This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA blog on U.S.News.com
Round Two business school decisions are pouring in and some MBA applicants face not just two, but three or more offers of admission from their target schools. While the adage is “There’s never too much of a good thing,” the reality is that a bounty of b-school acceptances can produce a lot of anxiety in many candidates.
“How do I decide, and what if I make the wrong choice?” they wonder. If you find yourself with this enviable problem, consider the following when weighing multiple admissions offers.
Forget about rankings and reputation and think long and hard about the other particulars of each school, such as size, academics or location.
Does your desire to live in an urban setting outweigh a preference for a smaller class size? Is there a financial incentive that puts one school in the lead? Is the diversity of the student body important? Is the academic focus on case studies, or more experiential?
You might not have had a strong preference before, but you should tally up the different characteristics to see which way the wind really blows.
If you haven’t already visited the campus as part of your application process, now’s the time to do so. Sit in on a class, chat with students and professors, hang out on campus and generally soak up the atmosphere. This is where you’ll be spending the next two years of your life, so making sure the program is a good fit for you academically and socially is imperative.
Even if you have already toured the school, consider visiting again to attend events designed for admitted students so you can scope out your potential classmates. These people will become a part of your future network, and test driving your comfort level with them prior to committing makes sense.
“Fit is so important,” says Michael Andolina, who chronicles his MBA application journey on the blog MBA: My Break Away? “If you don’t get along with people from the school, how do you ever expect to make the kinds of relationships that will further your career?”
Andolina recently found himself torn between an offer from the Yale University School of Management and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and ultimately joined Yale’s class of 2015. Given his nonprofit background, it was important that his choice have a proven track record of training leaders for the public sector.
“When I’ve talked to people I’ve emphasized how important it is to talk to alumni,” says Andolina via email, when asked what advice he would give a friend deciding between two or more great programs.
MBA candidates should make sure that the school graduates people who work in your target industry, possess your ideal job within that industry and are willing to share their wisdom and advice with current students, he says.
Whatever your goal, Andolina says to make sure the school can provide both the personal support (alumni) and the infrastructure (career center, classes and clubs with clear connections to your area of interest) to help you meet those goals.
An MBA blogger who goes by Cheetarah1980, a member of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business class of 2014 who was also offered admission to University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School as well as Kellogg, questions whether finding the so-called “perfect fit” is really necessary.
“Just because a school doesn’t feel like a perfect fit doesn’t mean that it’s not the right school,” she writes.
Just as stretching in exercise often feels uncomfortable but is actually good for you, she writes, “I encourage admits with multiple offers to evaluate schools in terms of this stretch test. Is a school in your comfort zone? Is it at the point in the exercise where everything still feels good and is comfortable? Or does the school feel a bit past your comfort zone? I encourage you to stay away from schools that are so much of a stretch you’re pulling a muscle.”
The decision of where to pursue an MBA is a weighty one, so do your homework and understand the strengths and potential drawbacks of each of your options.
Whether you end up choosing a place that feels like home, or, like Cheetarah, want to go to a school that “takes you past your safe place a bit to help you stretch your boundaries and perspectives,” it may provide some peace of mind to know that in these cases, there’s rarely a “wrong” choice to be made.