There are over 6,000 graduate business programs at approximately 1,700 universities and organizations around the world. You can find a full list of programs and schools at the Graduate Management Admission Council’s website.
Most students, however, gravitate to school rankings. You can spend hours perusing the rankings of U.S. News and World Report, Bloomberg, Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Economist, or visit Poets & Quants, which aggregates the above five rankings to create a weighted average rankings. Needless to say, there is a lot of noise, mismatch, and change. These rankings are fundamentally models, which exposes them to subjectivity as each model uses and weights different inputs. As a consequence, rankings tell you which schools are “best” along a prescribed set of criteria, but do not take into account which schools are the best fit for you!
If there are too many programs to thoroughly review and current rankings only provide a partial picture of school fit, what are your options to select the best fit for you? Your north star in this process is your career goals and purpose. Never lose sight of what you seek to achieve, how you plan to do so, and why you are deeply motivated to affect change.
With your career goals and purpose in mind, start by answering these three questions from MBA Prep School (a visit to a school’s website, presentations by admissions officers, the dean, or professors, and coffee chats with students and alumni will allow you to confidently answer these questions):
- Which schools have the most extensive offerings in your field of interest?
- Which schools have the strongest reputation in your field?
- Which schools have alumni strength in your chosen industry/occupation?
Industry fit is only one dimension of fit.
Each school holds unique views and weights on other measures of fit that guide that school’s admission criteria: the meaning of leadership and the value of analytical and emotional intelligence, entrepreneurial drive, or global experience, to name a few.
Yale School of Management, for example, has a mission to educate leaders for business and society. Yale’s belief that business and society are deeply and intrinsically linked influences how the school thinks, the focus and nature of its teaching and curriculum, the resources it provides students, and the student experience as a whole. Your experience at Yale, surrounded by 330 students, will then be vastly different than you experience at Wharton in a class of 851 or Kellogg in a class of 474.
Your goal to select the right business school for you should involve three steps:
- Identify the fit qualities that each school favors;
- Define those fit qualities;
- Rank the importance to you of those fit qualities.
For practice, try answering the questions with Yale. Yale School of Management provides leadership education for broad-minded, rigorous, and intellectually curious students with diverse backgrounds; a distinctive integrated curriculum; connections to one of the great research universities in the world; and the broad reach of an innovative and expanding global network of top business schools.
A critical component of evaluating your fit with an MBA program is financing. An MBA is an investment. Students spend between $170,00 to $200,000 for tuition and living for a two-year, Top 10 MBA program, to say nothing of forgoing a salary. Each school has a Financial Aid Office that is dedicated to assisting students with the process of obtaining the right financial resources to finance their education.
The Graduate Management Search Service allows you to discover scholarship and financial aid opportunities that you haven’t heard of before and learn about programs that will highlight your background and match your interests.
Beyond those two resources, you should familiarize yourself with the MBA financing options available at each school. The below examples link to Yale School of Management financial aid; however, every school will have a similar section.
- School-specific merit-based scholarships
- Loans (Federal, Private, and International)
- External Scholarships
- Employer Sponsorships
- Military Benefits
- Post-graduate loan forgiveness (varies by school)
- In-school Opportunities (Credits, Teaching Assistant positions, etc)
Once you have identified which schools are best suited to help you realize your career goals and purpose, it is time to begin the application process.