Deciding where you’ll attend b-school is about a lot more than just rankings or cost (or even a combination of the two!). When choosing where you’ll go, take the following six aspects into consideration:
What kind of MBA specialization are you seeking? Marketing? Finance? “Green”? Entrepreneurship? Not all MBA programs are created equal, and not all of them have the specialization you’re seeking. Before you sign on the dotted line (even before you send in your apps!), take a long, hard look at the academic programs each school has, and make sure they offer what you need.
Before making your final determinations, make sure that you’ve thought the cost of attendance for each institution through. Remember, it’s not just about the tuition and fees, or the cost of living—it’s also about the opportunity cost, that two years of salary that you’ll be missing out on by going back to school full time. You have to be sure that the institution you’ve selected is worth both the time you’ll spend there, and the money you’ll pay (and lose) by going there. In addition, don’t forget to explore financial aid opportunities and programs—many schools have scholarships, grants, and fellowships that take the edge off the financial burden of attending graduate school.
When picking schools, you can’t forget to think about location. And it’s not just about considering a location that might help you secure a job post-graduation—it’s also about considering your personal preferences, and realizing what makes you happy (and what doesn’t!). Remember, your academic performance will be closely tied to your overall happiness, and your happiness is closely tied to where you live. Consider the size of the city, the weather you’ll face, the social and professional outlets—all of these will play a considerable role in your mood and, indirectly, your report card!
Do you need to know everyone you go to school with? Do you want to be able to blend into a crowd? Do you want easy access to your professors and instructors? What kind of learning environment works best for you? All of these questions are affected by the size of the school. Take a moment to reflect on your personal needs and preferences when it comes to the social aspect of a school, and then make sure the size of the institution you’re considering conforms to them.
Although rankings shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when making a business school decision, they should definitely play a role. There are various rankings available—U.S. News & World Report, Forbes Magazine, and BusinessWeek, among others—so use them all to get a well-rounded picture of where your potential schools lie. In addition, talk to potential employers and get an idea of the reputation your schools have with them—after all, the better the reputation, the greater your chances of post-graduation employment in your field of choice!
The goal of any graduate school education should be gainful employment. Check out the employment statistics for each of the schools you are interested in, and make sure they match up with what you want to do, and where you want to go. If you’re investing two years of your life in furthering your business savvy, make sure your investment yields profits in the end!