6 steps – How to choose a business school?

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Selecting the right business school requires a good amount of research and understanding of business school fit. Business school fit is determined by the relationship between your wants and needs and what a program offers? Do they match? 

how to chose a business school

Besides, you need to be sure that you have the qualities that your target business school is looking for. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Choosing the right business school requires self-reflection and a good amount of research. So, how to shortlist B-schools that reflect your priorities, ambitions, and personality?

This article highlights 6 easy steps to choosing the right business school.

Step 1 – Identify post-MBA Career goals

Identifying your goals should be your first step toward choosing the right business school. Having clarity about ”Why MBA” and your “Short-term and Long-term goals” are guiding lights to getting into a business school. So, take some time out and analyze your career goals.

  • Are you looking to specialize in a particular professional field?
  • Are you looking to switch careers or build on your existing career trajectory? 
  • Are you looking for support with launching your career? 
  • Is there a particular industry you’re interested in?

Why identify your post-MBA career goals?

Identifying your post-MBA goals matters because you need to evaluate if the business school will give you a launchpad to accomplish your career goals. The right business school will act as a bridge to your post-MBA goals and help you grow professionally. You must understand how an MBA degree can impact your long-term success and how your target business school fits into the plan.

Besides, business schools value candidates who understand their goals and strengths. The admissions committee also tend to ask questions about your aspiration and what led you to pursue an MBA during your admissions process. 

So, identifying and having clarity about your goals will help you:

  1. Segregate the business school that aligns with your goals 
  2. Build a strong MBA application

Step 2 – Decide on the type of MBA

Based on your goals, you can decide the type of MBA program that will benefit you. There are 2 major types of MBA programs:

  1. One-year
  2. Two-year

Your career goals might determine whether to pursue a one-year or two-year MBA program. 

For instance, If you are a marketing professional and want to build on your existing career, you can go for a 1 year MBA program.  One-year MBA programs will be more intensive, and generally do not offer internship opportunities. 

Two-year MBA programs allow students to explore alternative post-MBA career paths through internships. An internship will help you dip your toes into a job profile/company and determine your fit. Moreover, if you wish to switch industries, you may want to opt for a 2 year MBA program that offers you time to network with organizations and explore new industries.

Step 3 – Evaluate your MBA profile 

After identifying your goals and the type of MBA program you want to pursue, you need to evaluate your MBA profile. Why? Evaluating your MBA profile will determine if you are the right fit for the target business schools. 

Remember, you need to make sure that you have the qualities that your target business school is looking for. 

How to evaluate your MBA profile?

Go to your target business school’s website and look for the class profile data. Every business school class profile is different and can give insight into what the admissions committee looks for in a candidate. 

Generally, candidates with good track records and credentials tend to reflect positively on their MBA application. Some areas of your MBA profile that you can look into are – Your GMAT score, Work Experience, Professional Skills, and Academic Skills, and personality traits in your personal and professional experiences. 

Here are a few expert tips to help you boost your MBA profile.

For instance, if the business school you are targeting has an average GMAT score of 730, getting a 700 on the GMAT won’t make you stand out. So, you can either retake the GMAT or work on other application components to compensate for a low GMAT score. 

Similarly, if a B-school is known for the industry/function that matches your post-MBA career goals, you can target those B-schools. If the qualities in your stories match the qualities a particular B-school looks for, you can apply to that B-school. 

Thus, a self-assessment will help you understand if your profile fits what the B-school admissions committee is looking for. It will also help you determine areas of improvement in your profile. 

Step 4 – Craft a business school list and segregate it

Candidates who curate a balanced list of schools tend to have a less stressful application process than those who apply to many. 

So, it is crucial to identify your goals, decide on the type of MBA program, and evaluate your profile to have a more refined list of target B-schools. 

Once you have crafted a B-school list, you need to start narrowing it down. While there is no magic number for how many colleges you should apply to, it is recommended that you divide your list into Dream, Good Fit, and safe schools. 

Dream – These are the schools that are harder to get into. It includes business schools where your profile lacks a few components. For instance, a business school where your academic or professional credentials fall short will fall under desire. 

Good Fit – These are the business schools where there is a good chance of you getting an admit. It includes business schools where your profile matches the cohort of students accepted in the previous year. 

Safe – It includes business schools where your profile exceeds the school’s expectations. Your profile is above average than the previous cohort of students. These are the business schools where you have a higher chance of getting an admit and scholarship as compared to Dream and Good fit schools. 

Step 5 – Compare B-schools on 9 factors 

Once you have divided your business schools list into Dream, Good Fit, and Safe schools, it’s time to compare them based on 9 factors: 

  1. Rankings 
  2. Mission and Values 
  3. Curriculum 
  4. Teaching style 
  5. Alumni and career services
  6. Cost of MBA
  7. Class size
  8. Scholarship 
  9. Location 

Rankings 

Pursuing a degree from a prestigious school can put your profile in front of the right crowd. One way to evaluate MBA business school prestige is to look at the rankings. Although ranking is a good data point to compare business schools, make sure to look at the overall and specialty rankings. 

For instance, if you want a career in marketing, Kellogg School of Management ranks higher than Harvard and Columbia. However, if your goal is to have a career in finance, Harvard and Columbia rank higher than Kellogg. 

Moreover, you should not take B-school rankings at face value. Different publications have their methodology for ranking business schools. So, make sure you dive deep into the underlying data used to calculate those rankings.   

Mission and Values

The mission statement and values are different for every business school. You should examine the information a B-school publishes about its values since those priorities establish the core of what makes a business school different from another. 

Moreover, it will also help you evaluate if your values align with the selected business schools. For instance, Harvard Business School believes that leadership and values are inseparable. 

Mutual respect, integrity, honesty, and personal accountability are highly valued at HBS. So, if your values are in-line with HBS, showcasing them through your application will increase your chances of an admit. On the other hand, if your values do not match, it will be difficult for you to showcase them in your application.

Curriculum

Compare business schools based on their curriculum. The curriculum should line up with your goals. Some business schools’ curriculum focuses on a common set of knowledge and skills. These B-schools have a high proportion of compulsory courses. So, if you are looking for a traditional form of MBA, then such schools would be a good pick. 

However, if you think that your requirements are distinctive and unique, you might prefer a course that is easier to customize. So, look for courses that offer a large number of electives. Chicago Booth and Tepper are top-ranked business schools that offer flexible MBA programs

Teaching style

As each business school’s pedagogy differs, you must evaluate your selected business schools based on their teaching style. 

Some business schools like Harvard Business School rely heavily on the case method. In contrast, others focus on lecture courses, projects, and other immersion activities. 

Stanford GSB faculty use a range of academic approaches, methods, and experiences to create a unique learning environment. Whether it’s group projects, problem-solving sessions, lectures, or hands-on labs, the faculty selects the best teaching method for each subject.

So, check out the pedagogy being practiced in a B-school. Some of the pedagogical practices include Experiential, On-the-job, and Problem-based learnings. 

Thus, make sure you compare your select business schools based on their teaching style and how well aligned they are with your requirements. 

Alumni and career services

A strong alumni network should be a significant consideration for candidates comparing the selected business schools. 

During your program, Alumni can be a great source of mentoring. They can be your guiding light through your MBA program. They have access to extensive career services, including real-time job postings, resume reviews, and interview preparation. Moreover, when you graduate, alumni can be an invaluable store of advice, connections, and contacts that can help you in your career aspirations. 

Some top MBA programs with the most powerful Alumni network are Stanford GSB, HBS, Dartmouth Tuck, INSEAD, HEC Paris, and Wharton. 

You should also consider career services when choosing a business school. 

Some of the questions that you need to evaluate the business schools are:

  • Does the business school offer opportunities like internships? 
  • What kind of career support is offered? 
  • What kind of companies/ industries does a graduate get employed in? 
  • What job offers do students get? 
  • What is the average salary of recent MBA grads? 
  • Does the B-school offer one-on-one career coaching?
  • What are the mentorship and training programs?
  • What type of experiential learning opportunities are offered?

You can talk to alumni to get an idea about a business school’s employment history. You can also head to a selected business school’s website and look into the latest employment report. The employment report will give you an idea about the average salary and top industries where MBA grads got recruited. If you don’t find the employment report on a school’s website, you can email the school requesting the same – they’d share the past employment stats with you.

Cost and ROI 

Cost of attendance is another important consideration while selecting a business school. 

Top MBA programs cost around $200,000 per year. Are you financially strong to cover your education cost? Apart from cost, you also need to look into the ROI. 

How long are you willing to wait to generate a positive ROI from your business school investment? If you want a higher ROI, either control the cost or get a higher post-MBA salary. Scholarships can also help you improve the ROI.

Based on the cost and ROI, you can eliminate business schools that do not meet your requirements. 

Scholarship 

While most business schools offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships, awards, and fellowships, it is advised that you check the data available on their official website or by asking the admissions committee. You also can connect with an Alumni to get more information. 

Each business school has a different set of criteria to avail of a scholarship. For instance, Harvard Business School offers only need-based scholarships, whereas Chicago Booth offers merit-based scholarships

At Chicago Booth, Wallman Fellowship is provided to women MBA applicants that have demonstrated commitment and leadership to advancing women in business. So, compare the selected business schools based on the type of financial support they offer and whether it matches your requirement. 

Class size

Do you prefer large lectures with more independent learning or thrive in discussion-based and small group environments? Class size should also be a factor when comparing selected business schools. Smaller class sizes will offer personalized attention from the faculty and better bonding with students from various backgrounds and cultures. In contrast, a larger class size offers better networking. 

Harvard Business school enrolled 1,010 students for MBA class 2023, whereas Kellogg School of Management’s MBA class size was 508. INSEAD enrolled approx. 1,000 students, whereas the London School of Business enrolled 511 candidates. 

Location 

Shelly Heinrich, Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at Georgetown University, points out that location should be a factor when choosing a business school. Location contributes to your access to employers. 

During your MBA journey, you will want to have informational interviews with your dream companies, connect with alumni, or interview for internships. So, it is advised that you analyze if your desired employers have offices located in your business school city. 

If there are many companies in your target industry close to your business school, it will be easier for you to connect. 

For instance, Columbia Business School boasts about its location in New York City. It is in close proximity to extraordinary business leaders. Columbia MBA students get constant access to the best minds in business, who regularly visit to teach, speak, and meet. 

Choosing the right location will also impact your quality of life. After being swapped with deadlines, in your spare time, you need to relax. Do you like the vibrant energy of New York or the countryside environment? Moreover, location will also impact your cost of living. If your business school is located at a prime location, your rent and daily cost will go up. Thus, location should be an essential factor in selecting a business school.

Step 6 – Start the Application process 

Once you have compared your selected business schools, choose the best ones and start your application process. It is vital that you give ample time to yourself to craft a robust MBA application. 

By following the steps mentioned above, you will have more clarity about how well aligned your goals with the business school are. Showcasing this in your application will set you apart. So, what are you waiting for?

Follow the 6 key steps to select the right business school.

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