Selecting the right business school is the most important decision in the application process. Before limiting your options to high profile schools, investigate all possible options available to you as a consumer of graduate management education..

Invest time in asking appropriate questions and collecting the right information, and focus on programmes that will best fit your personal and professional goals - only a fraction of the 1500 graduate management programmes worldwide will be a suitable match for you. Before you begin, make sure your career-related goals and personal considerations are well-defined. Identify a range of schools that meet your needs, and compile a select list to which you will apply. Eliminate any schools that do not closely match your personal and professional goals.

Request brochures and application materials using school Websites, and contact the admissions office to have information mailed to you. Admissions representatives are valuable resources to clarify your results and provide further information. But no one can give you effective advice unless something is known about your goals. In conversations with admissions staff, remember to provide key information about your background and interests. Avoid asking vague questions such as ‘Why should I come to your school?’

Placement professionals are the best authority on whether your MBA career aspirations will be satisfied at their schools. Ask how successful graduates have been in securing internships and jobs, review published placement statistics, and seek clarification on data that is relevant to you.

No matter what sources you use, you will receive the most accurate material directly from each school. Do not rely only on secondary sources of information to do your research, and read explanations of how data is gathered and reported, as statistics can be easily misinterpreted when taken out of context.

You must align your priorities and goals with a programme’s strengths, so look beyond each school’s marketing messages to uncover concrete evidence that your priorities and expectations will be satisfied. For example, if a school says its programme is global, ask about the specific qualities and achievements that make it so.

Most b-schools consider core courses to be the foundation for a program, and these are usually sequenced at the beginning of study. The core generally includes subjects such as Accounting, Finance, Human Resources, Marketing and Production Management. But because core classes are prerequisites for taking subsequent courses, it is important to check how far you can control the sequence of your classes. Can you exempt any of the required courses? Are exemptions based on previous course work, professional designations, or examination results? How do exemptions affect your programme options?

Within the general MBA programme, you build your area of expertise through elective courses, based on your need to develop a functional specialty or ‘concentration’. To effectively judge how the curriculum will help you, examine how many electives are offered, and whether they will be available to you. In addition, are there additional courses in other areas that make sense for you to take? Can you take a course outside of the business school but within the university for MBA credit? Can you do independent study or design your own concentration?

Examine the process of registration and course selection. What are your chances of getting spaces in the classes you need, when you need them? When are course schedules finalised? Can you change your schedule – if so, how? What is a typical course load? Can you increase or decrease the number of courses you take, and are there limits?

A school’s philosophy on approaches to learning can vary. For instance, students’ class contributions are central to learning; conversely, in lectures, the faculty member drives the subject. Both require high levels of student participation. Find out if the school prescribes a uniform teaching or grading style within the program, or if it depends on faculty members; what forms of feedback are formalised between students and faculty, and how group work is viewed and measured.

A sizable part of a school’s reputation is related to its focus on research, which results in more relevant and timely course content. Faculty renown strengthens industry ties and promotes an MBA program’s brand, helping graduates secure jobs.

Some schools put more emphasis on teaching quality than on faculty research, but most schools try to adopt a balanced approach, as quality research leads to relevant teaching. In addition, a school’s emphasis on teaching versus research will determine the type of faculty it attracts. Ask if the faculty is known for academic research, teaching quality, or accessibility to students. The total cost to obtain an MBA will vary, as each programme sets a rate for tuition and fees. Direct costs are those associated with your enrollment in a graduate management programme, including tuition, student fees, books, and supplies. Indirect costs are those living expenses incurred while attending b-school, such as housing, utilities, food, personal expenses, transportation, and other standard living expenses.

Your decisions about how you will study and where you will live affect your total cost of education, therefore knowing the financial impact of your decision gives you an important planning tool. Admissions staff can provide information about scholarships, fellowships, teaching assistantships, and other sources of financial aid that may be available.


Your MBA experience will encompass many factors beyond academic life. Do your chosen schools fit into your lifestyle and environmental preferences? For instance, if your MBA decision involves a family choice, how will your decision impact those closest to you?

Student culture is also an important consideration. You will learn as much from your fellow students as you will from faculty members,because your classmates will represent a wide variety of work and cultural backgrounds. Participation in student-run organizations, community programmes, and international field trips can greatly enhance your experience.

Compare yourself to the typical student profile at each programme. In a competitive application process, use your judgement to determine which schools are worth your investment of time and money. As a consumer, ensure that the institutions possess the curricular strength, culture, and program philosophy that best meet your needs. For more information, please visit:

Reproduced with kind permission of:

Exploring the MBA, published by the Graduate Management Admission Council, 1999.

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