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Choosing Which Schools to Apply to: 2 Factors to Consider
Let’s face it, making your short-list of business schools is no easy task. All of the top business schools have unique programs, excellent opportunities and strategic partnerships that could serve you well in your future career. Whether you have already been accepted to multiple schools and are trying to figure out which would be the best path for you, or whether you are just beginning to select schools for application and are currently assessing where you will be competitive, here are two key factors you should consider when narrowing your list:
Prestige. It’s is hard to overemphasize how far the power of a name can extend. But before we talk about the power of prestige, remember, prestige and ranking are two very different things. A business school can be highly ranked one year, and then fluctuate greatly in rankings the next year. Rankings can also fluctuate greatly based on the publication or the organization providing the rankings. Prestige, on the other hand, is the specific “brand” you obtain from the business school you attend --- and brand can go a long way in networking, job searching, and making your resume stand out, regardless of ranking. Therefore, when you are trying to make the hard choice between your top two or three schools, focusing solely on rankings rather than also on the long-term prestige can be shortsighted.
The caveat to this is that prestige is highly subjective. For instance, if you intend to have a career outside of the US, it may serve you better to attend Cambridge instead of Wharton, where the name of Cambridge is well-known internationally. Although Wharton is one of the best business schools worldwide, the name of Cambridge may be better recognized across your intended audience. The same logic holds true regionally as well. If you intend to pursue a career in the South, for instance, Duke’s name travels very far, as does the loyalty of its fans and alumni. In this case, the power of a regionally prestigious school may outweigh the power of prestige from a nationally prestigious school. But, if you intend to pursue a career in the Midwest, the University of Chicago may be a better choice for you. On the other side of the argument, if you intend to move around the US during your career, choosing a more prestigious nationally ranked school, such as Harvard or Wharton, would be most beneficial.
Career and Alumni. What you intend to do in your long-term career should have a great effect on your decision-making when it comes to choosing a school. As you apply to business schools, you should have a cultivating sense of where you want your career to go, both in the short term and in the long term. There are many companies that recruit students from certain campuses and schools that they have longstanding relationships with. To that end, your school is often a stepping stone to your future career, not only in terms of recruitment, but also in terms of networking. Most likely, in pursuit of your long-term goal, you will switch companies maybe two or three times. In these times of change, having a vast network of alumni can make a world of difference. Many alumni will give preference for fellow graduates of their school. In addition, you may see many of your former business school classmates start their own companies and begin to recruit – and one of those positions could potentially be your future career. Choosing a business school is not just a two-year pledge; it is a lifelong commitment. Make sure your careers and goals are backed by the school that you choose, and the opportunities offered by your school and alumni will help you go far.
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Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts)
President, MBA Admit.com