Hello there! How have things been with you? I hope with the calendar in hand, you are now in a comfortable position to look closer at the Application Game. Now, I am making a safe presumption that you are done with the GMAT and have had a fantastic score. Even if the score is not so great and you feel that you may as well concentrate on other parts of your application, then it is just fine. There are after all many things you should be working on rather than holding on to a bad exam score. Just move on in the application process and we will see how things turn out.
What is it about the ‘Fit’?
If you have been in this MBA mode for a while and have become a prowler lurking around MBA/ discussion forums, then you must be hearing a lot about words such as ‘right school’, ‘the fit’ etc. During the initial few days, it will definitely be difficult to gauge how ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ the schools will turn out to be for you, after all thousands of students graduate from Top Business Schools and it is not that you will be the only misfit out there! But still a careful study of the available programs in different schools and some good research can make you feel much better about spending your hard earned money on those applications and school visits.
This article is by no means exhaustive and is just an attempt to just get you kick-started. I highly recommend the readers to do their individual research to boil down their schools depending on the criteria which mean the most for them. Before you sit down and start off, spare some time to analyze yourself and understand what you need out of an MBA program. Remember, there are more things in a B-School than just a ‘great job’ at the end of the season. Research the schools with your criteria in mind and give yourself ample time to pick & unpick and finalize on 4+ schools. I have always maintained that each of us should try to be the best we possibly can. But at the same time, it pays to be a little realistic too. Harvard may be the only school you are willing to attend but it will be foolish if you apply only to Harvard and none other, no matter what you feel your chances are.
As you analyze your interests and future goals, keep some of these pointers in mind. The specialization you are looking at can make a big impact on where you want to graduate from. There are some definite ‘gurus’ in some particular fields like, Kellogg in the Marketing field and it would be wise to start off here. Check out the school websites, read the online brochures, talk to current/ alum students and understand what the school is famous for in the corporate industry. Choose schools which have specializations in your chosen field of interest. If you are however happy with a general management program, then there are some real great schools which you should possibly be looking at. Next immediate concern should be the school and the MBA program itself – location, class size, teaching methods, rankings, environment and cost. The location of the school might matter to you depending on the proximity to the kind of industries you want to intern with. Class size may not be a major differential factor but be sure you are aware of the strength of the incoming class, choose to be a big fish in a small pond or a small one in a big pond, it is your call. Teaching methods do not drastically differ from school to school; most of the schools have a healthy mix of case-studies, theories and group-assignments. The environment you will be in should be one of the crucial factors before you hop onto a school. There are some schools which admit some of the best minds and hence the atmosphere can tend to be competitive and a little scary for the weak-hearted. But there are some communal schools which harbor a lot of team spirit, the best examples being Tuck and Duke. Your basic task is to figure out your personality and apply to the schools where you will enjoy studying and socializing in. Ensure you check out the school in various publications and journals. Meet the school representatives through the MBA tours and try to attend the information sessions that most of the top schools conduct in major cities across the globe. An ideal thing would be visiting the B-School and not only meeting the students but also gauging the atmosphere and the learning spirit.
Other interesting thing you can look at is the kind of industry associated with a B-School. Talk to people working in the industry you love, try to know about the schools they have attended and the schools they deeply respect. Refer to various recruitment statistics available on various websites and keep a tab on your favorite companies. Find out where they are hiring from, salaries/ bonuses they are offering and the kind of profiles and responsibilities they look in B-School graduates. Jobs and Career management services are some of the important characteristics that distinguish schools from one another. The global reputation of a B-School will really matter if you choose to work in different parts of the world. US B-Schools offer 2-year MBA programs whereas their Europe counterparts (barring some) offer 1-year programs. Choose something that suits your taste and is in sync with your future goals. Spend a lot of time in understanding the electives on board and the workload given by the professors. Also, it will be a great experience to study under well-read professors who have authored textbooks, have consulted in various firms and strongly follow the open-door policy.
Though nobody can hold you for applying to less or more number of schools, you can give yourself a safe estimate of the schools you can target at. It all depends on how serious you are about getting an MBA the coming fall. If you are looking at only the Top 5 no matter how long it takes, then I really admire your tenacity. For others, as I said in my earlier article, 5-7 schools might seem decent if you can submit a part of it in R1 and another in R2. If you are solely rushing in one round, keep the number to 4, no point in applying to many schools without doing justice to each of them. Apply to a couple of schools that might ‘most-probably’ accept you depending on your age, work experience, academics, GMAT score & extra-curricular. Apply to at least one safe school that will definitely accept you no matter what the odds. And then, go for a brisk walk, eat a big chocolate bar and once you are all perked up and happy about life, go, give your best shot at your dream school. It might be Harvard or Stanford, but don’t let some arbitrary thoughts keep you away from your dream school. You may never know how close you were. ?
About the Authoress
The authoress, Sowmya aka Simba is one of the moderators of PaGaLGuY forum. She is currently working with a leading telecom provider in Mumbai, India and apart from being a regular volunteer of MLCS group; she has diverse interests in various activities that are beyond the scope of this small introduction. Having seen the admission process with interviews et al for 2 continuous years and being successful in getting admitted into 5 and a ½ schools out of 7 schools. She is now heading to the Duke University, Fuqua School of Business and she is enthused to help others go through the maze of applying and getting accepted by schools abroad.
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