By Stephen Round, Round One Admissions Consulting
Some of you who applied in the first application rounds last fall have already been admitted to several MBA programs, but are still waiting to hear the results from your second round applications. Therefore, you’ll have some decisions to make in the weeks ahead regarding which graduate school you will choose to attend.
In the process of making your decision, you should consider several factors, just as you did when you were deciding which programs to include in your Application Portfolio last year.
Some MBA programs, such as Harvard Business School, have very large classes consisting of almost a thousand students. Although large class sizes (i.e. the number of people earning the MBA degree in a certain year) provide an advantage in terms of connecting students to large networks of people, including MBA students and alumni, some students claim that it’s difficult to become familiar with classmates and faculty members in such MBA programs. These people might feel more comfortable at a business school with a smaller class size consisting of a few hundred students, such as the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. One of the advantages of programs with smaller class sizes is that it’s generally easier to become familiar with students and to build closer relationships with faculty. When an MBA program only has a few hundred students, people will be more likely to remember your name and face during, and after, the program!
Certain MBA students prefer to study in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, which are home to the outstanding MBA programs of Columbia Business School and the Anderson School at UCLA, respectively, among others. Some of the advantages of living in such metropolitan areas include excellent public transportation systems, a wide variety of entertainment options, and easy access to Fortune 500 companies.
Nevertheless, some people who have spent most of their lives in huge cities like Tokyo see the downside of these locations, such as higher living expenses and crowded spaces. If you are one of these people, you might prefer to study in a college town type of environment, such as Ithaca or Evanston, home to Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, respectively.
Single MBA students may prefer to choose schools in urban areas, whereas those with families may gravitate toward universities in college town settings. In any case, you should choose the environment that’s the best fit for you (and your family), based on your own unique and specific priorities.
If you are one of the fortunate MBA applicants whose company sponsors your graduate studies abroad and will pay for your education and other expenses that you will incur overseas, then cost might not seem like an important factor for you. However, there has recently been an increasing trend among companies that sponsor MBA applicants in that many have required their MBA Scholarship winners to sign agreements to repay their organization for the expense of their MBA education in the event that they leave the company within a specific time period following their graduation. Therefore, the cost might be more important than you think.
Of course, if you’re a private-sponsored MBA applicant, then you’re probably quite conscious of the costs associated with your MBA education already. Keep in mind that public schools, such as the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, tend to be a bit less expensive than private schools, such as New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Also, remember that there are some financial aid programs available to international students, so be sure to check with the schools to which you have been accepted to see if they can assist you. We expect that some of you will apply for scholarships this year and wish you all the best with that!
In R1’s opinion, the ultimate measure of a graduate school is its ability to find jobs for its graduates. After all, that’s why so many people, like many of you, make such an extraordinary effort to gain admission into the top-ranked and most highly-reputed graduate programs.
While company-sponsored applicants need not concern themselves so much with their chosen school’s placement success since they will return to their organizations, those of you private-sponsored applicants who plan to hunt for new jobs should pay special attention to the placement success of the schools to which you have been accepted.
R1 strongly advises you not to accept the advertised placement success rates at face value. Remember that the majority of a business school’s placement resources are spent on supporting “domestic” students. Therefore, if you’re a private-sponsored “international” student in need of a job following your graduation, then you should carefully research the schools to which you have been accepted in order to determine what resources and support systems are available to assist international students searching for jobs in your home country. Furthermore, you should ask alumni of those schools how they found their first post-graduation positions back home.
If you plan to find a new job after graduating, then R1’s advice is for you to be very proactive in your employment search. The early bird gets the worm!