Where to Apply

How Do You Choose Where to Apply?

It’s time to build your list of schools for application. You’ve read the catalogs, you’ve done your online research. But you just can’t decide. What makes choosing the right MBA programs so hard?

The fact is, choosing the best schools for you is an important and often stressful decision. It’s not just an exercise in choosing where to live and attend school for the next two years. You’re making a decision that will also impact your professional career and personal lifestyle.

Whether you’ve just completed your undergraduate degree, or have already begun your career in the working world, there are several strategies that can turn your task from daunting to manageable. Here are a few to help you get started:

Consider the big picture. An MBA program is more than its campus. What’s the job market like near the schools you’re considering? Where do students get internships? What types of companies recruit at the schools you’re considering? Where have former graduates accepted jobs recently?

Research the statistics. You want your MBA degree to give you an automatic leg-up on your competition in the business world. Find out: is the program respected in the region where you hope to make your career? Are students and graduates positive about their MBA experience? Is the faculty well-connected? Do the employers you are interested in recruit interns and graduates? These are all important criteria that will boost your marketability upon graduation.

Consider your decision’s impact on your family and your lifestyle. You want to pursue your education, but you want your husband or partner to be happy, too. If you’re relocating, will he or she be able to find a job near your school? Does your program offer a school-run organization to support partners of students? Take an honest look at your schedule. Will you have time to network? To spend time with people who are important to you?

Visit the schools you’re considering. No matter how much research you’ve done, there’s no substitute for walking the campus. Get a feel for the culture. During your visit you may find that students are friendly and motivated, or you may discover the atmosphere is too competitive and intense. Find out who excels at the school. Ask yourself: is the campus diverse? Will you meet students from many different backgrounds? Inquire about the alumni. What type of success are they enjoying?

Don’t be shy. Ask questions. Now’s your chance to get the real scoop. Current students are a great resource and will be candid. If problems exist within a department, the students will be the ones to be candid about it. Dig deeper. How rigorous is the program? Are class schedules convenient? What’s the grading system like? Is it A, B, C or Pass/Fail? Is there grade non-disclosure? Is the grading system important to you? Have an idea ahead of time what will work best for you. You want to make sure the next two years will bring you the greatest sense of personal satisfaction and achievement possible.