Don’t Be a Delusional MBA Candidate

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Stacy Blackman is the founder and managing director of Stacy Blackman Consulting.

1. RANKINGS ARE NOT TATOOS. THEY AREN’T PERMANENT: The “best” MBA program in the country might not be the best program for you. Choose where to apply based on the No. 1 school FOR YOU.  That’s the only ranking that really matters, and it’s the only ranking that isn’t temporary.  Know what the best schools are, but only apply if they’re the best for you.

2. DON’T ROUND UP: You know those average numbers and admit profiles the schools send out or post on their website? Yeah, those. Read them!  Be honest about where you fall. If you’re under the bar, the school is a reach. It’s great to shoot for the stars, but not okay to bank on them.

3. SIZE MATTERS: Or does it? Compile a list of what matters to YOU. You’re the one going to business school. So be honest and be specific about what you’re looking for in a business school program. Then become an expert in the programs that offer what YOU need.

4. GET REAL!  When you’re applying to b-school, everyone’s going to have an opinion on where you should be applying.  But since they don’t have to get in, it’s important for you to get real with yourself. Ultimately, the opinion that really matters is yours.

5. B-SCHOOL IS NOT A BLIND DATE. Whenever possible, go visit the schools. Sometimes what you see online and in a brochure is nothing like what you’re actually going to get on campus.

6. YES, YOU DO WANT TO FIT IN!  B-school can be long and lonely if you’re not a fit with the school culture.  Talk to alums and current students. Get a feel for the school and get a feel for the types of students on campus.  You’re going to be in the trenches together. You want to feel like your colleagues are “your people.”

7. YOU SHOULD BE DAZZLED.  Go to info sessions for target schools and ask real questions.  This is their time to impress you.

8. CONSIDER THE SOURCE: Online reviews can be super helpful, but consider the source.  It’s possible that the person writing the business school review is either a current student who thinks their school is the best or a disgruntled applicant who didn’t quite make the cut.  Get as much information on each school as possible, but don’t get sucked in.  And if a source is anonymous, go ahead and question – or ignore – the opinion.

This is the second post in a new series: B-School Admissions Tips You Can’t Live Without

Week One: Be a Heat-Seeking Missile
Week Two: Top Application Mistakes 

An MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a BS from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Stacy Blackman founded Stacy Blackman Consulting in 2001 and has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world. The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy. 


  • anonymousToo

    Frankly, when you say “it’s not this chick”, it tells me a lot about how much I should value your opinion.

  • Renault

    Why would you say that?

  • rubicx

    That just means you would not be a good fit for collaborative and confident student bodies found at some of the top MBA programs.

  • JC

    Who’s that one consultant worth his/her salt?

  • JC

    Your point is a very good one when one has reached the point of multiple offers from schools that will offer similar opportunities, such as CBS vs Booth.

    However, when someone is at the application stage, I don’t think it’s a good idea to completely discount a school for soft factors.

  • Renault

    Of the top ~15 though, are the differences in opportunities presented different enough to invalidate the importance of school fit? Would you choose a school based solely on rank?

    Choosing a place Tuck over Kellogg, or Columbia over Booth, or whatever, isn’t necessarily a bad decision.

  • JC

    I really don’t think “fit” should matter to candidates under the career-switcher-and-not-already-wealthy category (I’m betting this is a gigantic percentage). With a $200k price tag + 2 years of lost income, people should be worried about recouping their investment through higher paying and/or more desirable post-MBA opportunities. School culture, teaching methodology, “feel”, size, and other such characteristics should placed very low on the totem pole when selecting schools.

    However, points 1, 2, 4, 8 are right on the money.

  • anony

    You are missing the point, considering all you wrote was a paraphrase of what I wrote: “Yes, if you have a terrible GPA or GMAT, you’re probably fighting an uphill battle, but you never know.”

    Make sure to study reading comprehension before you take the GMAT!

  • Andrew P

    I’d like to add another note here, make sure you have some idea of a career plan and see that the school you choose has a track record for helping students achieve those plans.

  • TruthHurts

    You are missing the point. Apply with below stats, but don’t surprised if you are rejected.

  • Anony

    Honestly, I’m so tired of hearing about people saying you can’t get into this school because X or Y. The fact of the matter is that MBA admissions is a black box and that’s exactly what admissions consultants rely on – if you get in, yay, they are the reason! If you didn’t, ah, well, it’s a mystery or you’re just not that student they’re looking for. It’s the perfect gimmick. I really only think there’s one admission consultant out there worth their salt (and it’s not this chick – I considered her but thankfully there are a lot of helpful honest reviews on places like GMAT Club) due to their extensive info but that’s JMHO and I digress.

    If you know you’ll only be happy with a specific school, please do not let people talk you out of applying there. And please don’t let people talk you into applying to lower schools because you “only have a shot to get those.” Yes, if you have a terrible GPA or GMAT, you’re probably fighting an uphill battle, but you never know. Maybe you have a great story.

    GL all.