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Part 2 – Selecting Suitable MBA Schools

Welcome to post 2 of MBAPrepAdvantage’s 4-part series, “Selecting MBA Programs and Schools to Target”! Today, Michael Cohan discusses picking the MBA program that’s right for you.

In our previous blog post, we discussed the first step of the 4-Step Process for determining which MBA programs and schools to target.  These steps are:

Hopefully, you have greater clarity on the different types of MBA programs and options. Now, we continue the process of winnowing your choices, through asking 10 questions to guide you on the factors in comparing different schools and how much to weigh each factor.

1. Do you wish to go to a highly-ranked school?

Reputation (or Prestige) is often more important for highly selective fields (PE, strategy consulting, investment banking, etc.) and can be ascertained by researching MBA school rankings, reading publications, asking business professionals, etc.

2. Do you wish to specialize in one or more areas?

Specialization can be by industry, function or some other category and can be gauged if the school has a related center or initiative, research, classes, cases and programs.  For example, Kellogg excels in Family Business (Kellogg Center for Family Business); Wharton in Human Resources (Wharton Center for Human Resources); and Haas in Energy (Energy Institute at Haas).

3. Are you interested in pursuing a dual degree?

Joint Degrees leverage the underlying strengths of a university in many areas.  For instance, certain schools offer integrated MBA/JD programs (like Penn’s MBA/JD, Northwestern’s MBA/JD and Yale’s MBA/JD) enabling students to graduate sooner and explore subject matter synergies between business and law.

4. How well does a school place in your chosen field?

Career Resources and Placement can be ascertained by looking at career employment reports which schools will usually publish by Program Type (different Full-Time and Part-Time career employment reports).

5. Do you wish to study in a competitive or collaborative environment?

School Culture is best determined through visits to campus and interaction with students, alumni, faculty and administrators.  If you cannot visit the school, you can sign up for tours, such as The MBA Tour and QS MBA Tour.

6. Do you like the environment of a bigger or smaller school?

Size.  Some people prefer schools, like University of California Haas School of Business and Dartmouth Tuck School of Business, with its smaller student classes to promote intimacy while others prefer schools, like Harvard Business School, The Wharton School, or Columbia Business School, with its larger class-sizes to facilitate a greater number of interactions with students, alumni, faculty and administrators.

7. How do you learn best?

Pedagogy is the manner in which the subject matter is taught: case method, lecture, experiential learning.  Are you an active experimenter or reflective learner?  Do you prefer abstract conceptualization or concrete experience?  Wikipeida offers a good summary of different learning styles.  Then map these learning styles to the different instructional methods of the school.  HBS and Darden teach exclusively by case study.  Every school includes some degree of experiential learning that goes by various names, such as Michigan Ross’s Action-Based Learning.

8.Do you have a strong geographical preference?

Location.  Certain fields are concentrated in specific places, like Entertainment is in New York and Los Angeles.  You also might wish specific global exposure and then a specific school’s dual-MBA degrees and exchange programs make that school more attractive to you.  For example, if studying in both the U.S. and Europe is important to you, then you can investigate dual-MBA degrees (e.g. NYU Stern-HEC Paris Dual MBA Program) and exchange programs (e.g. Wharton-INSEAD Alliance).

9. How strong is a school’s alumni base, especially in your geographical region, industry or function?

Alumni Strength can open up career and other opportunities.  Certain schools are renowned for their alumni base, like HBS.  But did you know the alumni base is so strong in healthcare that the alumni holds its own annual healthcare conference (HBS Healthcare Alumni Association Annual Conference)?

10. What is the Return on Investment for studying at particular MBA school in a particular program?

Return on Investmentincludes calculating tuition costs as well as estimating foregone and lifetime earnings (if attending a Full-Time MBA program).  This Return on Investment can guide both your choice of program types and schools.  Executive MBA programs have a higher tuition but no foregone earnings.  In-state schools usually have lower tuition costs for residents than private schools.
MBAPrepAdvantage can help you in selecting which schools to target.  We offer a free initial assessment that includes School Selection as well as helps you gauge your MBA admissions chances and the strength of your candidacy.  Email us a brief description of your goals along with your target schools, resume, GPA, and GMAT or GRE at

To learn more about this topic, refer to the blog post Choosing MBA Schools.


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