Written by Deirdre M. Kane, Assistant Director, MBA and Master of Finance Admissions, MIT Sloan School of Management
As an admissions officer, my job is to find the future experts and bring them to my school, but I am by no means an expert myself; however, there are a number of factors to consider before choosing an MBA program: fit, future, and fun. I don’t have the answers for you, but I do have some questions you should consider as you weigh your decision.
Fit is the most important of the three, actually, because your happiness should be your top priority. Have you visited the schools, talked to students, sat in on classes? Do you feel welcome? How accessible are the faculty? Do they have the extracurriculars (clubs, etc.) and a curriculum that will engage you? What is the culture like and does it align with what you need from a school? What are the school’s strengths (in academics, recruiting sectors, and so on) and do those strengths match the directions you are considering for your future? If you don’t know the answers to these questions for each school you are considering, you need to visit each school and find out before you decide.
Business school is an expensive investment and the “pay-off” should last long past graduation. You will spend two years building lifelong relationships and friendships and to underestimate the value of this is a mistake. How will a school’s career development office help you obtain employment in the industry you want?
You also need to think about your relationship to the school after you graduate. How strong is the alumni network? Be sure to evaluate size as well as practical effectiveness. Ask current students about their interactions with alumni. Did you attend an information session from each school and listen to what alumni say about their experiences as students and as alums? How connected to the school are the alumni, whether they are 5, 10, 15, or 20 years out? Also, think about yourself—what kind of alum do you want to be?
Honestly, why would you do anything for two years if it wasn’t going to be fun? By fun, I mean: Does the school provide you with an environment in which you will thrive? Will it challenge you professionally, socially, and personally in positive, potentially transformative ways? If not, no matter what the “brand,” why would you go there
As you can see, I am no expert, but I do think the questions above provide a great starting point. There are many excellent programs out there and your “job” now is to find the best one for you. Do your homework, follow your heart, follow your gut, and, as my mother always says, be good and have fun.