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Are Regional MBA Programs Better Than Big-Name Programs?

 

Shoppers have always been attracted to “name brands.” For some, these products are the safe choice, with the name denoting higher quality and durability. For others, the brand is a reflection of the consumer. It signals affluence, style, and prestige.

MBA programs are no different. Let’s say your company hires a consultant. All things being equal, are you more apt to take his ideas seriously if he holds an MBA from Wharton or Mississippi State? I thought so. And that’s the dilemma many MBAs face. If you want to move up – let alone get your foot in the door – you need a degree from a top institution. Like a brand-name accessory, your alma mater supposedly reveals who you are and what you can do.

“You get what you pay for.” You hear that line applied to cars and computers. But does it necessarily relate to business schools? That’s a question that Stacy Blackman wrestles with in her latest U.S. News & World Report column. Blackman, an admissions consultant and author of The MBA Application Roadmap, argues that many professionals can succeed just fine without a Harvard or Stanford pedigree…for the most part.

What’s the caveat? According to Blackman, there are certain industries or goals that require an MBA from a top 10 school:

“If investment banking or management consulting is your dream career path, then stick with the sterling B-school brands. If you’re looking to switch careers, a top-tier program will get you there faster. If you’re a young applicant with only a few years of work experience, then the nationally or internationally respected name brand will help open those crucial first doors.”

Beyond that, Blackman argues that applicants can afford to be somewhat less particular:

“…if you’re in your 30s and have a solid work history of increasing leadership positions, future employers in every industry outside of banking and consulting will judge you more on your professional experience than on whether your MBA is from a top 30 or top 10 school.”

That’s why Blackman urges readers to consider a strong MBA program in their region, where “applicants are often older, have more work experience and are more interested in what they can learn to improve themselves with their current employer rather than trying to reposition or advance themselves in the market.” In these schools, students will study alongside peers more like themselves, giving them better learning opportunities and a more pertinent network.

Blackman also notes that regional schools often maintain tighter networks with nearby industries and employers that tend to recruit locally. In Blackman’s words, “a school that places 40 in a national or international ranking may be perceived as a top five school by the local business community,” giving their students an advantage in landing internships and job offers. Besides that, regional schools are generally less expensive than their top 10 cohorts, along with offering greater career and family flexibility (and possibly financial incentives like employer tuition reimbursement).

In the end, your school choice is about fit with your interests, values, goals, and personality. Two years can be a long time to be uncomfortable. So don’t just base your decision on name brands and rankings. As Blackman points out, “Choose wisely and you may find that your regional MBA program goes toe-to-toe with the best of the big league players.”

DON’T MISS: Applicants Invest 90-140 Hours on MBA Applications

Source: U.S. News & World Report

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