4 Steps to Choosing the Right Business School for You

One of the most frequent questions our consultants are asked in regards to MBA admissions is “where do you think I should apply?”

By Linda Abraham, Accepted.com

Sure, rankings and reputation are important, but you’re an individual with specific wants, needs, and goals that should be the main determining factors when it comes to school choice.

The 4-step purpose-driven approach to MBA admissions below will not only maximize your chance of acceptance but maximize your chances of getting a great job when you graduate.

Step 1: Determine Your Post-MBA Goal

When you plan a trip, what is the first item of information you need to know? Where do you want to go? What’s your destination? The same is true with MBA admissions.

First, you should determine the two essential elements of an MBA goal: function and industry. Function refers to what you want to actually do when you begin your post-MBA career. Examples include investment banker, consultant, or brand manager. Industry refers to the industry in which you want to work — telecommunications, financial services, software, etc.

Most, if not all, top programs want to see direction and view it as much as a qualification as a good GMAT score, high GPA or meteoric career progression. They want to know they can help you succeed. If you don’t have a goal, there are no criteria for success and no way to assess if your studies can achieve their purpose.

Step 2: Research Schools

This may seem fairly obvious, but many MBA candidates are unsure of which criteria to consider when researching schools, or how to do so effectively. Here are some tips.

Criteria to consider:

  • What does the school offer? Check out employment reports and speak with alumni to determine which companies recruit there and where grads get jobs.
  • Curriculum – what are you going to study and how does this school teach it? Are there classes and special programs that support your goal? Does their classroom approach (case method, experiential learning, lecture, etc.) appeal to you?
  • Extra-curricular activities – are there clubs and activities related to your specific interests and goals?
  • Personal preferences related to location, student body make-up, or the needs of a significant other and/or family.

How should you research schools?

  • Start with the easy steps you can take – Check out specialty rankings for fields that interest you.
  • Explore the websites of the schools that support your goals.
  • Talk to current students and alumni. Attend MBA fairs and events. Read student blogs.
  • Attend online events hosted by your schools of interest. Visit the schools that you are really serious about.

Step 3: Know Your Qualifications

Now you need to consider what the schools want in applicants. To be an effective applicant, you want to apply to schools that support your goals AND are likely to accept you. Examine what you’ve done to date to evaluate your qualifications. If you apply exclusively to schools where you are not competitive, you are most likely wasting time and money.

What are some of the qualifications schools look for in an applicant?

  • Academic competitiveness — these include GMAT/GRE scores, grades, and extras such as certifications, additional degrees, etc.
  • Work experience — quality is arguably more important than quantity here. The most important things to demonstrate are growth and progression, leadership, responsibility, and impact – how have you made a difference?
  • Community service — this is a way to further demonstrate leadership, responsibility, initiative, and teamwork.
  • What you will add to your class — what traits, skills, or experiences would make you a valuable asset to your peers and the school community? Specificity is key!

Step 4: Choose Your Target Programs

Think of this part as a simple Venn Diagram – one circle contains schools you want to attend, and the other contains those that are likely to accept you. Your target programs are those that fall into the overlap of these two categories.

Ideally, you want to end up with a list of 4-8 programs that support your goals. If you apply to fewer schools, apply more conservatively and limit choice to those where you’re more likely to gain acceptance. If you want to apply to schools where acceptance is less likely, you need to apply to more programs and include at least some programs where your chances are better. You may want to consider applying to “higher risk” programs in Round 1 and then apply more cautiously if you aren’t accepted. Be realistic.

Applying to appropriate programs is the route to acceptance. Guided by self-knowledge, school research and a clear understanding of your professional and educational goals, choosing the right schools is the foundation of a successful MBA application.

Are you ready to apply for your MBA? Take this interactive quiz and find out!

This 12-question quiz is lean and mean, asking the most specific and focused questions to assess your admissions readiness and get you in the right mindset to get accepted. Even better? Accepted provides you with detailed feedback for every answer, including tons of free resources and expert advice.

Take the quiz today and get one step closer to MBA acceptance!

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