Choosing a Business School is like Dating

Believe it or not, business schools are quite different. They attract different types of students, and they evaluate candidates in different ways. If you’re interested in getting an MBA, it can quickly become overwhelming to sort them all out. After awhile, many of the schools start to sound the same when you’re going through their websites. How can you figure out which one is right for you?

All top MBA programs such as Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton offer finance and marketing and accounting, and the other standard core classes. Many of them have concentrations in areas such as entrepreneurship, brand management, real estate, or healthcare.

The first question to ask yourself is, where do your career interests lie? Look for the schools that are strongest in those fields. You can evaluate this based on how they present their academics. Which ones do they feature most prominently? You can also review their employment reports for graduates. Where do students get hired when they come out of the program? This gives you an indication of the school’s strengths.

That’s a first step. However, it’s not the last. The very best way to find out if a school is a good match for you is to go there. Book a flight, and go visit the place. Yes, it’s a radical idea, we know! It’s not cheap, and it’s not convenient. But think of it: You’re going to spend two years at this place. You’re going to dump thousands of dollars on your education. It’s going to change the trajectory of your life. Don’t you think it’s worthwhile to get on a plane to go check it out firsthand?

Sometimes traveling around the country is just not feasible. In that case, you might be able to attend a local information session in a city nearby. Many schools travel the world to meet high-quality candidates. Some of them even offer onlne information sessions now. No matter what, you need to engage the school community to understand what it’s about. Every school has a unique flavor, and they offer different opportunities.

In your MBA admissions essays, you’ll want to express “school fit” by highlighting what makes you the right type of candidate for them. You’ll also want to discuss which of their programs and specializations can help you meet your career goals. The best way to answer these questions in your essays – and in fact, the best way to determine if the school is a good fit before even wasting time and money on an application – is to get firsthand exposure to the school early in your process.

The other advantage of traveling to a business school before you apply? It’s usually really fun! The best business schools in the U.S. are on amazing campuses. Columbia and NYU in New York City, Booth and Kellogg in Chicago, Harvard and MIT in Boston, Stanford in the Bay Area… these are fabulous schools in amazing cities. You’re guaranteed to have a great time when you visit.

Applying to a business school you have never visited before is like the ultimate blind date… you’re agreeing to get married sight-unseen! So much of your future will be determined by the school that you attend. Take the time to learn as much as you can about the school in advance, to make sure it’s a partner you want to commit to!

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