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9 Key Factors to Consider Before Choosing an MBA Program

Business School ResearchResearching about top Business Schools should be the most important activity in your MBA Application process. If you get this process right, then all your efforts in GMAT Preparation, MBA Application Essays, Interview, and Recommendation Letter will fall into place. Try our Basic Profile Evaluation Service, and we will shortlist the right schools for you. But before that, learn about the nine key selection criteria:

1) Post-MBA Goals

MBA Applicants have different goals. It is important to define goals, clearly, according to your background and motivation. Not all applicants want to enter investment banking or start their own Business. Some might look at an MBA as a mean to switch job functions, increase prospects globally, or use it to explore various career options.

If you have read Switching Industries after MBA – Not Easy! you will understand that many MBA students chose a career path that was not anticipated before joining the MBA program. They were able to do so after gaining exposure to various electives and experiential learning opportunities. That does not mean that you should not have a clear post-MBA career path but be open about choosing industries and job functions that are interesting and offer greater potential.

2) Ranking

MBA Rankings from top publications like The Economist, Financial Times, US News, and BusinessWeek are great tools to compare Business Schools for Recruiter Reputation, Alumni Feedback, Increase in Salary and Value for Money. However, don’t base the selection decision completely on ranking.

The methodologies used in each of the rankings might be completely different and sometimes are not based on the latest data. Some schools might share the latest data while others will share the data that are 1-2 years back. The percentage response might also differ. In some surveys, only 40-45% alumni will respond. The rest will not respond due to work schedule or dissatisfaction. It is tough to gauge the quality of an MBA program when there is no unified process or data to compare response in surveys.

The nature of the survey follows the “Multiple Choice” format where the alumni or recruiters are forced to pick program attributes based on limited options. Don’t bet your future completely on rankings but it is a great tool to get an overview of the top MBA programs. Read Business School Rankings to learn more.

3) Accreditation

Although triple accreditation is an overhyped concept, mostly used by European Business Schools to differentiate from other Asian, Australian and US Business Schools, having at least one accreditation – AACSB, AMBA or EQUIS, is a seal of approval and shows that the Business School has taken the effort to follow the best practices and standards that the accrediting bodies demand. Also, International recruiters, mostly in Asia and the Middle East, value a Business School with accreditation over the one without any.

If you analyze the Top 100 MBA with Accreditation, it shows that most top US Business Schools are only AACSB accredited. When you compare accredited schools, the number of accreditation should not play a role in selecting one over the other. Sure, the school has taken the effort to comply with the standards of multiple accrediting bodies, but it does not necessarily mean that the learning experience and post-MBA opportunities will be better with multiple accreditations.

4) Curriculum and Internship

With the understanding that lectures and case method are not sufficient, many Business Schools have adopted experiential learning throughout the course and with Exchange Programs, Internships, and Electives. Lectures is a great way to build the Foundation for Management Education, but if the program is more classroom oriented and doesn’t give you the chance to apply what you have learned, then you should move away from such programs.

Recruiters look into several attributes before picking you for mid-level job positions. Recruiters value the Job Function at Past Work Experience (61%), Industry of Past Work Experience (51%), Years of Pre-MBA Experience (44%), Business School (36%) and Internships (27%). Since the majority of MBA Applicants’ goal is to switch job functions or advance in their industry, the only factors that they can base their decision on are the school’s reputation and internship opportunity.

The faculty, teaching methodology, and the relevance of the course for the recruiter’s industry influence the school’s reputation. When recruiters are aware that most of the courses are action oriented and students get to apply what they have learned, they can overlook the pre-MBA Job Function and select students who have proven their expertise with real projects and internship.


5) Class Diversity

B-Schools are obsessed with Diversity. It influences the classroom experience, post-MBA employment trends and diversifies the reach of the Business School brand. For students, it means, an opportunity to interact with students from different cultures, experiences, industries, and job functions. Experiences from your classmates can teach you about scenarios that you would have never imagined.

More than diversity based on nationality look at diversity in experience. Often Alumni have cited how they have learned more from their classmates than from the professors through case discussions and group tasks. With such interaction, students are exposed to a wide range of opinions, experiences, and perspective that can only be deeper if it comes from a qualified & diverse class. This is an advantage that top Business Schools have. Since the selection process is stringent, the AdCom ensures that the class is composed of a diverse cross section, culturally and professionally.

6) Alumni Network

More than the size of the alumni network, the approachability of the alumni will influence your ability to find new opportunities through the network. This factor should always be kept in mind when you see stats like 40000+ alumni network. Also, when Business Schools mention the size of the alumni network, it is not limited to the MBA program, it can also include other programs.

While researching about the network, find the reach of the alumni, geographically. If your post-MBA goal is to get into a marketing lead position in Spain, then it is important to research how active the Alumni network is in Spain. Can you get in touch with them easily? What are the tools that Business schools offer to contact the alumni? Is there a privileged access to alumni’s database? Most top schools offer special portals to login and contact alumni. The networking opportunities are not limited to database access. Several schools conduct events and speaker series in association with the alumni network.

7) Post-MBA Salary

Post-MBA Salary and Increase in Salary are two metrics that MBA Aspirants should research. While doing research for Increase in Salary, look into the geographical location of the jobs. The salary pre-MBA and post-MBA should be calculated in one currency, taking into consideration the living expense of the city. Numbeo is a great tool to compare living expense in one currency. You can also compare the Pre-MBA location expenses with Post-MBA location expenses using price indexes like Consumer Price Index, Rent Index, Groceries Index and Restaurants Index. It also compares the purchasing power in each city, giving you an accurate view of the actual increase in Salary.

8) Career Service

Career Service Center plays a critical role in networking and building relationship with recruiters around the world. Don’t forget to search for the Career Service section in brochures and MBA programs page. If they do not have any statistics on recruitment – list of recruiters, industry and job function, then be suspicious about the school’s ability to help you reach your post-MBA goals. Services like Resume Review and Interview Etiquette training are important but look for the job offers that came through the career service center.

If more than 60% of the job offers came through the career service, then you can be confident about the ability of the school to facilitate the job search process. But realistically, the onus is on the student to find the job through Alumni network or using the Career Service Center. A lot will depend on the track record of the career service center, the economy, and the reputation of the Business School.

9) Alumni Feedback

The most important factor that you have to consider while doing Business School research is Alumni Feedback, preferably someone who has passed out from the school, 3-4 years back. When you contact Alumni, get in touch with MBAs from a similar background or nationality. If you are an international student, visa restrictions and language barriers will affect the post-MBA job opportunities. So understanding the challenges that MBAs from your Country faced would help you set realistic expectations and evaluate the MBA program, accurately.

Current Students and Recent Alumni would be too shortsighted to give you a perspective on the impact of the MBA program. However, current students would be a great resource to get an insider view on the classroom experience and reputation of the school among peers and in getting internship opportunity. If the economy is in a downturn, then they can share the effectiveness of the career service. Recent Alumni (1-2 Years) can share what they were immediately able to achieve with an MBA (networking opportunities, job offers, and salary increase).



Since the First Edition of Comprehensive MBA Research Guide, thousand of MBA Aspirants learned how to choose the right MBA program by understanding the methods of Calculating return on investment and the factors they have to consider before selecting one.

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