Dropping out of Stanford GSB - Fless

Dropping out of Stanford GSB

3 Reasons Why I Don’t Fit the Leading MBA Program Despite Being Admitted

It Is Official Now. I Am Not Going to Stanford

The decision to drop out of Stanford GSB has been tough. I realize that I might be letting go of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There is no place like Stanford where I could meet so many bright and inspiring people, where I could grow so high professionally and personally. But my sense of responsibility is telling me I’m doing the right thing.

Why I Applied to Stanford Initially

Flashback several months ago when I wrote my essays and my investment thesis. I said I wanted to build Flessibilità, a career-change education platform. I believed that Stanford GSB is the best place to do it because:

  1. Stanford GSB has the best MBA program out there, and has a great track record of facilitating career change
  2. Many education platforms stem from Stanford or are strongly affiliated with it (Coursera, Udacity, NovoEd)
  3. GSB would supply the necessary knowledge in education and social entrepreneurship and help design the “business engine” of Flessibilità
  4. I would find great mentors at GSB
  5. I would find cofounders / coworkers
  6. I would raise sufficient investment
  7. After GSB, as an entrepreneur I would make enough money to service my student debt and provide means for my family
  8. If I fail, I would always find a good job in Silicon Valley

Over the last months, I tested these assumptions in research and informational interviews with GSB students, graduates, and other Bay area residents. The validity of assumptions 1-5 is confirmed by everyone. However, 6-8 are tricky.

Tricky Assumptions

Here is the challenge for assumptions 6-8 I’ve discovered through interviews

  • I would raise sufficient investment

Odds are against me here. I am not a tech star (which is expected of Russians). I do not have an impressive entrepreneurial track record. I do not have a work permit. I would have a huge ($200K+) debt and a family to take care of. I would have a hard time persuading investors that they should support me rather than hundreds of other aspiring world changers with fewer obstacles.

  • After GSB, as an entrepreneur I would make enough money to service my student debt and provide means for my family

Upon graduation, I would have to make at least $10K per month after tax to keep going:

– $2.5K debt repayment
– $3K family living expenses
– $3K family housing
– $1.5K car, health insurance, and other expenses

This amounts to $120K after tax per year, or over $160K pre-tax. That is the salary of an associate consultant or a product manager in a successful company. Earning that much as a startup founder in the first years, even if I am successful, is unlikely.

When you have a family to take care of, you cannot be reckless. You can risk your own future, but not theirs. I decided that, if I go to Stanford, I would look for a job upon graduation.

  • If I fail, I would always find a good job in Silicon Valley

This is true if I can win the H1B visa. Chances are ~30% before graduation and ~43% after (see, for example, here).

There is one application per year only. Tighter restrictions on immigrants might appear if a certain US presidential candidate wins the upcoming elections.

Another option is an O1 visa for people with exceptional abilities. It is possible to get one, but it requires months of extra effort in advance.

For a foreign student, getting a job in the US, even after Stanford MBA, is far from certain.

Why I Realized I Should Drop Out

More funding could solve these problems. I searched for additional scholarship to alleviate the debt burden. But the last funding opportunity fell apart a couple of weeks ago. I was left with the choice of 2 options:

  1. GO> Go to Stanford, assume $220K+ debt, and do my best to find a well-paid job afterwards. Pay back the debt and see what happens

Upside: I get a great job in tech / VC in the Bay area, get experience, and try my luck with Flessibilitá later
Downside: I have a $200K debt and no job in the US

  1. NO-GO> Stay in Moscow, use my savings to build Flessibilitá here

UpsideFlessibilità is successful in Russia, and I earn enough to support my family and develop the project
Downside: I lose my savings and find a job in Moscow

Once the two options were clear in my head, the difficult decision came to me. Under #1, I have a huge downside and an upside I am not excited about. I did not apply to Stanford to look for a great job in tech in Bay area. Under #2, I have a limited downside and a more appealing upside. I would be able to focus on the project rather than on getting work permits, cheap housing, and health insurance.

Conclusion: I am not going to Stanford.

Some Backward Rationalization

It was not my intention to spend so much time thinking. I did not want to cause inconvenience to the GSB. I did not want to steal someone else’s spot in the class. I am sorry about that. Yes, I should have made up my mind sooner – perhaps before applying.

My mistake was that I followed the appealing success path “best high school – prestigious undergrad – study abroad – renowned employer – leading grad school – prestigious career” and failed to think deeply if it is right for me personally. Is it? Well, I have been happy with this path so far. However, following it further on is too costly for me in terms of money, lifestyle choices, and opportunity. It took me months to collect evidence and to start appreciating this crucial point.

I hope I will learn from this experience. I also hope people like me will find it instructive and cut on their own mistakes.

 

Victor Rogulenko