“Which MBA Programs Should You Apply to Next Season?” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. To download the entire free special report, click here.
It’s late winter or early spring, already in the ebb of the current MBA admissions season. That means it’s the perfect time for people planning to apply next season to break out of hibernation and start tackling a part of the application process that is often shortchanged: school selection. Doing this part right sets the course for an efficient, productive application process with greater likelihood of satisfying results.
In 15 years of MBA admissions consulting I have found that otherwise highly capable and focused people often basically wing it when it comes to creating their school list. “I’m just applying to all the top ten.” Top ten according to what source? “I realize now [after R2 deadlines have passed] I was overreaching. Are there any good schools I can still apply to?” Probably. “I’m applying to H/S/W, with Duke as my safety.” Duke as your safety?
By starting to develop your list of prospective schools now, you can avoid these and similar problems (yes, these responses are all problems – real ones I’ve heard, more than once).
By approaching school selection thoughtfully and systematically, you will save time, money, and effort in the long run (even if you expend more of all initially). You will conserve precious energy for the nitty-gritty work of the applications. You will be able to start planning school visits and recommendations, two things that often get tangled up when first addressed in the heat of the application season.
In this series I provide various tips and approaches to developing a solid list of schools. Each person’s needs are unique, and there is no one formula that works for everyone, so I will guide you in asking the right questions, answering (or finding answers to) those questions, and deciding accordingly.
This series will cover, among other topics:
• assessing your profile
• the role of rankings
• how many schools you should apply to
• identifying and prioritizing your b-school needs and wants.
Ready? Here are a couple of things you can and should do right now to get started on the school selection process for next season:
• Capture on paper or your preferred electronic medium those random thoughts that have been floating around in your head, for example, “top 10,” “friendly to older applicants,” “strong quant focus,” “need to be within an hour by plane from my ailing mother.”
• Read blogs of MBA students not just at schools you’re already interested in but from a wider array of schools – both the substance and the tone of those blog posts will give you a subjective feel for different programs and your own responses to them.
• If possible talk to MBA students and ask them about their school selection process; what went well and what proved difficult or problematic; ask what they would do differently.
• Visit schools now! Visit schools you know you are interested in (you can always re-visit later), schools you might be interested in, and even schools on the margins. It’s the perfect time: schools are in session, you’re not pressed by the application process yet, and it’s close enough to application time for your insights from the visits to be relevant if you discuss them in essays. Take advantage of travel you may do for business or pleasure to schedule a visit, rather than trying to cram everything in the fall—when you’ll be even busier than usual with applications plus work. Moreover, visiting now gives you time to digest and reflect on your campus experiences.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with Accepted.