It’s going to be helpful in breaking down my list of schools in each blog posting and digesting what I have to offer the schools and what they have to offer me in return. Some might wonder, “Why aren’t you applying to more safety/reach schools? The answer being, MBA admissions is not like college where you HAVE to go somewhere so you need “a safety school” in case all else fails. I applied to maybe 11 different colleges, a mix of liberal arts schools and universities, public and private, in every corner of the US, and had originally planned on going to the school that offered me the best financial aid package. Due to the generous policies of schools meeting all financial need, I was able to go to my dream school.
I know business school is not like that, and financing my experience will be another posting in itself, but I definitely only will apply to schools that I feel I would genuinely be happy to attend. If I don’t get in, I’ll want to know why and what I can do to improve my profile, whether it is work experience, a higher GMAT score, or better crafted essays and statements. Not just because it is what a school asks for, but also because I want to be a well-rounded student when I enter.
Before I start, it might help to list out what I am looking for in an ideal school “fit”
Brand Name & Reputation. Is that superficial? Let me clarify then – I don’t necessarily mean the exact rankings, but one that is well-regarded and a record of taking credit for creating leaders. There’s a reason why schools have strong reputations – a degree from that institution carries a high value, and the experience and connections are priceless. On the other hand, I’m not going to apply/choose a school that is ranked #10 just because it is ranked higher than #11.
General Management Focus, not just finance-y or only known for being numbers heavy, but a school that aims to and has a history of producing real leaders.
Social entrepreneurship connections – ideally they would be high up on the Beyond Gray Pinstripes rankings for social, ethical and environmental stewardship.
Most Importantly, school culture and fit – students that are collaborative, positive and PASSIONATE, not just ambitious. I don’t want to be sitting next to students who only want to crunch numbers all day and earn the big bucks on Wall Street (though, I grudgingly admit we may need those people too), but also connected to those who are earnestly wanting to change the world (I mean GLOBAL impact) for the better. I want to be around people who dream really, really big, and have the drive and talents to back it up. On the other hand, I recognize that I would gain a great deal learning from those who have different skills than I do, and so what I’m really looking for is a BALANCED student body – one where I would naturally fit in.
Icing on the cake: West Coast Location – okay, that is a definite plus so that I can be close to family, but I will live anywhere. Heck, I’ll even suck it up for cold weather. I was raised in Alaska, so I don’t mind walking around in a snow suit if I have to. In fact, that would be probably very fashionably ironic and retro in my current city! I picked my undergrad school partly based on the sunshine, but this is serious grad school stuff we are talking about here 😉
- Management Consultant Firms recruiting, or track record of sending a high number of students into consulting
- International draw or opportunities for study abroad
- Joint program with schools of Education
- Emphasis on recruiting women or a female-friendly environment, student organizations for women in business, strong female alums
- Fairly young student body – want to be going to school with students that are around my age, similar interests in starting up company and early in career. Of course having older students to learn from different perspectives is always beneficial.
- Connections to entrepreneurship in general; down the road, I’d love to start my own company/organization.
- Balanced curriculum – I think I can gain the most from curriculum that is structured in that it has a solid foundation of the required basics, but also electives. I have had a taste of the case study method and I do feel like it is very compatible with my style of learning.
- Oh and a beautiful campus sure doesn’t hurt!
There’s probably more…but those are some of the most important factors as of now.