Finding The Right Fit: How to Choose an MBA Program

By Megan Lerchenmuller

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There are many factors to consider when selecting a full-time MBA program – prestige, cost, and location to name a few.  However, the most important thing to consider when evaluating programs is how each program will prepare YOU, personally, to achieve your post-MBA goals, both short and long term.  Here are some things to consider when reviewing programs for the next steps on the journey down your future career path, taking your specific needs into account.

Post-MBA Goals.  

The location of a business school can offer unique advantages. Certain large cities provide a close look into and connection to specific industries, including guest speakers from relevant organizations, expansive alumni networks, and robust networks for summer internships and post-MBA roles. Consider whether the school is situated in an area where you can actively network with alumni and secure internships during the school year that will provide valuable experience and increase your likelihood of entering your desired career path. Assess the pros and cons of attending business schools in different locations. For example, attending a school in the Bay Area can offer insights into innovation and the venture capital ecosystem, while studying in New York City can provide access to one of the world’s financial capitals. If you are considering international programs, ascertain the school’s global reputation and its prominence in the region where you plan to pursue your post-MBA career. It is crucial to align the school’s focus with your desired geographical area.

Location, Location, Location.  

While often overlooked, a school’s culture, immersion opportunities, and potential connections with current students and alumni are critical aspects to consider. Your compatibility with a school’s culture can significantly impact your ability to establish strong connections with your classmates and faculty, as well as build a robust alumni network. Additionally, reflect on the class sizes offered by different programs. Prestigious schools often have large classes, providing you with the opportunity to meet a diverse range of classmates. Conversely, smaller class sizes offer a more intimate environment, enabling you to develop deeper relationships over the two-year program. Consider your personality and which class size aligns best with your preferences.

The Soft Stuff. 

 It’s important too!  A school’s culture, immersion opportunities, and potential connections with current students and alumni are all important aspects to consider when evaluating different programs.  The more you vibe with a school’s culture, the more likely you are to build strong connections with your future classmates and faculty, and the more likely you are to build a solid alumni network.  Think about class sizes as well.  Some prestigious schools have large classes, meaning you’ll meet many wonderful classmates during your time at school.  How does this compare to you versus a smaller class size where you’ll spend two years creating more intimate relationships?  It might depend on your personality. 

Finally, ROI (Return on Investment)  

While not the sole determining factor, assessing the return on investment is crucial. Dream big, explore your options, and then quantify and measure. Examine graduating class statistics to gauge your likelihood of success in your desired career path, considering employment rates and the percentage of graduates who have pursued careers in your chosen industry or function. Evaluate your financial needs and the likelihood of securing a scholarship. Weigh the trade-off between living costs in a big city versus a more affordable standard of living during your time in school. Determine how far down the rankings you are willing to go while still achieving your dream internship or post-MBA position. Understand when pursuing an MBA might no longer make sense for you. It is essential to identify the trade-offs you are willing to make, and itis advisable to consider these factors early on in the business school application process.

There are so many aspects to consider when selecting the right MBA program for you – some are objective, but the majority are subjective and personal to you and the goals you want to achieve.  Make sure you’re spending the time early on to evaluate programs across the criteria that matters most to you.  It’s easy to get caught up in rankings and prestige but it’s imperative that you consider how spending two years at a specific MBA program is going to make all the difference in your career.