Choosing a business school to go to is challenging work. You need a school that fits you and your goals, and to find the school of your dreams, you need to do your research.
When you’re researching business schools, it’s a good idea to ask these questions first and foremost:
- How long is the program? You’ll likely want to avoid programs that are longer than two years—they’ll cost more and be harder to fit into your schedule. The fastest way to get an MBA is through an online program with accelerated options as short as 15 months.
- Can you visit the campus? If a school doesn’t have a physical location, it might not be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), so check their website for accreditation details. Also, try to visit any campuses you’re considering attending. It will give you a better feel for the environment and culture of each school before committing to one.
- What makes this school stand out from others? Look around online for reviews other students have left about their experience at each school. Additionally, research what specific classes or networking opportunities with alumni are offered at each business school. Do they have resources like workshops and career counseling? These extras can make a difference in whether a budding graduate student gets hired right out of college or needs more time on the job market after graduation.
Once you’ve asked yourself these basic questions, you can move on to some more in-depth considerations that will help you choose the business school that will be the best for you and help you grow your business concurrently with your schooling or in the future.
You probably do if:
You feel competitive and want to attend an institution with shibboleths like “Harvard grad” or “Wharton alumnus.” For this reason, these schools are often considered the best business schools in the world.
You need to be able to report on your experience at one of the most recognizable names in education during job interviews.
However, you might not want to attend a top school if:
Instead, you would attend a less competitive institution that has more resources for each student. The class sizes at top schools tend to be larger than those at other institutions, so this mustn’t bother you. Additionally, because many students can afford their tuition without any financial aid, there may be fewer opportunities for need-based scholarships than there would be elsewhere.
Your location must be a factor in your decision because of the networking opportunities it will bring. In some cases, proximity to another university can play to your advantage if you have friends studying at that school and want to spend more time with them. If you prefer to stick closer to home, look for a business school nearby to maintain a close relationship with your family as well.
If location isn’t so important to you, consider choosing a business school in an area with ample travel opportunities. For instance, maybe you want a different experience by going somewhere new or exploring other parts of the country. You could even study abroad!
Beyond the classroom, it’s possible to gain a lot of learning and experience from internships and co-ops. These allow you to work in a professional environment, which can be valuable as you finish your education.
When evaluating business schools, consider whether they offer co-op opportunities or paid internships. Some programs have formalized relationships with companies; many more rely on alumni connections. Ask the admissions team if they have ideas about how you could gain relevant experience while studying at the school.
In addition to providing extra income, the chances are that an internship will be a good way for you to try out different careers and discover which areas click with you—or don’t! You might even find that there is no such thing as “the dream job.”
Perhaps it will change from year to year or month to month. However, that’s one of the great things about working for yourself: You can make up your own rules about what constitutes a dream job.
You can expect to pay somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000 a year for tuition to attend business school. Of course, the more prestigious the institution, the higher your tuition fee.
The cost of room and board varies depending on whether you live in an expensive city like New York or Los Angeles or someplace cheaper like Houston or Atlanta.
Books and supplies are another essential expense. Many students purchase laptops as a necessity rather than a luxury—budget at least $3,000 for computer hardware and software plus textbooks.
Transportation is yet another cost factor if you fly home for spring break or summer vacation. And don’t forget about personal expenses such as clothes and entertainment—these costs add up too.
The alumni of a business school are an excellent indicator of the quality and reputation of the program, so it’s essential to look at where graduates have gone on to work after they’ve completed their education.
Some schools make this information readily available on their sites, with lists and search options that allow you to see where alumni are currently employed or if any notable grads have achieved something impressive in their careers. If not, try searching for individual graduate names online; if they’re famous, there will probably be a Wikipedia article about them that lists their accomplishments.
When looking at these lists, note whether graduates hold positions in companies you’d like to work for someday. Also, check whether any famous alumni exist who have started successful companies or are well-known in a specific industry.
Don’t underestimate the value of mentors and their place in your educational journey. People have been teaching and learning from each other since the dawn of time. It shouldn’t be any different in business. A mentor can help you gain knowledge and experience far beyond what can be learned in a classroom.
The insights they provide are usually a product of years of hard-earned trial and error. If you play your cards right, your mentors can help you grow as a person, chart a successful career path, reach your goals faster, find a job after graduation—or even start your own company.
If getting an MBA is something you’re serious about, then finding a good mentor should also be high on your list of priorities.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a business school, but you can find the right one if you know what you’re looking for. Do you want to be a consultant, or do you dream of designing your own business? Startups and nonprofits are different from multinational corporations, and each requires its own unique skill set.
The student-to-faculty ratio can also affect whether or not your future program can provide personalized attention. Depending on your learning style and the resources available at different schools, a high ratio could mean that professors are too busy to give individualized attention to their students. On the other hand, a low ratio might mean more engagement in smaller classes but fewer total resources available overall.
These things will vary from school to school, so it’s crucial for students who want a better picture of what life at their potential school would look like to visit the campus.
Finally, international students should consider both the school’s reputation and its success in placing international students into promising careers after graduation—the last thing anyone wants is for them to end up trapped in an unfulfilling job simply because there was no other option.