Tuesday Tips: Choosing an MBA Program

So you’ve decided you want an MBA.  You’ve taken the GMAT, ordered transcripts and thought about career goals.  Now it’s time to start your school selection and research.

Criteria: Before you start researching programs, it will be helpful to understand your own criteria and preferences to take your school selection past the level of rankings.  Do you want to be in the city or in a rural setting?  What type of coursework are you most interested in?  Do you prefer a close-knit class or a large network?  Do you need to be near a particular location for personal or professional reasons?

The Internet:  One of the best preliminary resources you have at your disposal is a web search and blog perusal.  To start, you may want to visit Businessweek.com’s MBA rankings and profiles.  Another great resource for rankings and data is the Financial Times.   Rankings are a good way to understand the reputation of a program, but you should treat them as a starting point only.

While you are visiting Businessweek you may want to investigate the forums, where applicants, experts and admissions directors chat about applications, tips, strategy and profiles.   While there is much rumor and speculation on these chat boards, there are also gems of relevant information.  Stacy Blackman Consulting also participates in Beat the GMAT’s forums, which are another source of MBA information and comraderie.

These days most MBA program websites are comprehensive sources of in depth information.  Once you have a program hit list, you can visit the schools’ official websites for in depth information on classes, faculty, student clubs and special programs.

In Person:  When you have a target list of schools you are serious about, it’s time to do the more qualitative research that will help you understand your fit with the program and community, and your interest in attending the school for two years of your life.

  • School Visits:  Time and schedule permitting, a school visit is a great way to see classes for yourself, meet current students and get a sense of the campus and city.  If you plan ahead through the admissions office you can set up a class visit, perhaps lunch with students, and an admissions information session.  Allow enough time to walk around campus and explore between formal activities.
  • Admissions Events:  If you are far away or short on time, admissions events are another way to have an in person touch point with your chosen schools.   Admissions officers travel all over the world to conduct information sessions with prospective students, often including alumni who can answer your questions about culture and career options.
  • Your Network:  In addition to the formal admissions sponsored methods, utilizing your own network of MBA alumni is a great way to learn more about your schools.  If you aren’t part of a typical MBA profession you can ask around at work and among your family and friends to see if anyone knows an alum of your target programs.  Once you have some contact names, reach out to see if you can ask a few questions.  Following networking best practices like asking for additional contacts and sending thank you notes after every meeting is a great way to expand your learning and establish a network of support for your process.

Once you have researched all of your target programs, you will have a solid list of potential schools that you are excited about.  Make sure you take notes to cite in your essays, and keep in touch with all of your new contacts through the application process!


For a concise, thoughtful guide that will help you navigate the MBA admissions process with greater success, order our NEW book, The MBA Application Roadmap.

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