MBA admission success starts with school targeting

Blue sky over university

There are several substantive factors for MBA applicants to weigh when deciding which business schools to target: ranking, curriculum, location, culture and more. However, finalizing your target school list may be less cerebral and more visceral. The ultimate consideration is how you expect to feel when you are admitted – or denied. Anticipated validation and rejection are powerful emotions that play a major role when choosing where to apply.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how such feelings can drive school targeting in the wrong direction:

Aiming too low?
No MBA candidate wants to be rejected. The time, effort and expectations that go into producing an application are substantial. And the disappointment, perhaps even embarrassment, of being turned away is a humbling outcome most want to avoid. So, many applicants overemphasize so-called “safety” schools where their academic stats and professional profile indicate a near-certainty of admission. This restrained approach to targeting is likely to produce admission, but also plant seeds of possible regret years after graduation. Observing peers with loftier MBA brands advance their careers at a more rapid pace can prompt the soul-searching realization, “I should have tried for a better school.”

Aiming too high?
The vast majority of MBA candidates would love to be admitted to an elite business school. This aspiration is confirmed by the massive number of applicants pursuing such programs every year. The imagined euphoria of being accepted by Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc., can become an obsession. So, many individuals overemphasize the most selective schools even if a sub-par transcript, test score and resume foreshadow the near certainty of denial. Yes, admissions miracles can happen, but likely rejection can fuel future frustration such as “I should have been more realistic.”

Admissions consultants who try to convince you to only “shoot for the stars” or “avoid all risk” in school selection are doing you a great disservice. Such advisors are probably more concerned about their own results than their clients’ success and satisfaction.

Based on three decades of advising more than 5,000 MBA applicants, The MBA Exchange understands the substantive and emotional considerations that influence school targeting. We know that aspirations and risk profiles vary across the applicant universe. The savvy MBA grads on our consulting team have been in your shoes and know how it feels. So, our approach is to help each applicant maximize his or her chances for admission to the best possible schools while minimizing future regrets. In most cases, this means building a blended target list – with some stretch, some high-probability, and some in-between programs – that aligns with the candidate’s background and potential.

We believe that candidates should pursue only those schools where they would feel proud and fulfilled as students and as future alumni. So, after thorough research, discussion and reflection – with as much input from us as requested – ultimately it’s always our clients’ decision as to where they will apply.

If you’re an MBA applicant feeling uncertain about which programs to target, we invite you to take the first step by getting a free, expert evaluation of your candidacy. Understanding your strengths and vulnerabilities, and getting objective feedback on your competitiveness can help you narrow and validate your school options.

Aiming “too low” or “too high” is regrettable and avoidable. Start with us to get your school targeting right.