How to Choose the Best B-School for You
We’ve boiled down this complicated process into 4 simple steps: determine your post-MBA goal, evaluate your qualifications, research programs, and choose schools that support your goals and that are likely to accept you based on your qualifications.
Let’s take a close look at each step:
1. Determine Your Post-MBA Goal
This step is deceptively tricky. Often applicants think that stating their goal is as simple as saying, “I want to go into investment banking,” or worse, “I want a position of responsibility that will allow me to grow.” Of course nothing in the MBA application process is THAT easy! Determining your MBA goal requires that you think about your FIL – Function, Industry, and Location. The adcoms want to know more than the straightforward declaration of your chosen field and they certainly don’t want a vague, vacuous statement of intent. They want to know what you truly see yourself doing, and possibly where (the Location element isn’t always essential, but in some cases it will add an important dimension or flavor to your goal). Furthermore, breaking your goal down into short-term and long-term phases will also help add depth and breadth to your goal and will help you figure out which programs are best for helping achieve those milestones. (See A is for Aspiration for more details on this.)
2. Evaluate Your Profile
You can’t choose a business school if you have no idea where your qualifications fall on the competitiveness spectrum. Certain programs, for example, won’t even look at an application (or at least, won’t look at it very seriously) if your GMAT is below a certain number or if you don’t have two years of work experience. These stats, along with other considerations like community service involvement, GPA, leadership experiences, and others, are important because they offer the adcoms a glimpse into who you are and how you’ll contribute to the next top b-school class. From your perspective, your qualifications will help you establish which programs are appropriate for you – after all, if you only scored a 660 on the GMAT and have limited work experience and weak leadership skills, then HBS or Wharton probably aren’t realistic options for you. One of the most important parts of choosing the best MBA program is choosing the best program for YOU. Know your strengths and weaknesses and you’ll save yourself from getting way in over your head.
3. Research Programs
Now that you’ve done some soul-searching and introspection about what you want (step 1) and who you are (step 2), it’s now time to start learning about your options. Which schools will support your goals? At which programs will you be a competitive candidate? Which schools would benefit from having you as a student? And of course, which programs would you benefit from as a student?
Begin the school research process online. Most schools explicitly state what they are looking for in their applicants. If you don’t fit the bill, move on. Once you’ve weeded out the obvious no-go’s, continue narrowing down your options by speaking with current students and alumni, reading student blogs, looking at the rankings, and attending MBA fairs or info sessions.
4. Choose Schools
Congratulations! You’ve now laid all the groundwork necessary to choosing the best business schools for you! Now you can confidently apply to those MBA programs that support your goals and that are likely to accept you based on your qualifications.
For more in-depth advice on choosing a business school that matches your qualifications and goals, please see Accepted’s FREE special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One.