“Researching MBA Programs” 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.
You may be researching schools already. Going through the steps previously outlined in this guide will help you do so efficiently. It will also help you remain objective.
That means eliminate from consideration programs that
• lack elements you consider essential and/or
• where you are not qualified.
Some applicants will immediately run into a dilemma here: What if you need a globally recognized brand, yet you don’t qualify for schools that carry the desired panache? In some cases, you might find it worthwhile to apply to such schools’ part-time or EMBA programs. Or you may target 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 identify schools that meet your needs and important wants, determine whether they are reasonable reach, on-par, or safety schools. First examine the GMAT and GPA ranges, and analyze student profiles. How do you compare? The numbers are easier to compare; it might take some digging and some thoughtful self-critique to determine how you stack up in terms of quality of work experience and leadership. But it’s at least as, if not more, important than the numbers for competitive programs, so buckle down and do the qualitative evaluation of your work experience and compare it to the level of achievement of students in your desired schools. Otherwise you won’t know where you really stand.
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 a school, whereas you might not stand out from the army of finance applicants at a known finance school.
Finally, combine all these factors—your scores, qualitative analysis of your work experience, and any other issues pro or con—to refine your determination of reasonable 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. Allow yourself to be enchanted and surprised in the process.
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.com.