Isn’t it ironic that schools complain students write with a sameness that tends to blur them into one amorphous blob. And students struggle to understand the distinctions between schools because school brochures, presentations, and web sites sound stunningly similar. It can all become mind-numbing.
I have written many posts, articles, and ebooks on how you can distinguish yourself in your essays, but I am going to devote this post to resources that will help you understand the distinctions among schools. MBA programs are as unlike each other as you are unlike other applicants. You just need to know where to look to see the differences:
- On the school web sites, go beyond the admissions section. Make sure you understand the curriculum and its requirements at each and every school you consider as well as the recruiter profile and hiring patterns for recent graduates. Check out professors’ recent research.
- Read the school newspapers. For example this week, The Monroe St. Journal has an excellent article by Dean Gene Anderson “Dean Anderson stresses the importance of MAP projects.” You have to understand MAP and Ross’ commitment to action-based learning if you are going to consider Michigan. The Harbus devotes a lot of space in this issue to Harvard MBA student treks both domestic and international. Sure there is a certain amount of nonsense in these publications, but they still contain enough substance to make it worth your while to read them. In fact, I would say they are “must-reads,” when you are seriously interested in or have decided to apply to a given school.
- Many b-schools admission offices have newsletters. Stanford, Haas, and Yale to start with. The Chicago Admissions’ newsletter this week has a great article on something near and dear to my heart: "Getting the Most out of Campus Visits." Yes the admissions newsletters are a little slicker and more like brochures, but most still provide valuable insight into the programs.
- Check out student blogs at The League of MBA Bloggers. They don’t suffer from slickness. Student-written journals give you a sense of student satisfaction and campus life, plus they can provide a means for you to get in touch with current students.
- B-School Forums. The granddaddy at this point is BW’s Forum, but it can induce neurosis. I am really referring to the school-sponsored forums like Wharton’s S2S, Chicago’s Full-time MBA Discussion Forums, Yale SOM Admissions Forum, and CMU Tepper’s Admissions Forum. (if there are others that I haven’t listed, please email me and I will update this post with more.)
- School guides. There are guides published by Businessweek, The Wall St. Journal and others. These are introductory in nature and can be a good place to start your research. When you are getting serious or if you are short on time and can’t do all that I recommend above, I recommend Clear Admit’s guides .
- Visit the school. This is by far the best form of research, but it isn’t practical for many of you. If you can visit, do so. If you can’t, rely on the other steps mentioned above.
If you do your homework — and now is the time when 2008 applicants should be researching MBA programs — by the time summer rolls around and the applications are out, you will know clearly why you want to attend your Dream Schools.
What if you don’t have the time to do all that research? Consider Accepted’s MBA Admissions Consulting. We can’t eliminate all the research, but we can definitely steer you in the appropriate direction and save you tons of time.
As one poster to the BW Forum once put it after he sent me a post much shorter than this one with information about his background and goals and I recommended 5 schools for him to consider: “I just spent 4 months looking into different MBA programs, and after reading a short post you recommended the exact same schools I short-listed after hours and hours of research!”