With Round 3 decisions quickly approaching, many candidates may be anxious about deciding which B-school they ultimately want to attend.
Fortune recently spoke to experts who offered a few important considerations that all MBA candidates should think about when making the big decision.
THE FOUR C’S
When deciding on an MBA program, it can be helpful to consider what experts call The Four C’s: Career, Curriculum, Culture and Community, and Cost.
“Much like the admissions process, choosing which business school to attend is uniquely aligned to your career goals,” Nellie Gaynor, a former associate director of admissions for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, tells Fortune.
Likewise, aspects such as culture and community can also help you decide whether or not a B-school is a good fit.
“Size and location often play an important role in this regard,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, writes. “Larger programs in urban centers, such as Harvard, Wharton, and Chicago Booth, typically feel much more competitive and intense. Smaller business schools and those located in rural settings usually foster a close-knit community feeling. Here, many students live on campus and socialize with fellow students and faculty regularly. MBA programs with smaller cohorts take pride in their down-to-earth, collaborative cultures.”
An MBA certainly isn’t cheap. In fact, the cost for a full-time, two-year MBA tops $200,000 at every top 25 B-school in the US. And because the cost of an MBA likely isn’t getting any cheaper any time soon, it’s important to consider finances when making your decision.
If you receive financial aid offers from schools—especially those not ranked in the top 20—experts suggest leveraging your aid package and asking another B-school to match it.
“If a candidate has an offer in hand from one business school for, say, a $40,000 scholarship, that candidate could turn around to another program asking for the same amount, or a ‘match,’” Sydney Lake, of Fortune, writes. “While the program may not be able to offer the same amount, you could end up receiving at least a better financial aid package.”
At the end of the day, the MBA decision is a personal choice—one that ultimately will affect you the most. And while factors, such as prestige, hold some importance, experts say it’s important to look at the big picture.
“Prestige is only one piece of the larger puzzle when deciding between business school offers,” Gaynor tells Fortune. “Students who are motivated, goal-oriented, ambitious, and know what they want to achieve in their business career are more likely to look at the overall package that is being presented to them, including academics, student life, location, ‘fit,’ and other important factors.”
Most importantly, no matter what B-school you decide on, make sure it’s one that feel right to you.
“Do a gut-check and make sure the business school you decide on is the one your instincts are leading you to as well,” Gaynor tells Fortune. “This is a personal, self-reflective process as much as it is a logical one.”