Phil Knight and Steve Ballmer attended the Stanford GSB. Stephen Schwarzman and Michael Bloomberg went to Harvard Business School. Laurence Tisch and Ron Lauder earned their MBA from the Wharton School. These are pretty impressive names, and each of these top schools could fill this entire blog posting with many more luminaries—and a number of other top schools could claim bragging rights to a plethora of other prominent leaders. In the end, though, the real question is who among them would actually answer your phone call?
The odds of your having one-on-one interactions with celebrity alumni from your chosen business school are likely very small, not only while you are pursuing your MBA but especially after you graduate. So, you should ask yourself what level of interaction with your fellow alumni you will want or need in the future. Does your target school have an alumni club in the country or city in which you plan to live and work after graduation? If so, how active is that club, and what kinds of events and resources does it offer? Does it host business professionals and sponsor lectures? Is it a purely social club?
Understanding the manner in which you plan to engage alumni from your target school is important before deciding which program to attend. If you intend to enter a well-established field—such as banking—after you graduate, odds are you will have an abundance of alumni to call on and with whom to interact throughout your career. But what if you plan to pursue a more obscure industry, such as nanotechnology? Or what if you come from and plan to return to an underrepresented country? If you feel that you need a connection with notable alumni to be able to “break through” in your chosen field, then you would be wise to arrange for a ten-minute phone call with the alumni relations department at your target school to discuss your specific concerns before you submit your application or accept the school’s offer of admission. MBA programs encourage applicants to do their research, and if you truly believe that a school’s alumni network and resources will be crucial to your long-term success, you should not hesitate to make a quick call to ensure you will get the network you need.
By Jeremy Shinewald, Founder/President, mbaMission