When putting together your list of business schools to which to apply, how do you determine which ones are the right ones for you? The first step is understanding how competitive your profile will be at the schools that you are shortlisting (such as by looking at the average/median GPA and GMAT/GRE scores); beyond that, determining the right fit is more of an art than a science. To get started, research the different MBA programs that you are interested in; as you do so, keep the following criteria in mind to help you assess the programs.
One of the main reasons that you will be attending business school is to gain the knowledge and skills to help you attain your post-MBA goals. Therefore, learning about each school’s curriculum is extremely important. What are the classes that are being offered and that you would potentially want to take? Who are the professors teaching those classes? How will those classes help you gain the particular knowledge and skills that you are seeking? Take some time to peruse each school’s website and to speak to alumni and current students to get their take on the curriculum and how it has helped them.
Beyond that, also gain an understanding of each school’s style of teaching – for instance, Harvard Business School is known for the case study method. Is that the kind of environment that you are looking for and that you believe you would thrive in? Or do you prefer a more traditional, lecture-based style of teaching?
In addition to the classes, also research the experiential learning opportunities that each school provides. For instance, are you seeking practical, hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities? Or maybe the opportunity to immerse yourself in an international environment? Or maybe both? Each candidate will be looking to get different things out of each business school program; therefore, take the time to think about what is important to you.
Each school also has a distinct community and culture, and often, that is driven by the size of the program. For instance, Stanford GSB and Tuck have smaller student bodies, and therefore, their communities tend to be more tight-knit with a more collaborative culture. What kind of a community would you excel in? And what kind of cultures appeal to you the most? If possible, try to visit the schools that you are interested in to really get a feel for the environment, and as always, talk to alumni and current students to get their perspective.
Additionally, clubs and extracurricular activities contribute towards a school’s community and culture. Take some time to familiarize yourself with what each school offers and how you can see yourself getting involved outside of the classroom.
As you learn more about each school’s community, make sure to look beyond the school; your experience will encompass not only what happens on campus, but also in the surrounding community. As a result, do you prefer bigger cities or smaller ones?
It’s also important to understand the resources that each school offers. For instance, some schools have entrepreneurial focused centers; if you are looking to go down an entrepreneurial path post-MBA, that would be an enticing factor! Also, make sure to consider the resources in the surrounding area; not surprisingly, for example, candidates interested in finance find business schools in New York City and the surrounding area to be appealing given the concentration of finance firms.
Cost is also an important factor when it comes to determining the right business school – many MBA programs offer potential scholarships depending on your career focus. These resources are also ones that you should think about as you evaluate different business schools.
I would encourage you to consider the above criteria as you determine the MBA programs that are the right fit for you!
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Ivy Groupe is a boutique MBA admissions consulting company founded by Shaifali Aggarwal, who received her MBA from Harvard Business School and undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali’s clients have gained admission to top-tier MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Tuck, and Yale, among others.