Why I Decided to Go to IE Business School in Spain

I walked out of the MBA fair way too confused. It was similar to the feeling you get when you are trying to pick a bottle of wine for the first time. There are hundreds of options on the shelves and they all seem so alike that you don’t know where to start.

The good news is that if you pick the wrong wine by mistake, you can always choose another one the next time around. The difference here is that you only get to pick a business school once.

In one of my previous posts I talked about an introspection process that was key in understanding what I wanted out of an MBA. Today I will talk to you about the output of this process. It basically consisted of four simple requirements that would enable me to choose the right school.

First and foremost, I wanted to attend a top institution. The selectivity of top schools assures that you will have colleagues with a successful professional track. Along with a great faculty, this is one of the key points that really adds value to the overall experience. My first step was to look at the top 20 institutions on all rankings. Those schools that were consistent in their placement were the ones I started to look at.

Second, there was the cost issue, which could be summarised as one year versus two year programmes. Family-wise it represents a huge investment, so me and my wife sat down to look at it from a return on investment standpoint. With a smile on our face, we both agreed that a one year programme would be the best fit for our plans, since we would both be pursuing the degree. Our ballpark figure for the total costs  (including tuition and expenses) was $95,000 for one year versus $150,000USD for two years. Additionally, you have to add the opportunity cost into the equation. For the one year programme, this is your salary figure for the 12 months prior to the MBA, for a two year programme it is double that. You do the maths.

Third, there was diversity. Each culture has a different mindset, meaning that different people may approach the same problem in a very different way. You would actually be surprised just how true this is. I have lived in more than six countries across two continents and I still find it interesting to understand how people think and are motivated.

Fourth, the school of our choice would need to have an entrepreneurial edge. It has always been part of our long term plans to start a family business. However, due to the violent situation that Monterrey is going through (see this), those plans may have to be postponed.

I have been questioned by several people about how an MBA would help me become a successful entrepreneur. These people always talk about the stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. Forget about them, they are the outliers. In my opinion, an MBA gives you a well rounded perspective of a business to make better decisions along the way. Some people may need to study, some don’t.

At the end, only two schools made it through those four requirements. They were Insead in Fontainebleau, France, and IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Both schools have been ranked consistently among the best in the world, have a one year curriculum, are very diverse and have a strong entrepreneurial department.

Regina and I made our final decision when we were notified that the IE Foundation had awarded us a scholarship. We are eager to start this journey in the coming November!

Miguel Suarez also blogs for the business education section of The Financial Times and this post was first published there.

Earlier posts on Poets&Quants by Miguel:

Choosing a Business School for Me and My Wife

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