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Choose the right grad school with this MBA guru’s method

MBA Article Quote Lao TzuIn your case, this ancient proverb might just turn out to be literally true, if you are gunning for an international MBA. Jokes aside, the MBA is a journey, an adventure if you will, which starts with the realization that you want one. I will not dive deep into why you need an MBA, but let’s just say you, through fortitude and fortune are inspired to begin this journey. One of the most important decisions you need to make is to finalize your list of schools that you will be applying to in the future, once you cross the GMAT (or GRE) hurdle. Crossing that hurdle is going to the subject of another discussion at a later point (this is not the last you have heard of me).

So how can one go about selecting the oh-so-important list of schools that will make or break your future? What if you choose wrong? What if the school shuts down before your application is processed? RELAX 🙂 Take a deep breath, and remind yourself not to be overwhelmed by the god-awful amount of information on MBA, GMAT, essays, jobs, and the works.


First, create a list of schools

How can you go about this? Ask around. Internet research, friends, family, distant relatives – somebody in your immediate or distant network must have gone for graduate studies. That should be a good starting point. Try to pick the brain of a few such people. During the brain-picking process, be shameless and ask questions to the point of exhaustion. Remember, that your goal is to understand the other person’s motivation, process of school selection and application, MBA journey and finally, level of satisfaction with the end result.

The interrogation style interview mentioned above, coupled with internet research (forums such as gmatclub, beatthegmat, poets and quants) where you can chat with perfect strangers quite glibly about your dreams and aspirations should give you enough material to whip out a list of tentative schools. I would suggest you create a list of 7 to 12 such schools. You can go for more or less as it is a very personal choice.


Factors that I believe you should consider while going through a list of schools:
  • Length of Program – Program lengths vary between 1 to 2 years. Your personal preference might be for a longer or a shorter program.
  • Brand Equity – Be pragmatic. Brand matters a lot. Enough said.
  • Fees – Who is going to pay for it? Figure out how much can you afford to spend based on how much you have saved, how much can your family give you and how much can you raise from a loan. You have to do this math properly.
  • Financial Aid – Does the school offer any financial assistance? Are there any scholarship programs that you can avail of? This links back factor number 3, and is of course very important if you are not regularly pooping gold coins.
  • Employment Opportunities – Different people want different things from their MBA. Some just want a degree, while some want to stay back for a few years while some others use it as a stepping stone to immigration. So think about the employment opportunities available to graduates of that school, especially the international ones.
  • Specializations – Do you want a general MBA? Or are you looking for a specialization in say, Finance? Pay attention to this because some schools are well known for certain specializations.
  • Diversity – Of course it is important that your class be a healthy mix of boys and girls, people from different nationalities and professional background. The exposure to the culture, thinking style, personal and professional experience of this diverse group of people contributes significantly to your learning.
  • Acceptance Rate – This number tells you how choosy the school is. It is advisable to select a mix of schools, from the stretch (really difficult to get in), to the reach (easier to get in).
  • Average GMAT/GRE Score – The score matters. Sometimes, the score alone makes the admissions committee give your application a decent look. And you need to assess your capabilities honestly to decide what score is attainable for you.
  • Average Age of Cohort – This should matter if you are too young or old, or if you are concerned about the maturity level of your future classmates.
  • Size of The Cohort – This, I believe should be correlated with acceptance rate. Schools with larger cohorts tend to have higher acceptance rates, meaning it should be easier for you to get in.
  • Climate – Ha! You must be wondering why this? Well, if you are a tropical bird and you absolutely cannot stand very cold weather, or vice-versa, then you better take the climate of the school’s area into consideration.

Now that the factors have been listed, look at the picture of the table below. All of these factors should have a weight, and the sum of these weights should add up to 100%. The larger the weight of a factor, the more important it is in your decision. If you think any of the factors are just not applicable to you, then remove that and re-distribute the weight among the remaining factors so that the total remains 100%. And then, give each factor a score between 1 and 10, where 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest, for each of the schools. Finally, multiply the weight and the score of each school and add it all up to get the weighted score of that school.  

MBA Guru's method

And voila, you have a winner. Or a tie. Whatever be the case, you can at least quantify your choices using this tool, and pick the top 3 or 5 you would be applying to.


A word of caution

The weighted score method is merely a tool. You can subjectively evaluate each of the schools in your tentative list, and arrive at a final list without doing any math. But the factors that you need to consider will more or less be the same as what I listed.

So get cracking O’ future business leader, and whip out that list! You will hear from me soon.

Kislay Chandra is a graduate of the Asian Institute of Management. By day, he is the Operations & IT Manager of MovieClub, a Filipino on-demand video streaming app. And by night (also over the weekends), he is cape-less crusader, training those who strive to crack the GMAT, GRE, AIMAT and the SAT. You can reach out to him at [email protected]


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