11 Steps to Successfully choose your MBA School

  1. Firstly decide on your objective and real motivation for having an MBA.
Do you want an MBA:
  • for filling in a period for unemployment?
  • because it’s there, as Mt Everest was for Sir Edmund Hilary?
  • to do your present job more effectively?
  • to get an internal or external promotion?
  • to get employment in a specific industry, organisation or location?
For example, if you want to work for a top international management consulting firm, perhaps you should be studying at Harvard, Stanford, Chicago or another of the top US MBA schools.  These international consulting firms won’t be interested in a graduate from a newly established Indian MBA school, unless your surname is Ambani or Premji.  They will probably be interested if your degree was earned at one of India’s top, say, three MBA schools.

  1. Decide on your budget.

  • Do you want an expensive MBA from a prestige school or a “quick and dirty” MBA from the less expensive schools?
The course price range between Indian universities in 2011 is between  Rs. 2 lakhs to Rs. 13 lakhs. Besides all, the reputed business institutions in abroad charges around Rs.20 to 30 lakhs and this is considered as the standard fees for the MBA courses offered there.
MBAs purchased by correspondence without any class contact hours or assessment are certainly the cheapest but not necessarily the best value.
A small number of scholarships are available, more from some schools than others.  
  1. Decide on the course quality.
Some of the reasons for the course price range are:
  • the total number of hours of work required by you to complete the course (range: 576 to 2,600 hours of classes and private study)
  • the number of class contact hours if an off campus course (range: 240 to 800 hours)
  • the range of subjects offered as electives
  • the level of education of your instructors (yes, you will find instructors with bachelors degrees at some schools)
  • whether your lecturers are dedicated full timers or cheaper sessional staff, and whether they only come on campus to present the class
  • the amount of industry work experience of your instructors
  • the student/staff ratio (presently impossible to accurately quantify uniformly with hard data, so you need to ask unbiased informants for their impressions)
  • whether the course is conducted on campus or off (off doesn’t require as much infrastructure as on, and requires fewer instructor hours per student, so has a lower cost of production for the university)
  • what infrastructure is available, such as the numbers of library books and journals held, whether library searches are possible from home, whether you can search fee-for-data data bases from home, the number of computer terminals and printers available on campus to MBA students (not undergrad’s), whether child minding is available on campus (and whether there actually are spaces available), and so on.  A point you need to continuously watch is the distinction between what things are available to just the MBA school, as distinct from what is available to the much larger pool of all students
  • soft matters, such as the proportions of male and female students, proportions of male and female staff, work experience of fellow students, proportion of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds, and so on.
Data on most of the above are continually assessed and the Indian MBA universities are graded accordingly as Class-A, Class-B and Class-C. 
Many prestigious schools make a point of emphasising the amount of research their staff do.  You should develop a viewpoint on how important that is to you.  There are pros and cons.
  1. Face to face or by correspondence?
If you are working at a remote site in Assam or one of the sister states, you could be quite suited to an MBA by correspondence.  This could also be of interest if your spouse dislikes you being away from home several days/nights a week and absent for most weekends.  
Off campus method avoids travel, but fore-goes face-to-face contact with lecturers, classmates, and use of the library and the other facilities.  Foregoing face-to-face contact also has implications for development of your interpersonal skills, for the type of activities the course can offer as learning exercises and the type of network contacts you’ll develop.
  1. Decide on location and travel times.
If you work in a busy part of your city in a busy job, you would be advised to keep your travel time to a minimum, unless the university of your choice is near home.  Being caught in a traffic jam, as your class is already underway, is not a pleasant experience.
  1. How much prestige and post-MBA networking do you really need?
If you want to be a career management consultant, you would be advised to go to a prestige MBA school with a strong alumni network – this way you will meet a swag of good contacts that should translate into future consulting assignments.  Consultants’ remuneration is directly related to their networking skills and ability to be a “rainmaker”.
“Prestige” of the school is the perception of that school’s quality.  It’s largely subjective, and largely assessed by academics rather than employers, but it does translate into employability by discerning employers.  If you expect your future jobs will be with large, cerebral or discerning employers, you should consider the prestige of the school.  Since there is no quantitative or published index of prestige, you could look at the indicators of quality of the school and course.
  1. Make a decision on your length of commitment – some MBA courses are longer than others.
Generally the more prestigious and rigorous are longer.  However if you “just want to get an MBA on your resume” go for one of the shorter courses.
The two aspects you would consider are total time commitment (in point 3. above) and the number of years to complete the course.  Whether you wish to attend part time or full time is related – as many schools don’t offer both options.  You also have a choice between an executive MBA and a full degree.
  1. What are the subjects that best suit your career objective and past studies/experience?
Pick subjects that round you out, rather than repeating past studies.
For example, if you are a CPA, you should pick an MBA school that is strong on HR, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and strategy.  It’s a waste of time getting high marks in accounting and financial subjects.  
The same can be said about the specific specialisation of the MBA school, unless you want to specialise in a particular area in order to achieve your career objective.
Don’t pick an MBA with an international trade specialisation if you hate flying, or an entrepreneurial specialisation if you are more suited to the public sector.
The point of doing an MBA is to be educated for general management, not to become a departmental head, so you need education which develops your capability in all the functions of management.
  1. Are you really prepared to put in the effort required by your preferred MBA school?
If not, go for an easier and less demanding school – these are usually the newer schools that are desperate for MBA students.  The prestige schools will tend to make you work hard, in order to satisfy their quality standards.
  1. Are you good enough to get into your preferred MBA school?
Some schools require you to sit for a GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) or CAT (Comon Admission Test).  There’s a heap of books written about the GMAT and CAT  so we’ll leave you to look at some of those – and you should.
The best schools get the most applications and can be more fussy about the level and quality of your experience, qualifications and personal style.  They like to brag about their successful MBA graduates – if you are never likely to be a “star” they might tend to overlook your application.
Naturally exceptions are always made for well-connected individuals or family of generous donors.  If one of the university buildings is named after your father, mother, uncle, etc you should apply to that university.
  1. Contact past and current students from your preferred MBA school.
Try to find out the good and bad things that are not on the brochures and marketing spiel of the university.  Talk to past graduates, particularly of your preferred school/s.
Ask a lot of dumb questions – it might save you a couple of years at the wrong university.  You might also get to your career objective a little easier – why repeat the mistakes of others.
Remember, those who neglect history are destined to repeat the mistakes of others.