“I want to go to HBS…” I want to go to Stanford…” “I want to go to Wharton…” These are the cries of MBA candidates around the world when contemplating what business schools they want to attend. But these venerable institutions and others like them can’t possibly accept all interested students for a variety of reasons that include space, qualifications, and fit. Every year many students are forced to reevaluate their target school list.
Applicants should approach the school selection process with an open mind and use this as the basis to conduct research on the programs that best align with their unique needs. For some students, profile limitations like GPA, GMAT, or work experience can restrict opportunities at higher ranked programs, so it makes sense to consider all alternatives. Often lower-ranked schools are better aligned with the development needs of certain students. Some of the best programs for areas like entrepreneurship, operations, and supply chain management fall outside of the various rankings done every year. These programs can provide direct pipelines into career paths into these industries of interest.
Location should also be an area of note for aspiring MBAs. For some, targeting a specific location where the applicant wants to reside post-MBA is another smart strategy when identifying the ideal program. This is key because most schools have at the very least strong local recruiting within their geographic area. This strategy will increase the likelihood of landing at a target firm. These schools will often also have stronger alumni networks in their geographic region that trump higher ranked programs, so choose wisely.
A complimentary approach is identifying MBA programs close to target recruiters. For example if a career in Venture Capital is important then the west coast or Silicon Valley in particular should influence the school selection process. Interested in oil and gas? Then researching the local MBA programs in the state of Texas is a no brainer and would make more sense than pursuing admission at some higher rated programs outside the state.
Finally, some students just may not be academically equipped to perform or compete at certain MBA programs. Intense academic rigor, heavy workloads, and cumbersome pre-requisite coursework make some lower ranked programs a more comfortable academic environment.
Don’t be constrained by the various school rankings on the market. Create your own list that allows you to pick the program that makes the most sense for YOU!
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 can read more of his articles here.