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

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.

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)

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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.