How to Effectively Research MBA Programs

Application Strategy

How to Effectively Research MBA Programs

Finding the right MBA programs to apply to can be a daunting task. What do all of the rankings really mean? How can you tell what is actually different about each program? How do you determine which schools to apply to and when?

Putting together a great application takes a ton of time, so I recommend narrowing your options down to only one to three schools per round. It is paramount to demonstrate that you deeply understand what makes an MBA program unique and that you know more about them than their reputation.

I found it helpful to focus on four key areas to research when applying to schools.

1. Defining characteristics of the school’s location, class size, curriculum, teaching methods, facilities, alumni base/involvement and rankings. Note that I put ranking last here because it is probably going to be the least helpful piece of information in determining “fit”. Think critically about what you want your life to feel like when you’ll be in business school as well as once you've graduated.

2. Courses, experiential opportunities, faculty and clubs related to MBAs’ most common career areas, and employment statistics - including consulting, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, venture capital/private equity, international business, health care, nonprofit/social entrepreneurship and real estate. Basically, what is your life going to look like beyond the classroom? How do students like to get involved and prepare for their future career outside of academics? If studying and working abroad is important to you, how does the program support that?

3. The admissions committee’s stance on such application elements as GMAT/TOEFL scores, admission statistics, layoffs/unemployment, recommendations, the waitlist and more. Once you've narrowed down the type of experiences you'd like to have, it is important to look at some of the logistics of applying – including where you GMAT and GPA fit within the schools’ average.

4. Notable professors, classes and social and community events. Once you know where you’re applying, these are the types of details that are great to color your interview or essays with to show how deeply you have gotten to know their school experience and community.

Good luck!