This article was written in association with the QS World MBA Tour and the QS World Grad School Tour.
The business education market can seem like a jungle. Should you just apply to a school you’ve heard of, one you’re fairly confident is held in high esteem by your peers and future employers, and ignore the rest?
Well, you could, but your MBA isn’t something to take lightly. The work, costs involved and potential value to your future career demand a more thorough approach. So, how do you go about selecting the right program? Here are a few steps to help you narrow the field.
Step one: How long is the program?
Traditionally, the U.S. was seen as the home of the two-year MBA; Europe, of the one-year MBA. But, you’re by no means confined to this categorization today, so decide the length you want, or can afford, and plan accordingly.
Step two: Think beyond school
Next, think about what you want to achieve — or, what you want for your career — and try and match these interests with business schools that have a strong reputation in that regard.
This means researching schools’ websites to see what program options, specializations and initiatives they run. It’s also worth assessing employment reports to see what companies graduates join. If you’re keen to reinvent yourself as an entrepreneur and you find a program with this concentration and a whole heap of startup activities thrown in, maybe you’ve found your match.
Step three: Get a feel for the culture
Consider also the cultural and learning environment in which you’re most likely to thrive. Different people prefer different things, and although you’ll be working hard, business school is supposed to be enjoyable. Ask yourself whether you’re more suited to certain class sizes or teaching styles, for example.
Location is also a factor; if you like the sound of belonging to a close-knit community then a “college-town” experience such as that on offer at University of Michigan’s Ross School, Dartmouth’s Tuck or Cambridge’s Judge Business School might be to your liking. If, instead, you crave something more cosmopolitan, then the likes of NYU Stern, Chicago Booth or London Business School might be a better match.
Step four: Assess your candidacy honestly
Yes, the allure of elite schools is strong, but so too is the competition for places. Taking an honest look at your own profile and measuring it up to typical cohort information for different schools will ensure you don’t waste time chasing rainbows.
Step five: Meet with alumni
Once you have a shortlist, it’s time to dive deep. Attending an MBA fair allows you to meet school representatives who will happily put you in touch with alumni. Former students offer a first-hand perspective of what it’s like to study at a school, who studies there and what kind of graduates they become.
Step six: Visit!
All that remains is to take in a campus visit and get a sense of the atmosphere for yourself. Maybe even sit in on a class and chat to a few current students just to be sure that you’ve found yourself the perfect school.
Visit the QS World MBA Tour Boston on Thursay, Sept. 17, 3:30-9 p.m. at the Back Bay Events Center, 200 Berkley Street.
Visit the QS World MBA Tour and QS World Grad School Tour New York on Sunday Sept. 20, 12:30-6 p.m. at the Hilton New York, 1335 Avenue of the Americas.
Visit the QS World MBA Tour Philadelphia on Tuesday Sept. 22, 4-9 p.m. at Conference Center at CHF, 315 Chestnut Street.