Alumni Networks: How much should they affect my decision?
I would like your perspective on various business schools from a loyalty of alumni perspective. What would your top 10 list of most loyal alumni associations be? BTW, this is an element of my decision- making process. I have acceptance letters from the programs I thought would be a good fit for me, and have turned down others after meeting a sample of students and faculty.
I think alumni giving participation rates is a good proxy (the only one we have) for the level of engagement and long-term “satisfaction” (as Dartmouth’s Dean Danos puts it) in one’s MBA experience and in the value derived from the ongoing ties with one’s business school community.
To answer your questions directly, I think this is an important variable in choosing a school … you will not only be forever associated with a particular program (and its ongoing fortunes as an organization), but you will need to rely on fellow alumni, as well as be relied on by them (and by future MBA admits who seek your career advice) for all time. For this reason, your feelings of a good “fit” with the culture and philosophy of a particular school (there is such a thing, even if it can sometimes be hard to define, and even though schools do experience culture shift over time) is very important.
Here are the general factors to consider: larger schools (with bigger alumni bodies) tend to offer more chances that you will know someone at a given organization (when you’re looking for contacts during a mid-career transition, for example); but large schools and large alumni bodies tend to be more diffuse (meaning, the communal feeling of closely shared experience and other mutual links and personal connections tends to dissipate when you get into the tens of thousands). Further, what is the distribution of a school’s alumni body, both sector- and country- and city-wise (see AS27’s question below), as it relates to your own anticipated career path and choice of where to live in the future?
Last, what is the likely trajectory, in terms of brand reputation, quality of research and faculty teaching, endowment strength, etc., of your school in the years and decades to come? (You will need that trajectory to be positive, as you will also need to rely on the quality of future student talent — admitted MBAs who will become future alumni — in years to come.)
All of this being said, rather than thinking in terms of a ‘top 10’ school list for those programs with the most vibrant alumni communities and school-student ties, I would think in terms of your own personal affinity and natural inclination to become part of that “tribe”.
Let me give an example: let’s say you’re living and working in Wellington, New Zealand, at some future time, and the number of alumni from your business program there is very small (let’s say it’s 5 people, spread over different lines of work), but that the positive feeling and mutual respect for one another is off the charts because of how much you enjoyed and how much learning you derived from your time in business school. … That is likely to be a powerful network, even if it fails to provide the basic ‘muscle’ (strength in numbers, etc.) captured in the categories above.