NOTE: This is #6 in a series of blog posts on the topic, “How to Select the Right MBA Programs.” To see previous segments, link to the following:
You may be researching schools already. Going through the steps previously outlined in this series will help you do so efficiently. It will also help you remain objective.
To focus your options, eliminate from consideration programs that lack elements you consider essential. Some applicants will immediately run into a dilemma here: What if you need a globally recognized brand, considering your goals, yet you don’t qualify for schools that carry the desired panache? You might apply to such schools’ part-time or EMBA programs. You may consider programs recognized globally in your niche, but not for overall brand. Or you may decide it’s not worth it to pursue an MBA. Luckily, most people can find programs that offer their must-haves.
When you find feasible schools that meet your needs and important wants, determine whether they are a reasonable reach, on par, or safety. First examine the GMAT and GPA ranges, and analyze student profiles. How do you compare within these contexts? The numbers are easier to compare; it might take some digging and some serious and thoughtful self-critique to determine how you stack up in terms of quality of work experience and leadership.
Then look at other qualitative factors that would make you a great fit or a challenging fit for the school. One main point is status in an under- or over-represented group. Then there are the individual qualitative factors. For example, you’re a finance professional; one program you’re considering has a great finance curriculum but is not reputed for it. Your finance status would be a plus for such school, whereas you might not stand out from the army of finance applicants at a known finance school.
Finally, combine all these factors – your comparative scores, your comparative work experience, and any qualitative issues pro or con – to refine your determination of reach, on-par, or safety for each school of interest.
It’s true, that you should be objective. Still, don’t ignore the subjective factor in your research. If you find yourself falling for a school that doesn’t seem like a great fit – you wanted intimate campus and yet when you visited NYU while on a business trip to the Big Apple, you found its downtown vibe utterly scintillating – well, great! It’s possible you’re momentarily infatuated, and it’s also possible that there’s a side of you that this environment has opened up and brought to light. Give it further thought and consider it for your list.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Success, The Consultants’ Guide to MBA Admission, The EMBA Edge, and author of several articles and the free, email mini-course, “Ace the EMBA.”