Boston or New York? Durham or Chicago? How large of a role should location play in your MBA decision?
If you ask CBS, they’d probably say, “a great deal,” as evidenced by the fact that they devote an entire essay in their application to forcing applicants to discuss why “being in the center of business” in NYC will benefit them. Now, that’s a really New York-centric view of the world (standard for New Yorkers,) but when it comes down to it, does it really matter that Columbia is located in Manhattan when Harvard is located in Boston? If an MBA has enough clout, won’t that clout carry with an alum no matter what city s/he ends up in? And won’t that MBA be able to bring in just as fantastic lecturers and guests as one in NYC would? The answer to both of these questions is almost certainly “yes,” so when should location factor into your decision?
In most cases, it really shouldn’t be your biggest concern. Realistically, you’ll end up in Manhattan or another major city after the MBA no matter what city your school was in, and there you’ll find a wealth of other alumni from your school who probably had the same thoughts on location when they were applying. If you’re an international student getting an MBA in the states and hoping to return to your home country after, then it almost certainly doesn’t matter what CITY your MBA was in – what matters more is the weight that MBA BRAND carries back home.
Your primary concern should be the quality of education and the specialized impact the diploma and network from a particular school will have on your field of interest. Once you have a list of great schools to choose from, you can focus on secondary things, like the location.
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One big thing location affects is lifestyle – something that might actually be an important factor in how you perform in your MBA. After all, you are committing two years of your life to living in one place, and though that’s a relatively short period of time in the grand scheme of things, it can feel long when you’re in a city you don’t “like.” Do you really want to be stuck in the freezing snow in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for two winters? (Ann Arbor is great, by the way.) Can you actually afford $12 sandwiches (if you’re lucky!) in New York while you’re a student? Will you need a car? Can you drive?
Questions like these, though secondary to your considerations regarding the educational value of your program, are really the most important reasons to debate location. BUT a top MBA is a top MBA, we wouldn’t stress too much about where it is on the map.
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