What Exactly Does “Fit” Mean?
Ranking and prestige are no doubt important when considering an MBA program. But experts say applicants should also consider fit when deciding on which program to pursue.
In a new article, Stacy Blackman, of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says applicants deciding between two programs should compare curriculum, culture, and communication to see which program best fits their goals and needs.
Blackman says nearly all MBA programs will give you a solid foundation in core management skills.
However, it’s important to know which program best matches your field of interest.
“Top business schools are known for their strengths in specific fields—finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, health care, real estate development, etc.,” Blackman writes. “So start by narrowing your list based on how well the program can prepare you for that industry.”
Experts also say applicants should compare teaching styles at different institutions and learning settings.
“Certainly, the balance of case study vs. non-case study is an obvious first question,” Ryan Barba, general manager of admissions consulting at the Ready4 consulting firm in Boston, says in an interview with US News. “But also, how much work is typically done independently vs. in group settings? How common are group projects, in other words?”
When it comes down to culture, Blackman says, it’s important to look for one that will match your personality.
A good way to assess culture at various schools is to see whether they’re more competitive or collaborative.
“Size and location often play an important role in this regard,” Blackman writes. “Larger programs in urban centers, such as Harvard, Wharton, and Chicago Booth typically feel much more competitive and intense.”
On the other hand, schools located in rural areas tend to foster a more tight-knit community.
“Here, many students live on campus and socialize with fellow students and faculty on a regular basis,” Blackman writes. “MBA programs with smaller cohorts take pride in their down-to-earth, collaborative cultures.”
Communication is really about how well you can connect with a school before even attending.
A school’s communication efforts may be apparent in how often and how much they engage with you.
“Take, for example, the Michigan Ross School of Business, where the director of MBA admissions and financial aid Soojin Kwon updates her blog every few weeks,” Blackman writes. “On it, she offers application tips, deadline and interview news, school events and other thoughts. She or someone in her department also answer each post’s comments. It may just be that famous Midwestern hospitality, but Ross candidates seem to feel a genuine connection that starts during their admissions experience.”
Additionally, some schools also offer student blogs, which can be another way for applicants to learn more about what a program may offer.
“These blogs a great way to connect with current students and learn more about the daily experience at your target schools,” Blackman writes.