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Methods to researching schools

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Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 26 Feb 2009, 11:28
So how do you guys go about researching schools ? I'm trying to flesh out the list of schools that I want to apply, and so far here are my criteria:

1. Location; I prefer East Coast/Midwest .. the only exception Im planning to make is LBS
2. Culture: I like a very social atmosphere. I dont like overly academic programs/types :)
3. Strength in management/consulting, as this is my desired post grad path
4. Exchange opportunities

Aside from actually visiting the school, how do you guys go about trying to get a feel for the culture and themes of a given school ?

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Re: Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 27 Feb 2009, 03:49
By far the best way to get a sense of the school's culture is a campus visit. There's really nothing else that comes close in terms of really getting a feel for what a school is like. If you are unable to visit, any receptions or MBA tour events where you can talk to and interact with students or recent alumni would be the next best thing.

In terms of your other criteria, I started by looking at the profiles of schools in the BW and US News rankings as a first filter to get it down to about 10-12 schools I may have been interested in. Then spent a lot of time on their websites and reading their promotional materials, which narrowed it down to 8. Finally I contacted students through clubs to talk to them about the program and culture, and visited some of the schools in order to narrow it down to the 5 I applied to.

Edit: Forgot to mention - I actually didn't find GMATclub until after I had applied, but this is a great resource as well since so many people here have done extensive school research or are current students.
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Re: Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 27 Feb 2009, 06:03
Jerz pretty much summed it up. I just want to comment on your specific criteria:

1. If you look at the "top 16" - ultra elite and elite clusters, per this website's "ranking" system - you only knocked 3 schools off and added one. Now you are down to 14 schools. I would further narrow your list down by trying to decide which schools are "stretch", "target" and "safety" schools and how aggressive you want to be. For example, I applied to 1 stretch and 3 targets in Round 1. Then I did 1 target and 1 stretch in Round 2 since I got an early acceptance. If I didn't get that acceptance, I planned to apply to a couple safer schools in Round 2. Don't be afraid to look outside the top-16 either. There are a lot of great schools in the 16-25 range.
2. Contrary to popular belief, I've found that all schoools tend to be extremely social. MBA programs are not PhD programs and you will not find an overly "academic type". Some schools just have a different feel to them...For example, the more isolated (i.e. not in the middle of a major city - Kellogg, Tuck, Duke, etc) have a different feel than the schools that are in major cities (Wharton, Chicago, NYU, etc). You just have to decide which atmosphere you like better...I can personally see benefits of both; campus visits and conversations with students/alumni are the best way to learn more about the schools though.
3. Most top schools place well in management consulting since it is one of the most popular post-MBA career paths. So this probably shouldn't be a huge deciding factor for you. Some may have slightly better reputations than others in this field, but I don't think the difference is huge in most cases. If you want the top firms, M/B/B, prestige can play a factor, but that is debatable too.
4. Most (all?) top schools have exchange opportunities. The websites can provide more info though.

So I think the biggest differentiating factors are location and size. Do you want to live in a big city where there are a lot of different things to do or do you want to fully immerse yourself in the program by living in a college town? Do you want to go to a big program that is somewhat anonymous, or do you want to go to a smaller program where most people know everyone in the program? Once you make this decision, it will come down to deciding how many schools you want to apply to and how risky you want to be.

Some people look at things like campus facilities/buildings and curriculum structure, but those aren't huge factors for me.

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Re: Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 27 Feb 2009, 07:48
The only thing that I would add is that I found it helpful to find students or alumni who had gone to my undergrad when trying to determine the fit or culture of particular schools. It worked well since I went to a small school in the middle of nowhere, and in many ways alumni have a similar experience regardless of when they graduated. I was able to reach out to people and ask how particular programs compared with what I liked and didn't like about my undergrad experience.

If you don't know of anyone in your own network, you can use linked in for example to run a search based on your undergrad and potential bschools.

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Re: Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 02 Mar 2009, 07:38
What about weightage to GMAT intensive schools Vs experience intensive schools? If I am right, there are some schools that really want you to have a really high GMAT score. Like Michigan (711 average) and Chicago and Wharton whereas Cornell I heard looks more at the overall package. Thoughts?

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Re: Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 02 Mar 2009, 09:03
balboa wrote:
What about weightage to GMAT intensive schools Vs experience intensive schools? If I am right, there are some schools that really want you to have a really high GMAT score. Like Michigan (711 average) and Chicago and Wharton whereas Cornell I heard looks more at the overall package. Thoughts?


I think the "GMAT intensive" schools you mention also look at the overall package. GMAT club probably isn't a representative sample since there are so many 700+ scores here, but if you look at the middle 80% range of GMAT scores for those schools, they all accept plenty of people with scores in the mid to high 600s, and there are plenty of people with 750+ that get denied by those schools.
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Re: Methods to researching schools [#permalink]

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New post 10 Mar 2009, 17:56
i second talking to students/alums. i've found it very helpful to find students from clubs i'd join and ask them very targeted questions about areas i'm interested in, how the profs are, career services support to find relevant jobs, variety of classes, etc.
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Re: Methods to researching schools   [#permalink] 10 Mar 2009, 17:56
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