By Joy Pincus
Senior Application Consultant at Aringo MBA Admissions Consulting
Imagine winning admission to several of one’s chosen programs. Now that you have a menu of options, how do you ensure that you make the right choice - one that will undoubtedly affect the rest of your life?
The best way to help yourself here is to put aside for a moment all the opinions – yours, your partner’s, your friends’, your parents’, the blogs’ – and run the various schools that have admitted you through a simple assessment table (remember that chart all of your recommenders had to fill out on you, along with their letters of recommendation? Well, it’s time for payback...).
Let’s see how each school measures up to the following:
- Location, location, location. Here, we’re speaking firstly of where, geographically, the school is located, and how attracted you feel to that location. City, suburbs or country? Will you be driving everywhere, or walking and public transportation is enough? How cold are the winters, how hot are the summers, and do you care? If you are single, is it a good place for you? And if you are married and maybe have children, how supportive is the environment for students with families?
- Good match for your goals. What industry and position are you headed for? Do you have an ideal company in mind for your summer internship and/or first post-MBA role? If so, then take a look at each school’s stats, and see if the companies that historically recruit there include the ones you are aiming for. Also check to see which of your potential schools actually specialize in the field or industry you are planning to enter.
- Feeling of kinship. There’s no place like home, said a young girl from Kansas once, and the program you choose will be your home – at least for a year or two – and your fellow classmates will be a sort of family. So gauge each program to see where you feel – or don’t feel – that ‘lovin’ feeling. Best is if you can actually go visit the campus, walk around, talk to passersby and even sit in on a class or two. Can you visualize yourself there? Are the people you meet there the ones you’d love to spend late nights with arguing, or even join forces with for your next entrepreneurial endeavor? Does the campus atmosphere shout ‘teamwork’ or ‘competitiveness’ and which one will help you to thrive?
- Money talks. One or more of the schools you’ve applied to may have offered you a scholarship, making your decision even harder, if the schools offering the scholarship are not your first choices… For a sobering look, check out the school rankings, and take a look at the average earnings or their alumni, within 6 months or so of graduation. Accepting a scholarship at a lower ranked school might be tempting – just make sure you wouldn’t be earning that money back yourself within a year or two, if you had chosen the more renowned program. Also – never forget you might be able to parlay a scholarship offer from one school into an equal offering from another.
- Dig deep. Do some additional research on each of the schools. What is the ratio of men to women? What percentage of their class is from a foreign country? What’s the preferred teaching method? How much hands-on, practical experience will you get, in addition to theoretical learning? How comprehensive is their service in helping you prepare for interviews to land your first job? How active is their alumni organization?
Once you’ve thoroughly measured each of the schools according to these parameters, the answer may already be very clear. If not, put it out of your head for a while, and just enjoy the fact that wherever you may be headed next fall, you will be going off to do your MBA. And after a week or so of deliberately not thinking about your decision, you may just find that the answer… finds you.
And remember, regardless of which school you choose in the end, you’ll be off for an adventure of a lifetime, gaining valuable tools and skills that will serve you well, whatever direction your life ultimately takes.