Plenty of you out there are targeting Round 2 for your applications and are still deliberating your final list of target schools. We’d like to offer a little advice.

Take rankings with a grain of salt

Business school rankings can be a great starting point for determining your “long list” of schools, but you must not (under any circumstances) make them the only factor. Did you know that there are numerous well-respected rankings, none more meaningful than the other? (We track several ourselves.) And each measures different criteria, from student satisfaction to admissions selectivity to ROI. So while rankings can certainly be a helpful way to get started, it’s critical to do your own research about each school from there.  Just because a school is highly ranked doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best fit for you.

How will it set you up for success?

Core classes and electives that fit your goals are extremely important. Do your needs align with the academic strengths of the school?  Are you looking for a general management program, or one where you can select a concentration in your target field? Are there campus resources, student organizations, and activities that align with your interests?  What are your passions, and how can you leverage them?

Hark, who goes there?

Another meaningful factor for consideration is the network you’ll build.  Consider the student/alumni composition of each program and where they are based. Will you make relevant professional connections?  Is their alumni base entwined in your target field?  Many MBA graduates cite the people they met as the most valuable aspect of their business school experience.  Given the time, energy and investment you’ll be making in pursuing your MBA, it’s worth ensuring that you’ll meet the “right” people in the process.

Location, location, location

This will be your home for two years, so choose wisely. Will you (or your partner/family) be happy living there? Is a small town more suited to your personality, or are you gunning for a major metropolis where you can be steps away from businesses of interest? Are you hoping to live in the same city after graduating?  If possible, visit the campuses you’re interested in before applying. Go on a day where you’d be able to see students interacting and talk to professors, admissions officers, and student leaders about what it’s like to attend classes and live in that city.

Diversify your options

Don’t rely on a stellar application to get you into your dream school. If you’re looking to get in the top-20, there’s no such thing as a “safety” school. To truly maximize your options, we recommend that you apply to six MBA programs—four at the absolute minimum, and eight if you’re not confident about your GPA, GMAT score, or other aspects of your candidacy. Above all when applying, listen to your gut. If you didn’t feel a connection with a business school, despite its rankings or offerings, move on to the next. There are plenty of fish in the sea!

[For personalized guidance on choosing the right business school, or general MBA admissions advice, please contact us at]

© Shine/ MBA Admissions Consulting, October 9, 2014, 1:30pm MT