The following post was prepared by Rebecca Maescher, a senior admissions consultant with The MBA Exchange. Rebecca earned her MBA degree at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. An accomplished business writer, she has advised many candidates on their successful applications to top business schools.
You have made the decision to pursue an MBA, but now you wonder, “How should I determine which schools are the best fit for me?” While tempting to look simply at rankings, it is important to explore other resources that provide more comprehensive information.
First, The MBA Exchange includes school profiles on our website that offer overviews of a number of top programs. The profiles highlight some of each school’s unique features and are a great way to begin your search.
Next, candidates should take an in-depth look at program websites and official online publications such as school newspapers or blogs. While this may seem obvious, schools post a plethora of information that cannot be found elsewhere. It is well worth the time spent to learn about each school’s curriculum, course offerings, faculty, student groups, research centers, career office, experiential opportunities, and community.
Visiting campuses and attending official information sessions are a great next step in your exploratory process. Both will include structured presentations by admissions officers and/or students to further familiarize you with the school. This will help give you a better feel for each school’s environment and academic approach. A bonus is that you’ll have the chance to introduce yourself and chat 1-on-1 with the decision makers.
Finally, dialogue with current students or alumni is critical to solidifying your decision. They can fill in gaps and answer many of the questions you have acquired up to this point. Perhaps more importantly, they are the best resources for learning about the “student experience.” Which courses or professors were their favorites? Were they pleased with the career support they received? How active are the student groups? Did they like living in their school’s location? All of these considerations will help you finalize your target schools.
Throughout this process, the most essential piece of the puzzle is knowing your own motivations for pursuing an MBA and fitting those motivations to each school’s strengths. For example, if you seek to make a career transition into a particular function or industry, be sure that your chosen schools have the appropriate expertise and resources to help you be successful. A mutual fit comes from matching your needs to a program’s assets.