In the MBA admissions consulting game, the first question people ask us is, “what’s the “right” school for me to apply for?” They want to know where they will fit best, which is the best school for the career they have in mind, what’s the “culture” at each school?
And I’m sure that’s what you’re wondering right now, too.
Well, let’s break this tough decision about school choice down into a few component steps:
Step 1. What’s the best school you can get into?
Step 2. Go there.
There aren’t any other steps.
Forget about fit; forget about scholarships. Go to the name brand school everyone recognizes as the best—the school that everyone who will ever be in a position to hire you knows about and is impressed by. These schools attract the most prestigious, connected professors. They connect you with an alumni base running the most successful businesses who can give you a leg up when you enter the business world. But they also offer you something else:
Take this very website for example. If you browsed through our admissions consultants, you’ll probably be pretty impressed with the backgrounds you see: Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton, LBS, INSEAD, Chicago Booth, Kellogg… Those names pop out at you and instantly impress you. Why? Well, you know just how hard it is to get into those schools. “If they went there, they must be something special.” (The other part that impressed you is that they were wearing suits. Nothing beats a suit.) You want people to see you in the same light when they see your name on a resume: impressive, pedigreed and ready to take the business world by storm.
Whether you choose to wear a suit is your own business.
Here’s another way to look at it: Have you ever seen the look on the face of a child who’s just been served “Crazy-O’s”, the knockoff brand of Cheerios his mom bought for him because “it’s the same thing?” You do not want to see that same look on the face of someone in the HR department at the company you are applying to work at after your MBA. There are many schools out there that will provide a quality education in your chosen field “just like” a name-brand Ivy, but they will not offer you the same career opportunities.
“But wait,” you say. “I really want to get into financing llama farms in Ecuador, and the University of Southwestern Midwest has an absolutely killer Ecuadorian llama farm finance program!”
It’s great to have a specific goal—in this case, very, very specific—but again, fit is not the right way to look at it. If you want to go on to be at the top of your field—whatever field that is—you need to be surrounded by the top students who are going to be making things happen as future business leaders. Nothing against the University of Southwestern Midwest, but surround yourself with the smartest, highest-achieving people. You’ll learn more from them in school, which will push you further out of school… and, of course, you’ll be able to network with the smartest of the smartest for the duration of your career. And all of those are very, very good things.
Of course, there are many difficult questions and options to consider in the MBA admissions process…
- How to package your entire career into a few pages of essays
- How to accurately show how prepared and excited you are for your chosen future career
- How to explain that one, tiny felony conviction on your record
Luckily school choice is not one of these difficult questions. Just go to the best school you can get into!