6 Tips On How To Choose Between MBA Offers by: Judith Silverman Hodora, Director, Fortuna Admissions on April 04, 2023 | 8,427 Views April 4, 2023 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit Lucky you! Your admissions strategy, hard work and commitment have paid off- you have been admitted to more than one MBA program. Now you face some potentially life-changing decisions. Every year around this time, my Fortuna Admissions colleagues and I speak with fortunate (if admittedly anxious) business school applicants who face some challenging choices. While the scenarios are fairly predictable, the factors involved are distinctively personal. HERE ARE THREE TRUE & TRICKY DILEMMAS Scenario 1: Scholarship offer, but not from your dream school. One candidate received an acceptance from his dream program, London Business School, along with an offer from Columbia that included $120,000 in financial aid. With a background in energy and international career aspirations, he strongly favored LBS. But the uncertainty of Brexit and concerns about securing a visa in Europe – plus the reality that the LBS offer came with no money – tipped the balance for CBS. Scenario 2: Competing offers from two top schools. Another young woman, in the enviable position of choosing Stanford GSB or Harvard Business School, was leaning towards the GSB for its cultural fit and proximity to Silicon Valley. But when her partner was able to secure a job in Boston, she turned down Stanford for HBS. For her, keeping her family together was the deciding factor. Scenario 3: Accepted elsewhere but waitlisted for your dream school. A young man was heartbroken to be waitlisted after his interview with HBS, though he had offers from both Kellogg and Booth (with no money). His partner has convinced him that an offer from any school that isn’t HBS won’t deliver the ROI, and he’s losing sleep about whether he can credibly increase his odds of acceptance by waiting and reapplying to HBS. Two offers from M7 schools is an enviable position to be in, but the stress is real. When the choices are two schools in the Top 10, the stakes feel even higher. Whether these true scenarios resonate with you on the facts, or generally on the stress of decision making my advice is the same for anyone wrestling with a concern about future debt or more than one offer. I have also had some great discussions with my Fortuna colleagues on important factors to fold into your process at decision time. FORTUNA’S TOP 6 TIPS FOR CHOOSING BETWEEN MBA OFFERS Invest in the long view. Given the turbo boost an MBA will inject into your earning power over time, in 20 years from now can you imagine $65,000 will be the make-or-break number it feels like today? Consider it this way: Your access to opportunity will never diminish and stands to multiply exponentially, because of the degree. “I do think that scholarships can be compelling, but sometimes may not actually be worth it in the long run if one school would have better career and salary prospects than another,” says Fortuna’s Karen Hamou, a Columbia MBA alum and former Deloitte Consulting recruiting lead. “Try not to be swayed by sums of money in the very short run that could come back to you in a few years by securing the right job offer. Review each school’s employment reports to see if there is a substantial difference in ROI.” That said, you can certainly tell your top choice school you have money on the table somewhere else. While it doesn’t guarantee a counteroffer, there are several ways you can leverage scholarship offers from two or more business schools (see this related post by Fortuna’s Catherine Tuttle on how to negotiate MBA scholarship offers). Think of ROI beyond the dollars. Does your top choice program offer access to relationships, opportunities, faculty, and networks you’re unlikely to find elsewhere? While it’s hard to take this non-pecuniary perspective when you’re facing down a big tuition bill and foregoing your salary, consider the return on investment more broadly. It’s the less-quantifiable benefits like relationships and networks that can make the biggest difference in your professional career. In a Forbes interview on the benefits of the MBA with Fortuna’s Matt Symonds, Minted CEO and Stanford GSB grad Mariam Naficy emphasized: “The network of friends, and really, future colleagues, was by far the most important thing.” Fit matters most. Fit factors such as cultural vibe, location, class size, and personality will make a big difference in your day-to-day MBA experience. Prioritizing a visit to your top choice schools and spending time on campus is the best way to gain confidence about where to spend the next two years of your life. You can certainly visit during “ Admit Days” but also try to show up on a normal day too if you can. Sometimes that will tell you even more than when the schools are rolling out the red carpet. You might assume no one would turn down an offer from HBS, but that’s exactly what London Business School grad Paul Heslop did after a round of campus visits. “I went up to Harvard for the interview and sat in on a class, but I didn’t like the atmosphere or the way the student body interacted,” Heslop, the UN Peacekeeping Chief told Fortuna’s Matt Symonds. “When I went to London for the familiarization day, I loved how the students were interacting, the enthusiasm they brought, the alumni.” For Heslop, a major factor in his decision-making was the international vibe of the LBS campus and the distinctively global culture of its community. “I tend to advise clients to keep their options open and treat every school as if it is their number one, as a lot can change throughout the application process,” says Hamou, who turned down an offer from her top choice program in favor of Columbia. “By the time decisions come out, priorities may have shifted. Someone’s top choice school can become their second or third choice as they interact more with the school and start to envision themselves there.” Consider a school’s strengths against your career vision. Many schools have reputations in sectors such as entrepreneurship, tech, finance, nonprofit, marketing, luxury goods or real estate. They might have an incubator luring venture capital for startups or offer immersion-learning internships with NGO experience. Some schools have a flexible curriculum that allows the exploration of elective or experiential opportunities. Consider a school’s management curriculum and teaching style, as well as whether its strengths are in alignment with your areas of interest. Study career statistics and explore the opportunities that may be on offer for you post-MBA. “Geography influences ties to recruiters and school strengths, not to mention the community environment,” says Fortuna’s Caroline Diarte Edwards in her article, How to Choose a Business School: 8 Key Factors. “It’s not surprising that London Business School, Columbia, and Chicago Booth have excellent reputations in finance. Similarly, schools in California benefit from ties to startup and technology hubs in Silicon Valley. Europe provides a gateway to fields such as biotech, aerospace, and luxury brand management, while schools in Asia are on the doorstep of the world’s most dynamic, growing economies.” Advice is nice but be your own authority. I worked with a young woman who shocked everyone by turning down Wharton for NYU Stern. Despite relinquishing a coveted spot at a top three program, she had no regrets about moving to New York City for business school. Having pursued her undergrad at Wharton, she didn’t think she’d be happy living in Philly as she wanted to be part of an observant Jewish community. A lot of people questioned her decision, but she was clear about the kind of community she wanted to join. She enrolled in Stern, moved to Brooklyn, and has been very successful professionally—and fulfilled personally. Whether it’s talking to alumni or processing the options with your friends and family, at the end of the day, the person most qualified to assess program and culture fit is you. “Getting input from students and alumni who have been through the program is helpful, but it’s just one data point,” says Fortuna’s Catherine Tuttle. “There are so many variables that come into play when it comes to making the most of the opportunity.” At the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone! Have no regrets. Picture yourself walking onto campus for the first class of your business school career. How will you feel? For me, this is the clincher. When you have the privilege of a world-renown degree and access to the relationships, learning, and networks it offers, your worst enemy isn’t likely to be debt. The worst thing would be walking into your first day of class and thinking, I could’ve, I should’ve … I didn’t. “At the end of the day, we are usually comparing one great program to another great program, and so it often boils down to intangible factors,” says Hamou. “How do you feel when you visit the school and interact with the students? Could you see yourself there?” Still stuck in a spin-cycle of indecision? In all seriousness, I recommend flipping a coin on the answer. Not to do what the coin dictates, but to gut-check how you feel about the outcome, which can tell you a lot about how to proceed. While it’s challenging for the quant-leaning among us, the deciding factors are usually the least quantifiable. Judith Silverman Hodara is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Wharton head of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation. Comments or questions about this article? Email us.