Top 5 Factors to Consider When Choosing an MBA Program

Thinking about business school? When choosing which schools to apply to, and eventually attend, you'll want to make sure you're taking these five factors into consideration.

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By Fiona T.

Posted March 12, 2024

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Pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a significant investment of time, money, and effort. Therefore, it is essential to choose the right school that aligns with your career goals and maximizes your potential for success.

Several factors should be taken into consideration during the selection process to ensure a well-informed decision. In this article, we will explore four crucial criteria for choosing the right MBA program: GMAT score, programs, alumni network, location, and timeline.

Top 5 Factors to Consider When Selecting a Business School

1. GMAT Score: Aim Above the Average

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized exam used by business schools to assess applicants' readiness for their MBA programs. Each school has an average GMAT score for admitted students. While a higher GMAT score doesn't guarantee admission, it can significantly enhance your chances, especially if you aim to surpass the school's average score. A lower-than-average GMAT score may hinder your application, as schools often consider this metric during the selection process. Aim to perform well on the GMAT, but remember that it is only one aspect of your application.

For more on GMAT/GRE scores, read The Top 50+ Free Resources for GMAT/GRE Prep and GMAT vs. GRE: Which To Take and How to Ace Both

2. Programs: Find the Right Fit

Business schools are known for their expertise in various fields, and finding the right program that aligns with your career aspirations is crucial. Research each school's strengths and focus areas to identify programs that resonate with your interests. For example, Wharton excels in Finance and Healthcare Management, Stanford is renowned for entrepreneurship, and Kellogg boasts one of the best marketing programs. Choosing a school with a strong reputation in your chosen field can provide you with a valuable network and increase your chances of landing your dream job after graduation.

Read: How to Choose an MBA Program: The Discerning Student's Guide

3. Alumni Network: Long-Term Impact

The value of a strong alumni network cannot be overstated. Beyond the two-year MBA program, your connections to alumni can open doors and provide significant opportunities. For instance, certain industries like Private Equity (PE) often have a strong representation from specific schools like Wharton or Harvard Business School (HBS). Being part of this network, sometimes referred to as the "Wharton or HBS mafia," can offer a competitive advantage in such industries.

Researching the school's alumni network and its achievements can help you assess the potential long-term impact on your career. Consider programs that have a strong alumni representation in your target industries. Think to yourself, "Is this a group of people that I want to be associated with for the rest of my career?"

4. Location: Networking and Post-MBA Career Prospects

The school's location plays a vital role in your MBA experience and post-MBA career prospects. Consider your industry preferences and geographical interests when selecting a school. For instance, if you're interested in Finance, schools in major financial hubs like NYU, Columbia, or Wharton can provide easier access to networking opportunities and job prospects in New York City. On the other hand, schools like Stanford and Haas, located in the Bay Area, can offer excellent programs and abundant alumni connections in the technology sector.

While the location itself doesn't determine your career, it can significantly influence your networking opportunities and exploration of potential job markets.

5. Timeline: Capacity and Planning

How much time you have to prepare and submit your applications will have a bearing on your application strategy. With a longer application runway, you may be able to apply to more than your target schools. However, if you're rushed, you'll likely have to be more selective with your choices in order to spend the time focusing on making those applicants as strong as possible.

For more info on time, head to A Comprehensive MBA Application Timeline—With Chart

How Many Schools Should You Apply To?

Applying to five to seven schools is a common recommendation for MBA applicants. In your first round of applications, prioritize your dream schools and submit applications to them. Depending on the outcome of the first round, you can then select two to three "safe" choices for your second round of applications. Applying in Round 1 is ideal if your timeline permits, as it gives you more opportunity to add additional schools in later rounds based on the results of the first round. Read An Overview of MBA Admissions Rounds: When to Apply To Business School

Remember that the application process can be competitive, and having a mix of reach, target, and safety schools can increase your chances of receiving acceptance offers.

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Selecting the right business school for your MBA is crucial for your career success. Considering factors like GMAT score, program offerings, alumni network, and location will guide you toward the best fit. Applying to five to seven schools, with a mix of dream schools and safe choices, enhances your chances of acceptance. Remember to take the time to thoroughly research and reflect on which school is the best fit for you. An MBA is not just a degree but an enriching experience that can open doors to exciting opportunities and personal growth.

If you'd like guidance figuring out what school is best for you, or anything else related to the MBA application process, head to my Leland profile! I'd love to help you get into your dream program.

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