“Weighting Your Needs and Wants” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. To download the entire free special report, click here.
A little more work is needed on the needs and wants issue. It will be helpful to weight them—though not rigidly. Simply, understanding the importance of a given factor will save you time up front by not considering schools that don’t meet your core needs. It will also help to uncover any contradictions that you might need to resolve (e.g., prefer to attend schools in the southeast, but also want to be near boyfriend in Boston).
For each of the wants/needs you’ve identified, assign one of the following categories:
Essential – This category applies to things that you must have no matter what – without them, you can’t attend a program. If you are making a career change into marketing, you need a program with strong marketing curriculum and recruiting. Period.
Very important – This category applies to the things that are highly important to you, but are not “must-haves” like those above. Things that you would consider compromising on if you really, really had to, but really, really don’t want to. For some people that might mean a geographic location, for others a warm and open community, for others the chance to take courses in the university’s law or public policy program.
Important – Consider this the “nice to have” category—things that would make a program more attractive to you but wouldn’t necessarily be a deciding factor.
Neutral – This category means simply not a factor. Some people would just as readily have curriculum flexibility or structure; would just as readily live in Palo Alto or Fontainebleau, strange as that may seem.
The main purpose of this exercise is to think about and define your priorities. Some people may be comfortable keeping these rankings in their head as they go through the next steps; others will make a spreadsheet with them.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with Accepted.
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This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of Accepted.com.