For the fortunate, one of the most challenging decisions MBA applicants make this time of year is which business school to attend. Receiving an offer of admission to only one school is always great news, but when an applicant is greeted with multiple offers, the joy of admission often quickly turns to the paradox of choice. Indecision often occurs when admits are confronted with choosing between more prestigious MBA programs and those that represent a better personal or professional fit for them.
For some, the choice may be an obvious one – “Of course you should matriculate to the more prestigious program!” Others, however, would immediately choose to attend the program that better aligns with their development goals. Let’s explore some of the reasons why an admit might lean one way or the other.
Think about the core reasons that initially drove your interest in pursuing a graduate business education. Was it to improve your analytical or problem solving skills? Was it to break into a new industry or climb the corporate ladder in your current line of work? Go back to these core desires and remember the real reasons why you are seeking an MBA. If these factors are important to you,then the school with a better fit might be best for you.
Now, this focus on fit can sometimes be forgotten in the face of rankings, which are difficult to overlook. And complicating this decision even further, many admits tend to solicit the advice of under-informed friends and family when trying to decide which MBA program to attend, so well-known programs with great brands that may not be the best fit for a candidate’s development goals are often recommended over somewhat less prestigious programs.
The goal for many candidates is to go to the most well-known and highly-ranked MBA program possible, so when it comes time to make a decision, it is all about which school has the best brand. Generally, the more reputed programs do tend to offer a better lifetime value and return on investment (ROI). This is because these programs often offer broader alumni networks with better long-term career considerations, particularly for those interested in global career opportunities. However, in many instances, an overall highly-ranked program may be weaker in specific industry and functional areas than lower ranked programs.
The answer to this debate is a difficult one. Admits should take both factors into consideration but strive to pursue the most highly-reputed program – not in absolute terms, but instead in terms of which best address their development needs and post-MBA goals.
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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You read more articles by him here.