How to Make Your School Selection Process
Experts say the school selection process is one of the most important decisions applicants make when considering an MBA degree. Having a balanced list of reach, target, and safety schools will help ensure that you have a strong strategy as an applicant.
Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed how applicants should go about the school selection process.
When it comes to reach schools, it’s always a question of “what if?”
Blackman says the best way to decide on how many reach schools to apply to is to ask yourself a few important questions.
“While the process is extremely competitive, you shouldn’t count yourself out before the game even begins,” Blackman writes. “That’s why we recommend people ask themselves the following questions. Is getting an MBA degree your top goal? Or, is getting an MBA from a specific school what really matters most?”
If getting into a specific school is your priority, then go all in. But, just make sure your numbers align with your dream school.
“If your test scores are much lower than the average at your dream school, give the GMAT or GRE another shot,” Blackman writes. “Also, start thinking about explaining your academic weaknesses and highlighting the unique strengths you would bring to the classroom setting. In any case, come decision time, it’s important to remain realistic.”
Target schools, experts say, should be schools where you have a good chance of getting in because your numbers and experience match up.
“Start with the hard data points,” Blackman writes. “As a general guideline, take a look at MBA programs you like where your profile falls within the top 10 percent of admitted students. Compare your undergraduate GPA, GMAT/GRE score, years of work experience, and industry with accepted applicants reported by the school on their class profile page. If your industry is underrepresented, consider that an advantage for your application.”
Safety schools, according to Blackman, should be a more obvious fit with your numbers and experience.
“A good way to determine whether your list should include safety schools is by asking yourself how important it is for you to go to business school next year,” Blackman writes. “Maybe you have a compelling reason you need to exit your job and make a move to grad school ASAP. If so, including safety schools among your targets is a smart strategy.”
At the end of the day, there isn’t a true set number on how many schools to apply to or what portion should be reach, target, or safety. Rather, experts say, ask yourself what you really want and trust the process.
“If a person really finds a set of schools that they love, it doesn’t matter what their perception is of what their chances are of getting in,” Evan Bouffides, the assistant dean and director of graduate admissions at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, tells Fortune. “I think in most cases if they think they’re a good candidate, if they see they’re a good fit for the school, apply and let the process take over and see what happens.”
Next Page: How business schools need to adapt.