Hunting for the Right School

May 24, 2012
Tags: Choosing the Right School, School Selection

When it comes to searching for the business school or graduate management program that best matches your educational and career goals there is no such thing as ‘too much information.’ Resources for conducting your search are plentiful, as we discovered last year—when more than 16,000 people registered on told us how they search for a graduate management program and what criteria they use when looking at schools. 

 The top sources for information about business schools and programs were:

  • School websites (88%)
  • Friends and family—word-of-mouth (61%)
  • School admissions staff (50%)
  • School publications (47%)
  •—the Official GMAT website (48%)
Two out of five (41%) prospects also consulted the published school rankings as well as co-workers and peers (40%), and one-third or more talked with students, alumni, and faculty at their schools of interest. Published school rankings were considered very influential by nearly one-third of candidates in 2011. Yet, school sources, especially websites, were even more influential in the school search than the most highly regarded school rankings publication. And good old-fashioned word-of-mouth appraisals of postgraduate programs from others, including current students and alumni, friends and family, and college professors and even employers, weigh in strongly in decision making.

Make Your Search Personal

These findings show us that: (1) knowing how to search and knowing the right information to look for are important, and (2) you need to make your search personal. The Internet is great for finding basic ‘nuts- and-bolts’ information about programs, such as application/admission requirements, program and curriculum descriptions, and cost of attendance. Published school rankings factor in these and other attributes, but keep in mind they rely on someone else’s judgment and opinions, which may have nothing to do with whether or not that top-ranked program is the best match for your needs.

Define Quality for Yourself

Selection criteria for choosing a program or school are unique to you. The choice of a school will likely be driven by your undergraduate degree, prior work experience, current work and family situation, and career intentions. Make sure the school/program you select offers curriculum, faculty, and services you need to meet your goals. Determining a school’s quality and reputation will assure you’re making a good investment in your postgraduate education. 

Recent grads from the class of 2012 offered some deep insights on what defines a program’s reputation, citing things that are hard to quantify on a spreadsheet, such as program standards, talent level of fellow students, the program mission, opportunities to meet and network with fellow students, and the relevance of the curriculum.


Program reputation together with curriculum, faculty, and program structure were the top factors recent grads cited when rating the overall quality of their educational experience. Those also happen to be some of the factors grads use to define their school’s culture, rate how satisfied they are with their programs, and determine how likely they are to recommend their programs to others.

Know Yourself

The best advice in selecting a school and program is to recognize your own ambitions. Ask yourself:
  • What do you expect to get out of your education?
  • What do you expect your degree to do for you?
  • What are your career plans?
If you haven’t fully vetted your own reasons for wanting to earn an MBA or business master’s degree, try our CareerLeader® assessment and Self-Assessment tools to help you define your career preferences and match your aspirations to the programs that will best let you achieve them. Also, make sure you have opted into the Graduate Management Admission Search Service® to allow business and management education programs to find you even before you sit for the GMAT exam!