As you continue your business school research and narrow down your list of favorites, there are several things to keep in mind throughout the process. Here are my eight suggestions for cutting through the clutter to determine which MBA program truly is the best fit for you and your career path.
1. RANKINGS ARE NOT TATTOOS. THEY AREN’T PERMANENT: The “best” MBA program in the country might not be the best program for you. Choose where to apply based on the No. 1 school FOR YOU. That’s the only ranking that really matters, and it’s the only ranking that isn’t temporary. Know what the best schools are, but only apply if they’re the best for you.
2. DON’T ROUND UP: You know those average numbers and admit profiles the schools send out or post on their website? Yeah, those. Read them! Be honest about where you fall. If you’re under the bar, the school is a reach. It’s great to shoot for the stars, but not okay to bank on them.
3. SIZE MATTERS: Or does it? Compile a list of what matters to YOU. You’re the one going to business school. So be honest and be specific about what you’re looking for in a business school program. Then become an expert in the programs that offer what YOU need.
4. GET REAL! When you’re applying to b-school, everyone’s going to have an opinion on where you should be applying. But since they don’t have to get in, it’s important for you to get real with yourself. Ultimately, the opinion that really matters is yours.
5. B-SCHOOL IS NOT A BLIND DATE. Whenever possible, go visit the schools. Sometimes what you see online and in a brochure is nothing like what you’re actually going to get on campus.
6. YES, YOU DO WANT TO FIT IN! B-school can be long and lonely if you’re not a fit with the school culture. Talk to alums and current students. Get a feel for the school and get a feel for the types of students on campus. You’re going to be in the trenches together. You want to feel like your colleagues are “your people.”
7. YOU SHOULD BE DAZZLED. Go to info sessions for target schools and ask real questions. This is their time to impress you.
8. CONSIDER THE SOURCE: Online reviews can be super helpful, but consider the source. It’s possible that the person writing the business school review is either a current student who thinks their school is the best or a disgruntled applicant who didn’t quite make the cut. Get as much information on each school as possible, but don’t get sucked in. And if a source is anonymous, go ahead and question – or ignore – the opinion.
This post originally appeared as the second installment of a new series B-School Admissions Tips You Can’t Live Without on the MBA website Poets & Quants.