Believe it or not, all business schools are not alike. They each have their own personalities, including their own strengths and weaknesses.
Even assuming you could get into every program (why not?) not every place will be just right for you. Just like in job-hunting, the decisionmaker is going to evaluate how you fit. The best way to get that right is to do your own research.
As I’ve mentioned before, (see blog posts: Use Your Summer Wisely, Start Your App Now, and The First Tip: Start Early), it makes sense to start early in this process, so you can refine your choices and also learn a bit more about yourself on the way.
You can use this time to research, network, pick up valuable work experience, visit campuses, and, believe it or not, have a good time.
RESEARCHING MBA SCHOOLS
Here are some things you can do to learn about where you might want to go to business school:
- Go to MBA fairs and school-sponsored outreach events–in person (preferable) or online (easier to schedule and are increasingly available)
- Talk to current students
- Talk to alumni
- Visit schools
- Sign up for outreach programs. Examples include UCLA’s Riordan Fellows Program, the Kellogg Women’s Leadership Workshop , the Duke’s Women’s Weekend and Stanford GSB’s Many Voices and XX programs. (Plus, too many more to list here.)
- Read school websites
- Read student blogs
- Watch YouTube videos on schools – official and non-official
- Follow/like school pages on Twitter or Facebook
- Talk to your career mentor
- Talk to friends and relatives you respect
- Check out the list of chats and events at the MBA.com website (the GMAT people), Bloomberg Businessweek, admission consultant websites, and reputable MBA portals.
- Take notes!
Keep an open mind when you are researching. You never know what you will find, as schools, programs and career trends are changing all the time.
Monique, and 85 Broads member who lives in a city in Africa that will not be visited by any business schools this year, has combed through her target school sites for African graduates and students, has connected with people from her undergraduate alma mater who went to business school, and is asking through Facebook for names of current students or recent graduates, who might be in her country over the summer. She’s also emailed students who are listed as “student ambassadors” on business school websites or the student club pages.
Some schools, such as UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, ask you what you have done to learn about their program in the application. The answer will not make or break your application. However, if you live across the bridge in San Francisco, and have never set foot on the campus, then it could be an issue. With so many channels available – fairs, tours, outreach programs, student ambassadors, clubs, blogs, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, you name it – it’s hard to find an excuse not to have talked directly to students, alumni, or school reps.
So the burden is on YOU to learn about fit. But it doesn’t have to be a burden at all – you’ll be learning more about yourself and your future. How cool is that?