Most MBA applicants have an idea about which MBA programmes to target. However, with Round 2 deadlines a few months away, it’s time to start narrowing down your business school list. Rankings, while helpful, should be used only as a reference.
Here are some important factors to look into when deciding on your list of schools:
One of the most important factors to consider when deciding on an MBA programme is the curriculum. Different programmes offer varying amounts of flexibility in regard to curriculum customisation, which can be an important deciding factor. While most programmes will have similar core subjects, the way they structure the core and the electives may differ greatly. For example, The Wharton School has six fixed core courses. It also has flexible core courses in subject areas such as marketing, accounts and finance, among others. On the other hand, Columbia Business School’s core curriculum consists of 10 courses in similar subjects, with no flexible core.
In terms of electives, each school will have a range of courses from which you can choose. Columbia Business School, for example, has over 100 electives, which you can bid on using the bid points given to you at the beginning of your course. Alternatively, if you want to specialise in a particular field, then you should consider a school that offers specialisations. Schools such as NYU Stern School of Business and Johnson Graduate School of Management both offer a one-year Tech MBA, which will give you insight into how to lead a tech company in the future.
2) Teaching style:
Each MBA programme has its own teaching style, making it important to shortlist those with the style that’s best suited for you. While most MBA programmes use a combination of methods, some rely heavily on a particular one. The three main styles are the case study method, classroom lectures and experiential learning.
A “learning by doing” approach, the case study method expects students to provide solutions to complex real-life scenarios that are dependent on many variables. Harvard Business School and the Darden School of Business largely focus on this method.
While all MBA programmes use classroom lectures to impart knowledge and theories, at The Tepper School of Business and the Marshall School of Business about half of the courses use this method.
Simulations, role-playing and the like fall under experiential learning. Here technology is used to recreate scenarios where students, either in teams or individually, explore and solve problems in an exciting and interactive environment. Stanford Graduate School of Business and MIT Sloan School of Management are known to use simulations.
When selecting a college, it is important to consider the characteristics a business school is looking for in students, then check it against your profile. Knowing if they value global leaders, innovators or team players will help you focus your efforts when applying to programmes where you are a good fit. You also need to consider how the school can help you achieve your post-MBA goals. For example, Harvard Business School is known for leadership development and general management, while the Booth School of Business is known to be strong in finance. Being aware of these characteristics will also help you when writing your essays as you can demonstrate how you will contribute to the school community.
When deciding on a business school, it is important to take its location into consideration. Given that you are going to spend most of your time on campus, the location can greatly influence your MBA experience. Business schools, such as London Business School, that are located in the city have better access to employers and companies. Your intended industry also plays an important part in choosing your location. For example, if you want to work in finance, then studying in New York or London will be beneficial as you can network with prospective employers easily. At the same time, programmes at the Darden School of Business or Fuqua School of Business, which are located outside major cities, attract students who are looking for deep immersion in the business school experience and wish to nurture strong bonds with classmates.
5) Class profile:
Before starting your business school application, it is important to compare your profile with the previously admitted class profile. Besides acceptance rates, which will help you to know the selectivity of a particular school, there are a few other things you should consider. The school’s reported average GMAT and undergraduate GPA will tell you if your scores will be competitive. It is advisable for your GMAT score to be about 20-30 points higher than the class average. A low undergraduate GPA can adversely affect your chances of admission if not backed by a really strong GMAT score. Lastly, look at the average work experience of the class. Low work experience averages can affect the quality of classroom discussions.
Business schools are expensive, so your financial situation will influence your school list. Schools such as Yale School of Management can cost up to USD 104,000 per year. While there are options for financial aid, it may be beneficial to apply to a school that is within your budget. A good alternative is to consider a one-year MBA at schools such as HEC Paris where the programme price is approximately USD 85,000.
7) Alumni network:
Most schools have an extensive alumni network already in the workforce. While evaluating business schools, shortlist those with a number of alumni in your desired industry. You can leverage alumni to connect with HR managers at their companies or reach out to them for advice and guidance.
These factors will help you narrow down your options. Keep in mind that you should only have about five to seven schools on your list as each has an extensive application process. When applying to many schools, you may not be able to spend sufficient time on each application.
Also, ensure that your list consists of a good mix of schools thereby increasing your odds of getting an acceptance in case all your top choices don’t work out. For example, if your high GMAT scores, college GPA and work experience put you in the range to select Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Wharton Business School as your top three choices, you should split these schools between application rounds. You should also add a school outside the M7, such as Ross School of Business, Fuqua School of Business and Tuck School of Business, among others, to hedge your risk.
For more information on shortlisting schools, get in touch with us.