Imagine you’ve received acceptance letters from two schools. One is a top-notch, name-brand program, and the other is a B-lister. Here’s the twist, you applied to that B-list school for it’s great, let’s say… basket-weaving program. You have high aspirations in the field of basket-weaving—you are going to become an expert, start your own consultancy, and grow a global business. Therefore, you should probably go to the school with the best basket-weaving program, right? Wrong.
While trendy advice might tend toward picking the program that seems to match your specific interests and provide a good “fit,” we believe it’s much simpler—go to the BEST school you get into. Period.
At the end of the day, and regardless of whether this is how it should be, reputation matters. To your future employers or clients, the caliber of the school you went to will carry more weight than any other consideration, including that of industry-specific program strength. At the end of the day, the top schools have strong programs across the board, from real estate to entrepreneurship to… basket weaving (okay, maybe not).
One helpful exercise as you’re making this kind of decision is to think about the long game. Picture yourself in 20 to 30 years, and where you want to end up—the BEST version of your goal, the optimal outcome. Which school is more likely to get you there, the school with the highest caliber reputation, or a secondary school “with a great program in X?” 99 out of 100 times the answer is the former, the top-notch school. You’ll carry that brand name and reputation with you to every job interview or client meeting in your future, and it will make a difference.
Then consider that it’s VERY likely your plans will change. Chances are, the “best version of your goal” today will be completely unrelated to what you’re actually doing 20 years from now. The degree from the school with the good name will transfer easily to new industries… your MBA from Basket Weaving U, not so much.
Finally, the concept of “fit” is, frankly, overrated. While it does matter to an extent, it shouldn’t come at the expense of attending the best school you got into. The fact that it’s talked about so much has a lot to do with the marketing efforts of schools WITHOUT an elite brand. Harvard is not selling “fit”—they don’t have to. Shall we say it one more time for effect? Choose the BEST school you got into—your future, successful self will thank you.