Best MBA Programs: 14 Factors to Consider

MBA Research Utility ValueBenjamin Franklin showed us the power of Moral Algebra method. We adapted the method for MBA Research and demonstrated how you could choose when it comes to two equally good MBA programs. The method works when the choices are limited, but while interacting with MBA Applicants through our MBA Admissions Consulting service, we asked the applicants to cite the reasons for shortlisting the MBA programs. Some were rational reasons, reached after extensive research while many were irrational conclusions reached through faulty assumptions. When the reasons for selecting the MBA program are flawed, Admission consultants cannot successfully strategize and guide the MBA applicant through the Admission process. Deep down, applicants know that they have selected the MBA programs based on reputation (one of the several factors that should influence your selection) and not on extensive attribute matching – a process we highly recommend.

We falsely put hope in our intuitions, or in plain English “fuzzy logic reached through biases, our limited life experiences, and exposure to Business School’s marketing.” Life-changing decisions can falter with this limiting method. Instead of relying on intuition, let us go systematically through the attributes that are important to you, and the universally acceptable performance indicators, declared by Business Schools, Alumni, Experts, and the ranking publications.

Failure of Intuition – Multiple Influencing Factors

When applicants are asked to write about the time they succeeded, many will gladly cite the one time they used their intuition to predict a disaster, plan for success, or make a strategic decision. The reality is that intuition rarely works when there are many influencing factors. Our minds do not have the capacity to deliberate through all our preferences and match it with an MBA program’s attributes. If a school is known for consulting, we evaluate our natural inclination towards consulting and then compare it with our previous work experience in Marketing, Finance, and Leadership during the formative years of our skill development. If you are a career switcher, you virtually don’t have any evidence to prove your expertise in a functional area apart from the limited experience through extra-curricular or the cross-functional exposure in your 3-5 year professional experience. Our growth during an MBA program is not accounted, and we falsely assume that our skills are deficient.

Multi-Attribute Utility Theory

A better approach is to evaluate the school on indicators that determine a great learning environment, and on data that demonstrates that the school can deliver on return on investment (increase in salary, MBA reputation, and longevity of the skills).

List Top 5 MBA programs based on specialization.

Once you have the list, the selection should be on performance and personal indicators that will influence your goals. For example, International mobility might be a decisive factor for an MBA candidate with no relationship commitments, but for a candidate, who relocated to the host country with dependents (partner/children), the percentage of job opportunities in the host country is a much more important consideration.

Performance Indicators

For multi-attribute utility theory to work, the selection of performance indicators should be precise. Without the right set of evaluation factors, assigning scores become meaningless. Broadly, the utility of an MBA program can be classified into seven factors:

1) Increase in Salary
2) Quality of the Program (Students, Faculty, Accreditation)
3) Reputation (Among Recruiters, Alumni)
4) Job Placement (% graduates with Job Offers, Effectiveness of Career Service Team, Effectiveness of Alumni Network)
5) Cost (Tuition Fee, Loans/Personal Borrowing)
6) Ranking (Overall, Alumni, By Specialization) and
7) Long-Term Value

For the experts, the evaluation factors are ranked in the order of importance with the highest value of 1.0 and the lowest value of 0.6, indicated in the brackets.

1) Increase in Salary (1.0)
2) Quality of Faculty (0.9)
3) Quality of students (0.9)
4) Accreditation (0.9)
5) Reputation of the MBA Program/Business School (Recruiters) (0.9)
6) Reputation of the MBA Program/Business School (Alumni) (0.9)
7) Percentage of graduates with Job offers (0.85)
8) Effectiveness of Career Service Team(0.85)
9) Effectiveness of Alumni Network(0.85)
10) Total tuition and fees (0.8)
11) MBA Funding (Loans/Personal Borrowing) (0.8)
12) Ranking (0.6)

Ideally, the evaluation factors should be independent of each other, but we have a few factors that are correlated. Ranking and Reputation of the MBA program, especially among alumni are correlated while MBA reputation among recruiters fluctuates.  

The breadth of one factor does not multiply the utility of an MBA program. This is evident in Accreditations. For example, a triple-accredited European Business School is not necessarily better than an American school with AACSB accreditation. However, at least one accreditation from AMBA, AACSB, or EQUIS is necessary for the Business School to be considered among the elite.  Don’t take the risk of shortlisting schools which have yet to receive accreditation, unless you have a non-traditional career path like Entrepreneurship, where the funding environment and specialized skills of the Faculty have a higher priority.

The beauty of multi-attribute utility theory is that you can create your list and arrange the evaluation factors according to your preference, and then average your score with the score of the ‘experts’. You can even include personal factors that have not been considered by the consultant. Let us suppose that, for you, the local reputation of the Business School/MBA program and an ecosystem for Entrepreneurship, are two additional evaluation factors.

Arrange the 12 + 2 factors, according to the value of importance. Since the ‘Consultant/Expert’ has not assigned any value to the additional factors, in the expert list, assign a 0 (zero) for the two.
Let us see the two lists.

Expert List

1) Increase in Salary (1.0)
2) Quality of Faculty (0.9)
3) Quality of students (0.9)
4) Accreditation (0.9)
5) Reputation of the MBA Program/Business School (Recruiters) (0.9)
6) Reputation of the MBA Program/Business School (Alumni) (0.9)
7) Percentage of graduates with Job offers (0.85)
8) Effectiveness of Career Service Team(0.85)
9) Effectiveness of Alumni Network(0.85)
10) Total tuition and fees (0.8)
11) MBA Funding (Loans/Personal Borrowing) (0.8)
12) Ranking (0.6)
13) Local Reputation (0)
14) Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (0)

Your List (For demonstration only. Change the order and value according to your preference)

1) Increase in Salary (1.0)
2) Reputation of the MBA Program/Business School (Recruiters) (1.0)
3) Quality of Faculty (0.9)
4) Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (0.9)
5) Accreditation (0.9)
6) Effectiveness of Career Service Team (0.9)
7) MBA Funding (Loans/Personal Borrowing) (0.85)
8) Local Reputation (0.85)
9) Quality of students (0.85)
10) Reputation of the MBA Program/Business School (Alumni) (0.85)
11) Percentage of graduates with Job offers (0.85)
12) Effectiveness of Alumni Network (0.85)
13) Total tuition and fees (0.8)
14) Ranking (0.7)

Now let us create a score chart with raw and scaled scores for three Business Schools – Harvard, Stanford, and MIT Sloan Full-time MBA programs. We have to score the three MBA programs on a scale of 1 to 100 for each factor.

Raw Score MBA Comparison Preview

2019 MBA Research Guide - Choose your MBA

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F1GMAT's Comprehensive MBA Research Guide will teach you how to select MBA programs through a bottom-up approach. 

Articulating your Post-MBA Goals and Career Path is the FIRST step. Which program will give you that hike in Salary, Switch in Career, Change in Location or Job Satisfaction?

We cover them all through our extensive analysis. 

Pages: 500

+ How to Choose the Best MBA Program: Factors to Consider
Define Post-MBA Goals
Pick your Path: Generalize or Specialize
Use Moral Algebra Method 
Use Multi-Attribute Utility Theory
Understand the Top 5 Risks
Measure MBA Career Service Team's Effectiveness
Use Bookending to Calculate MBA Admission Chance
Use Net Present Value to Calculate MBA Return on Investment
Don't Fall for the Mere Exposure Effect
Best Practices to find the truth in MBA Information Session or MBA Tour

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Top 31 MBA Programs in United States – Total Cost & Salary (2017)    

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Top 20 European MBA Programs (Based on Actual Salary Increase)    
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+Comparisons - Top MBA Programs
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MIT vs. Stanford MBA   (2017)
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MIT Sloan vs Tuck MBA    
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Harvard vs. Stanford MBA (2017)

+ MBA in France (2018)
Top Industries in France   
Top MBA Programs in France  

  Class Profile   
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Scholarships in France
External Funding 

+ MBA in the UK (2018)
Top Industries in the UK   
Top MBA Programs in the UK

  Class Profile   
  Post-MBA Salary

Scholarships in the UK
External Funding 

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