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How to Choose Between Multiple MBA Admits

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After putting in months of hard work to complete your business school applications, you might think that choosing between multiple MBA admits would be easy.

However, while having more than one business school vying for your attendance is the dream for many applicants, it’s a situation that presents its own unique challenges.

Here’s four questions to ask yourself when it comes to choosing between multiple MBA acceptances:

1. Can you secure financial aid?

An MBA is a big financial investment: a degree from a top-ranked US business school costs on average well over US$100,000. One of the most common dilemmas you’ll face when deciding between multiple MBA acceptances pertains to financial aid opportunities at various schools.

Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted.com, has seen many applicants struggle to decide between an offer from a first-choice or highly-ranked school with no financial aid, and an offer from a less well-regarded school with a scholarship included.

Her advice is to look carefully at the placement record for each school in your desired function and industry, with a particularly close eye on alumni salaries.

“If you want to go into a field with high pay and [your first-choice school] has a much better placement record for that function and industry, it probably pays to go there,” she says.

“On the other hand, if there isn’t a significant difference in placement, the network is equally strong and the education suits you in both places, plus the anticipated differential in pay is small, save the money, reduce the debt, and attend the other.”

In some cases, it may be possible to leverage your multiple MBA admits to improve your offers.

“MBA admits choosing between multiple offers should negotiate their financial aid packages!” says David White, an admissions consultant at Menlo Coaching. “Most top US MBA programs offer merit-based aid as a tool to recruit their preferred students, and are open to negotiate if approached respectfully.”

🤝 Read more: How to Negotiate for a Larger MBA Scholarship

Not all schools will be willing to budge on financial aid; some, such as Harvard Business School, offer only needs-based funding. However, in cases where you know that merit-based funding is available, it’s often worth having a conversation with the admissions team.

“Discuss the contributions you could make as a student and the reasons why their program is your first choice,” David advises.

“If applicable, explain why the money matters to you. For example, if you accepted a lower pre-MBA salary to work in an impact-oriented field; this is relevant to your request.”

2. What are your post-MBA goals?

Another key factor in deciding between multiple MBA acceptances are your post-MBA goals. What is it that you really want to get out of your MBA?

Take a good look at alumni outcomes at the schools that have admitted you to see if they have a track record of placing grads in your chosen field. You can find this information in the schools’ anuual employment reports, but don’t stop there.

“Use a research tool, like LinkedIn, to gauge the strength of each school’s alumni presence in the executive ranks in the field or industry that you aspire to join,” counsels Tyler Cormney, co-founder of MBA Prep School, an admissions consulting firm.

“If you discover that there are several alumni in leadership positions in your chosen field, that is a great sign. Alumni in leadership positions not only signifies that the degree is valued by employers, but those high-powered alums might be willing to help you break into the field and to mentor you once you've been hired.”

💼 Read more: Bain, BCG, McKinsey: How To Get Hired By The Big Three Consulting Firms

This is especially important the more specialized your ambitions are: if you’re hoping to go into consulting, tech or finance, then most top MBAs will get you there. If your goals are more specific, such as impact investing or healthcare administration, you need to look more closely at placement in these areas.

3. What program duration is best for you?

You sould also consider the length of the program you’re applying to. While two-year MBA programs are the standard in the United States, outside of the US there is much more variety in program length.

Candy Lee LaBalle of LaBalle Admissions frequently works with applicants who apply to the top programs in Europe and says it’s common for her clients to be caught between multiple MBA admits to different lengths of program.

🙌 Free guide: Finding Your Best-Fit Full-Time MBA Program

For example, INSEAD’s MBA program is just 10 months long, while schools like London Business School and IESE offer two-year programs.

“[A 10-month program] can be exhilarating and perfect for applicants who don’t want to be out of the work force for two years or who want a cheaper experience (less time equals less tuition and less lost salary),” Candy explains.

“But it is not right for everyone, particularly applicants that hope to change careers or those who want to fully explore the richness of a two-year program.”

4. Do your values align?

The ideal MBA program will chime with both your long-term goals and your short-term needs, and one of the factors that can be the most persuasive in uniting these elements is values. Which of your multiple MBA acceptances do you feel offers the best fit, and where do you think you would be happiest living for the duration of your program?

For Barbara Coward, MBA admissions consultant and Top Ten LinkedIn Voice for Education in 2020, this is one of the most important factors for applicants to consider.

“You can really shape your outcome based on your own drive, dedication to power networking, etc.,” she says, “but an entire campus culture is much harder to change.”

✔ Read more: 5 Ways A Business School Network Will Help Your Career

If you’re a conservative student on a more politically progressive campus, or vice versa, it might not feel like the most homely environment; likewise, if you thrive in a competitive atmosphere, a more collaborative school may not get the best out of you.

From a school’s perspective, too, they want students who understand their ethos and will be an active part of their student community—in many cases, this leads to better networking and greater results overall.

“I can’t stress enough the need to speak with current students and alumni before making your decision,” says Stephanie Kluth, head of admissions at ESMT Berlin.

“Regardless of the specific reason for an applicant’s final decision, it always comes down to shared values between the applicant and the school. Joining a program and community where they feel comfortable participating in it and can most benefit from these experiences will greatly enhance their experience and career outcomes.”

There is often no easy way to choose between multiple MBA admits, but if you take these factors into account, you’re much more likely to find the right program and, ultimately, the right career for you.

Want to see what your post-MBA salary could look like? Use our interactive salary calculator tool to get an idea of what you could earn after your degree.