Choosing an MBA School

Types of School

There is a lot of choice when it comes to taking an MBA, and a whole bunch of criteria to consider. The schools all proclaim that their MBA is unique and valuable and that theirs is the one you should choose. They may well be right. As far as I can tell the basic differences between MBA schools revolve around

  • Focus – what the MBA concentrates on
  • Ethos – what the school believes in
  • Quality – how good the school is
  • Price – what it costs to attend
  • Location – where it is

Focus

Different schools focus on different things. Some focus on finance, some on marketing, some on supply chain and logistics. While all schools offer a core MBA curriculum including finance, marketing, organisational behaviour and decision science most schools will claim to be experts in one or two areas, able to offer far more insight and education in those subjects than non-focused schools. So if you are the kind of person who falls asleep when people talk about ‘Open T supply Chains’ but dreams of the business value of IT it probably pays to shop around.

My perspective was slightly different. One of my main reasons for taking an MBA is to broaden my horizons so I was looking for strength across the board. This is the opposite of looking for a focused school, but its worth thinking about – imagine turning up to discover the subject you’re most interested in isn’t offered.

Ethos

Some MBA schools seem to pride themselves on turning out a certain kind of graduate. Leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, that kind of thing. So if you see yourself going in a certain direction, or think you’d be just perfect in an environment that stresses leadership find a school that fits.

Schools also vary their teaching practices according to their ethos. I’m told some grade class participation and that this can lead to an extremely competitive environment, others build their course around research, or hands on projects.

Quality

MBA schools care a lot about league tables, and I’ve included links to the major ones on the right. When I started looking into MBA’s I was warned to approach these with a pinch of salt, often the tables are based on asking students and recruiters what they think of the school, and its in the interests of both sides to be positive. League tables are certainly a good guide to the perceived quality of a school.

Real quality though comes back to issues of ethos and focus. If what you’re after is the best supply chain based MBA in the world its probably not coming from whoever is number one in the FT’s league tables.

Price

MBA’s cost money. And while it is reasonably easy to finance an MBA you want to get value for money and control the amount of debt you’re getting into. In the UK prices seem to start around � 000 and go up to � 000+ per year. In the US they look to be a little higher. All the schools I looked at were up front about their fees – so this is really one for you and your bank manager to worry about.

Location

Location, location, location? Well not as far as choice of MBA school goes, but there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re going to need to be based somewhere, and if you’re the kind of person who can’t stand big cities, or goes nuts when you’re in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do you’ll want to be careful.

Researching MBA Schools

You have a variety of routes open to you when researching MBA schools. The obvious ones being

  • The web
  • School Prospectus
  • Paid for guides
  • MBA Fairs

Of these the web is the most immediate and available. Hell, you’re on it now. MBA Schools all have websites and most of them offer a lot of information, contact details and usually the chance to download a prospectus. Some will even take applications online.

School prospectus. while its easy to write these off as marketing junk a business schools prospectus is very useful indeed. For a start the schools ethos, focus and other attributes are going to be slapped all over it. Prospectus also include things like curriculums, faculty profiles, prices and other nuts and bolts information. Make sure you get the prospectus for any school you’re seriously considering.

Paid for guides You can pay a lot for guides to choosing an MBA school. I didn’t buy one of these books, and I’ve no idea what they’re like. If anyone has any opinions, drop us a line

MBA Fairs I attended one of these events run by MBA World. It was great, useful seminars on managing an application and choosing a school, and a chance to meet graduates and alumni from about a hundred schools. This last bit slightly threw me, you haven’t possibly got time to see them all – find out who’s going to be there and prioritise the ones you want to talk to in advance.

Because it was so busy the fair I attended didn’t give me the chance to spend a lot of time talking to any of the interesting people I met. Have some questions ready in advance. A friend of mine thought that these fairs offered a good chance to get an application rolling, make useful contacts and generally provide a ‘first impression’. Have to say I didn’t see much to support this view, but its worth bearing in mind.

Oh, MBA World needed my email address to register me. I’m pretty sure I didn’t give them any associated marketing permissions but they’ve passed my address to every school that attended anyway. The result is that I’m currently drowning in MBA related spam. You have been warned.