, and sleep. At least half of my “off-day” Wednesdays end up being completely full with commitments that take away from study time.

You can see an example of my calendar here – it might not seem so bad, but I am actually doing very little recruiting work right now. Talk to people looking into consulting or finance (over 50% of the class), and you will see a group constantly bleary-eyed and lacking sleep. (Keep in mind that I try to study in the blank time slots, but it’s pretty difficult to do so in anything shorter than an hour – this calendar also doesn’t show the classes I had after 5 PM or my night commitments)


Whether you are recruiting or not, however, the feedback from second years has been that things never get better. A common response to when you ask someone to get coffee or lunch is “find some time on my calendar”, which at first seemed really rude, but you will find yourself thinking the same way too. I naturally amass so many appointments that I really cannot remember what I have committed to until the time comes and the reminder comes up on my phone.

Another surprise for me at Kellogg is that when you are in a good class (happens more often than not thankfully), you can compare it to seeing a brilliant performer, whether that be musical, athletic, or theatrical. In many ways, that’s exactly what it is – a professor with a tremendous academic and real work pedigree who is educating you about different aspects of business. Because of this, I actually like to sit in the front to get the best view. After all, I am paying over $60,000 a year for this show!

Sunil ChopraI can still remember stories from the summer from Professors Maoz and Saraniti for Marketing Management and Business (Data) Analytics emphasizing particular points. The stories felt overly long when I first heard them, but months later, I now realize that they help me understand things at a fundamental level that I can now hold on to and explain to others myself. This fall, I have been treated to Professor Chopra’s “hand waving” insights as I have learned about Operations and understanding Process Flows.

Like watching sports at the venue live or on television, this is also the difference between attending a class or just reading the book/watching it online in an MOOC (massive online open course). Being in class is to be challenged and focused on the material, you’re an active participant and a learner.

What surprises me most, however, is how every class links to each other. In a business setting, that wouldn’t be surprising because well, that’s business. If you run a company, you cannot just be a product guy with no understanding of finance and vice versa. But in this class format, you will see each class bring in aspects of the entire MBA education. Thus, if you are taking Finance, you are not asked to just do math. You are asked to think about what firm and market strategies change the math in the real world and how you sell that story to someone else (your boss, management, investors, etc.).

I have not had one class yet that did not link itself naturally to lessons from another class. This semester, I found myself thinking at several points in 1) Management and Organizations, 2) Operations, 3) Strategy AND MMM Research, Design, Build classes, “wait a minute, this is a Marketing question”. Professor Maoz would be so proud.

I feel that in every class, you are not challenged to solve the problem but to create and then sell the story so it can be implemented in a company. That way, you can look in your past experience to better understand your successes and failures and then understand how to use your new-found knowledge once you get back to work.

Kellogg MMM – The Secret MBA Program Everyone Wants to Be In

Kellogg MMM Program

The Kellogg MMM program might be one of the biggest secrets in the MBA world. Even among new Kellogg students I have met this fall, many are curious to know more about MMM, and when I explain it to them, they say, “Wow, I wish I had know about it when applying – I would love to be in MMM”. I’ll also often hear from someone that she thought it required an undergraduate engineering degree.

Last week I met a new student at Booth who told me that if he had known about MMM, he would have gone to Kellogg instead (he had been accepted into Kellogg’s standard 2Y program). One of the current MMM students didn’t know about the program when he applied, and after he was accepted into Kellogg, he made a request to be considered for it.

With all these anecdotes in mind, I can only conclude that Kellogg has done a poor job of promoting MMM.

So what is MMM?

(The above slide was taken from an official MMM presentation to students)

First, you do not need an engineering background – I studied Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Another student studied History at Harvard. Another studied German (uh) Studies in China. MMM students come from a very broad background from all over the world.

Second, the MMM combines two Masters degrees. One is the awesome Kellogg MBA. The other is a Masters of Science in Design Innovation from the Segal Design Institute, which is part of the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. The program is still two years in length, though MMM programs begin 1 quarter early in the summer. You graduate with the normal 2 Y program in the spring of your second year.

Design Innovation pertains to how you look at the world in solving problems. It’s an end-user empathy approach at the world, but one that is not just relevant to developing products. If you manage a team, you need to be able to put yourself in team members’ shoes before you can create a rally point. If you are trying to sell a product, you need to know what your target customer is thinking – who they are, why they do what they do. It’s not that someone is just “stupid” or one of “those people” you can generalize. Everyone is unique and design thinking helps you use those lessons in your career.

Professor Eyal Maoz was fond of saying to us this summer (in Marketing Management), “once you understand the customer and his point of view, see how easy it is to design a product for him?” And he was right, it was. Design Innovation is highly relevant to anyone who is looking create something better for a group of people – to resolve a set of needs, whether that be through a product (digital or physical) or service. I think the degree is great for a career in product development or product management, but I think the lessons are applicable anywhere. The Innovation is the change you make in an existing product, process, or organization; the Design is the user-driven approach.

There are consulting firms (Deloitte) and large companies (Samsung) with separate innovation divisions,  but also companies that focus only on Design Innovation (Ideo, Gravity Tank) consulting. You don’t need to think of the MMM program as pushing you towards that type of career, but it definitely prepares you for one. I am taking a MMM class this fall, Research, Design, Build, that uses the same process defined at Design consultancies such as Gravity Tank and our instructors are actually from Gravity Tank! We are producing real world applications of what we learned and applying them on-campus with Kellogg students. This is a great way of understanding how a startup idea can be developed, prototyped, and iterated.

There are 60 people in MMM each year, and you must apply to be in MMM when you apply for Kellogg – there are no transfer students (many tried earlier this fall when there was a rumor that a slot had opened). Our MMM class is very close, with unique social events for program students. Unlike Kellogg sections, whose students only takes classes together during the first year at Kellogg, MMM students will be in at least one class together each quarter for the entire two years.

If you have any questions about classes or the program, leave a comment below or learn more at Kellogg. (MMM 2016 in the Jacobs “Jake” atrium shown below; I am bottom row middle.)

(This article was also posted in an edited format at: http://kelloggmbastudents.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/one-of-the-biggest-secrets-in-the-mba-world/)

Should I Live in McManus? 10 Thing to Know [Kellogg, Housing]

I’ve been in McManus for 3 and a half months now, having arrived in late June to begin the Kellogg two year MMM Program. Here are some thing to know if you are considering it:

1) Its location is excellent. You are probably closer to class than at least 80% of the other students. You are also downtown. Going to JT’s, an Evanston bar favorite, takes a two minute walk. Same for at least 10 food places. Burger King is across the street (1 minute walk) and open 24 hours a day. That might be considered a bad thing, but remember the location when you are walking through the ice cold snow in the winters – I already appreciate being in McManus. Whole Foods is across the street as well, 20 minutes closer than any other supermarket. Unless you have a car or a bike that can transport a lot of stuff, you may suck up the higher prices in order for time convenience.

2) The residents here are primarily international students and is made up exclusively of Northwestern Kellogg MBA students.

3) Pricing is simple, reasonable, and inclusive. Electricity (including heating and AC) and utility bills are included along with basic furniture. Everything large that you might need, including your own table, desk, and cabinets are included. I pay less than $1,000 a month and share a twin studio (no living room) that comes with bathroom and kitchen. This is not an undergrad dorm. Plus, no deposits.

4) Sound isolation is great – if you have ever lived in building with thin walls, you will understand. In general, I rarely hear anything from neighbors and thus far, have never felt bothered by noise, other than from one weekend party that was over by 10PM.

5) For your summer internship after your first year (if you are not staying in the Chicago area), or if you take an exchange trip abroad during your second year, you can put your stuff in storage and not pay rent while you’re gone. Great for avoiding the hassles of subletting. There’s a lot of flexibility in housing options. For example, I was able to transfer to a single apartment starting January.

6) All entrances require keys to get in, with the normal entrance requiring 3 key swipes to get to your room. You can feel reasonably safe.

7) Janet Olsen (Housing Coordinator) and Marisa Ann De Rose (Program Assistant, Residential Services) are great. I’ve asked them a lot of questions and they have consistently been responsive and helpful.

8) if you own a bike, you may want to keep it in your apartment. Bike racks are available, but they are in the very front of the buildings, and I have heard multiple stories of theft. Underground car parking is available (with parking pass).

9) There’s a social area on the ground floor with a large screen tv, couches, ping pong and foosball tables. There are also study rooms on each floor as well as a printing/copy room on the ground floor – I promise you will love this when you realize what a pain it is to print at school.

10) While there is a small gym, you will want to avoid it. The laundry room, however, is great, affordable, and electronic savvy. It costs $1 per load to use the drier or washer, you can pay by credit card It’s free, and you can check machine status online.

If you have any questions about what it’s like to live here, ask away!

More photos from my apartment below.