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  • Five things to consider when choosing a business school
  • Submitted by David B. on 2009-12-22
  • 5 things to consider when choosing a business school
    By A. V. Gordon

    Choosing which business school to apply to requires detailed, hands-on research about each institution, culture, curriculum emphasis, extramural activities and recruitment opportunities. The key parameters to look at are:

    1. Brand: Every school publishes a list of companies that come to campus and how many graduates they hire, placement rates and average starting salaries. The average starting salary is a much better guide to a program's real prestige than any ranking you’ll find in a magazine. Don’t drive yourself crazy following rankings, remember that the real brand value of the top schools changes very slowly, if at all.

    2. Location and recruitment: Location strongly affects the industry orientation of the school and the companies recruiting for internships and jobs on campus. You will get different exit opportunities in New York than you will in Texas, or Lausanne, Switzerland (IMD). Pick with an eye to the long term opportunities.

    3. Profile of participants: Make the effort to understand the subtle differences in the type of person each school attracts. Chicago Booth and Georgetown (Washington DC) both offer MBAs, and there is overlap in the student profile, but there are clear differences. This is true everywhere. Go somewhere where you will more easily fit in and you will be a lot happier and productive.

    4. Length, structure and flexibility: The time it takes to get an MBA can vary from 10 months to almost two years. Longer programs offer more electives, exchange options, and other forms of enrichment including summer internships. If you are younger, chances are you need the time to figure out what you want to do and get internships on your resume. If you are older, you may need speed of completion more than anything.

    5. Electives and options: The core curriculum is effectively the same everywhere and it doesn't matter too much where you do it. Electives however, differ significantly from school to school, according to faculty staff interest and expertise. External projects, “treks,” and exchange opportunities will also vary.

    In short, the more you know the better your choices will be. Some of the information about schools is easy to find out – it will be on their Web site. The rest will be more difficult to judge without visiting the campus or talking to current and recent past students. One way to get the time and attention of current students is to find those who share your interests. If you are into venture capital, contact the head of the ‘New Ventures’ club; if you are interested in sustainability issues, contact the head of the ‘Greens,’ and so on. 

    Social networking has created another, supplementary option, as current students (and sometimes Adcom or faculty) blog or tweet, and you can follow, interact, and absorb the school’s culture in this way. 
    A.V. Gordon is author of one of the top MBA admissions books ‘MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing” as well as available for expert MBA admissions consultations through The MBA Admissions Studio (www.mbastudio.net).

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