"Congratulations, you did it."
These are magical words for anyone hoping to gain admission to business school. You know you're the right fit for business school, but how do you know if a school is the right fit for you? There are at least 5 aspects to “fit” when deciding if a certain business school is the best choice for you:
1. School’s Teaching Method Vs. Your Learning Preferences
How do you absorb and process information best? Some programs emphasize the case-study method, while others rely on traditional lectures. Which is more appealing to you? And you should also consider whether the amount of team-oriented work vs. individualized learning is compatible with your needs and expectations.
2. Academic Emphasis vs. Your Priorities for Knowledge
Are you a techie seeking to transition into finance or marketing? Or an operations specialist hoping to climb the ladder to a COO role? Do the disciplines in which the school ranks highest align with your needs and expectations? Are there elective courses that will deliver what you want to study? Check out course listing and descriptions to confirm the fit. During our Comprehensive Consultation, we help MBA applicants define the “gap” between their current strengths and their future goals to determine how well a given business school can help them fill in that gap.
3. Recruiting Focus vs. Your Post-MBA Career Plans
Are you going to pursue a corporate job or join a start up? What are the dream companies that you see yourself at after B School? Compare your priorities with the listing of company that visit campus and those that hire the most grads form this school. The career services office is your best resource for this kind of info.
4. Geographic Footprint vs. Your Anticipated Location
Where the campus is located is important, but it can be overemphasized. Most Wharton grads depart Philly right after commencement. Very few Tuck grads remain in Hanover. So, look at the listing of alumni chapters to see where grads settle. Check out the chapters’ respective websites to get a feel for how large and active the chapter is. Are these cities where you (and your family) would like to live following graduation?
5. School’s Culture vs. Your Values and Personality
Is this a “kinder, gentler” place or a highly competitive boot camp? Arguably the most difficult kind of “fit” to measure, making this subjective assessment is essential to your near- and long-term satisfaction. After all, classmates and other alumni will become friends and allies for life. And the school’s “brand” will help define you in future business and personal dealings.
How to Find That Best Fit
The best way to assess the culture is to visit campus while classes are in-session. Introduce yourself to current students and get a feel for how well you relate. If you can’t travel to campus, then approach recent graduates in your area and ask them what they liked most and least about their B School experience.
As with most major decisions in life, once you’ve completed all the research, identified the pros and cons of your options, and heard the opinions of those who know you best, it’s time to trust your gut. The good news is that, when considering top-tier business schools, it’s almost impossible to make a mistake. These institutions have earned and sustain their lofty ratings by providing an education and an experience that is valued and enjoyed by the vast majority of those who attend.
The best thing an applicant can do is to provide himself or herself with choices. By gaining admission to more than one top B School, you’ll face a wonderful “dilemma” in comparing and contrasting them before you decide which fit is truly best for you.