How to Choose your Ideal B-School?

Management is about decision-making, they say. Hence the thrust on decision-making in the MBA curriculum.

However, even before making it to a B-school, MBA aspirants today must know a thing or two about taking decisions. Take for instance, the dilemma of ‘which institutes to apply to’. The fact that there are more than 1100 B-schools in the country, and that only about 10% of MBA graduates are employable, hardly helps!

What adds a twist to the game is the money involved. Each application costs between Rs.1000 to 2000, which in a way makes it imperative to invest prudently.

Some students believe in ‘Apply to as many Institutes as Possible’ or to those which advertise loudly in the newspapers. This philosophy, is supposed to lower risk and maximize chances of selection. However, if you think it’s a wise idea to squander huge sums of money in applying indiscriminately to all and sundry, I reserve my comments. For example, if we apply to about 20 institutes, we end up spending close to Rs.20,000!!!

So how do you go about tackling this problem and maximizing returns? Well, first of all you need to narrow down your choice to not more than 8-10 institutes, which indeed calls for a lot of deliberation (some of you, due to your educational background and current position need not apply to more than 5-6). Sounds like an arduous task? Relax. With a little help you will be able to do a great job of applying to those institutes with much less expenditure, thus adding value to an education in your specific area of interest.

Let us explore the factors to be considered while deciding on the choice of institutes. I will not discuss the importance of the “Reputation Factor” which in my opinion is actually much more significant than any other reason; such as, can you argue with the reputation of institutes like the IIMs (Ahmedabad or Bangalore or Kolkata). However, there are many institutes whose reputation is not as sparkling, in which case the factors listed below will clearly help you.

Placements
A professional qualification is meant to do exactly what it states, provide a profession that has an earning and long term career potential.

Placements

This is arguably the most important criterion behind selecting an institute. After all, isn’t it your reason for doing an MBA? A professional qualification is meant to do exactly what it states, provide a profession that has an earning and long-term career potential. These days, information on placements at various B-schools is easily available. Unfortunately, the placement figures available in ads, magazines or on websites etc. may not always be reliable.

Also, many students from institutes in the ‘not so recognized’ category get placed by individual efforts or personal contacts. Such recruitment are often included in the 100% placement claim. It is therefore advisable that students try to cull out as much information from seniors, present and past students of these institutes, friends and relatives staying in the same city as the institutes. After all, if an MBA doesn’t fetch a decent job offer on campus, it is perhaps worth giving it a second thought!

Specialization

Specialized institutes develop specialized skills thereby creating career opportunities in specific sectors
Specialized institutes develop specialized skills thereby creating career opportunities in specific sectors

Some institutes like IIFT, IRMA, IIFM, TISS etc. offer only specialized programmes. One needs to clearly understand the course features and the focus of such courses since they are very different from regular MBA programmes.

It has been observed that specialized institutes develop specialized skills thereby creating career opportunities in specific sectors. One should apply to such courses only when one is convinced about a satisfying career long-term. Otherwise, most of the other top institutes like the IIMs conduct general management programmes, which should suit your needs perfectly for Marketing, Finance, Systems etc.

Infrastructure & Faculty

Several institutes have a huge number of seats without the infrastructure or faculty to support the load. The less I speak about the learning imparted or the placements in such places, the better.

In terms of infrastructure, the prime concern is whether the programme is residential or not. It is my firm belief that MBA is not just about the learning that you acquire in a classroom but the real gain is the composite institutional exposure you undergo in the two-year span. More so since B-school education mainly involves group work where students need to work as teams.

As far as the faculty is concerned, reputed institutes usually have accomplished experts on their board. These academicians are mentors to the students for two years. If there is a good number of regular faculty, students have enough opportunities to gain from close interaction with them.

Location

This mostly holds true for institutes, which are not of a notable repute. Such institutes despite having good infrastructure facilities may lack in faculty support because of the locational disadvantage. Further, they might fail in giving sufficient industry exposure, which in turn might impact placements. Keeping this in mind, if you are applying to any of the lower rung colleges, it makes sense in sticking to those based in metros or bigger cities.

Expenses

Various private colleges charge hefty amounts as course fees. The infrastructure and other facilities in such colleges are often impressive, but one needs to do a cost benefit analysis and be sure that the returns after the course are worth the investment not only in terms of money, but also time and effort.

Giving due thought to all these factors will help you arrive at an informed decision. This is however not the end of the story. Every student has a unique set of circumstances and hence, is in a unique position to make a decision. It is therefore imperative to keep the following points in mind –

Long-term perspective – The decision to join a B- school is perhaps the most important choice that you will make. There is no denying that the success of a person depends on his mettle; but at the same time, we cannot undermine the brand value associated with a person educated at a reputed B-school.

Fall back options – Having talked about the long-term perspective, you must understand that in certain situations, it is important to have fallback options. For example, if a student does not have the option of a second attempt, other than applying to the best B schools, he should also apply to a few middle level institutes to be on the safe side. Thus, even if for certain reasons, he were not able to make it to the best, he would still have a chance to pursue an MBA. It then becomes imperative for him to excel at the institute and grab the best job on campus.

Haste makes waste – Very often students are found to be in a big hurry to get into a B-school and are ready to compromise on the quality to save one year. This is an extremely shortsighted approach. Do not forget that good B-schools are not just about reputation or brand value. There are intangible benefits like peer interaction and networking, exposure, learning to handle stress, pressure, competition etc., which go a long way in shaping your personality.

Have you given your best shot? – Many a time, students are not able to manage the preparation for competitive exams along with the rigours of college and semester examinations. In such a situation, they apply to those colleges, where they see a fair chance of getting selected, with the little preparation they have. Thus, they compromise and choose lower rung institutes despite being capable of making it to a far better place. If these students would only wait for a year or two, pick up some valid work experience and then try once again, this time to the best of their ability, it would have a better impact on their careers.

Think big – Last but not the least, always aim high. Even if you’ve been a very average student throughout, it’s never too late to throw mediocrity out of your life. All the more required now since we are talking about nothing less than the next 40 years of your life!