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Does it matter where you get your MBA?

August 12, 2021 :: Admissionado

You may have been expecting something a little more…nuanced. Perhaps a “well, it depends on your…” or “everybody is different, so if your goals…” kind of an answer. However, with this question, we are confident in giving you a clear, resounding, we-will-die-on-this-hill YES.

We work with clients across a wide range of industries and experience levels, and we’re in the business of aiming high. This approach has been proven with our results, and we believe in pushing clients to reach for admission to the best MBA programs. An MBA has the power to shape the course of your entire career, so this isn’t the time to settle.

In this article, we’ll explore why Admissionado stands behind its aspirational MBA admissions strategy. And will try to understand how to get your MBA and where to get your MBA.

What’s the point of an MBA?

We first need to pin down the purpose of pursuing an MBA. Why do people take a two-year break in their career to assume the financial burden of earning an MBA? Because they have big plans. Certainly, each applicant’s reasons will be different. Some want to change gears in their career and switch to an emerging industry; some want to fast-track to an advanced leadership role in their organization; some have aspirations of starting their own business and rocking the industry in the process (we see you there, Stitchfix). If you strip away the motivational differences between all of these paths, the common denominator is that an MBA applicant has ambitious, spine-tingly goals, an intention to boldly go where no one has gone before, and wants to make a big impact on the business world. They just need some rocket fuel to initiate that successful trajectory. That fuel is an MBA degree.

If we were to extend this analogy, to ensure the most mileage and to keep your machinery in tip-top shape for optimal performance, wouldn’t you want to use the best fuel possible for this MBA journey? 

At Admissionado, we believe excellence suits you

We’ll admit, this “premium fuel” analogy only holds up if you can agree with us that top-ranked MBA programs are indeed that: the top. You have to believe in the merits and strengths that led to their place at the top of the rankings, and their ability to hold steady in those rankings year after year.

If you ever seek the help of an MBA admissions consultant, and we ever have the privilege of working together, you’ll come to realize that we’re big fans of “showing, not telling.” It’s one thing to SAY you are the best, but if you’re a top-ranked MBA program, how do you live and breathe excellence? Luckily, these top-ranked programs walk the walk, demonstrating their excellence in ways that not only add to their prestige but in ways that pay off big for you, the admitted student.

The power of the network

A major metric in determining the rank of MBA programs are acceptance rates, and the lower they are, the better. Low acceptance rates indicate that a program only accepts the best of the best, and learning and working with the best means you’ll be challenged as you’ve never been challenged before. Moreover, working with your talented MBA peers and being exposed to the breadth and depth of the backgrounds, talents, and experiences of your cohort will stretch your mind into new and awesome shapes.

An easy way to ground the truth of this concept is to look to some of the luminaries in the business world with top-tier MBAs. They were students at one point, making contributions in class and forming their futures alongside their MBA classmates. Picture, if you will:

  • Being assigned a group project with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (HBS MBA ’95)
  • Sitting in on a final capstone presentation by Apple CEO Tim Cook (Fuqua MBA ’88)
  • Pitching a new product idea with Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi (Yale SOM MBA ’80)

For the hundreds of people who were fortunate to walk the halls of these programs at the same time as these business icons, these were their experiences. Getting to know the future leaders of the business world isn’t the only perk of these top MBA programs; the power of these programs’ alumni networks keep working for you well after you graduate. With a top-tier MBA, you will have earned the privilege to reach out to your alma mater’s thousands of alumni to ask for advice, request an introduction, go on infinite informational interviews, and make connections with the leaders in your industry. The top-tier MBA network is a resource that continues to pay dividends throughout your professional career.

Cutting-edge programs

Superlatives are usually a solid indicator that you’re onto something good. Descriptors such as “unique,” “first,” “cutting-edge” all point to ways in which a top-ranked program has distinguished itself. These programs offer something you simply can’t find anywhere else.

Coveted, hard-to-access opportunities are the bread and butter of top MBA programs. Should you secure admission, you could:

  • Be at the forefront of Big Data Analytics research at Wharton by working as a research assistant for Professor Peter Fader and executive director Sarah Toms, who recently published their award-winning book, The Customer Centricity Playbook.
  • Attend a lecture at Stanford GSB featuring Michael Preysman, Founder & CEO of Everlane, who recently spoke at Stanford about the brand’s rise to success and its commitment to sustainability.
  • Receive one-on-one mentorship from C-Suite executives through Columbia Business School’s Executives in Residence program. You could work directly with and learn from Neale S. Godfrey, one of the first female executives at Chase Manhattan Bank.

ROI (Return on investment)

We’re discussing business school, after all, so we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about money. Top MBA programs are expensive, there is no arguing that, so you want to be sure you’re converting this investment into long-term returns.

When it comes to pursuing an MBA, time is relative. Taking two years out of your life to stop making money and to take on considerable debt, in a vacuum, sounds like a poor choice. However, let’s return to the rocket fuel analogy – within the two years of your MBA program, you’ve:

  • Turbocharged your progress – Having earned an MBA, you’re now a competitive candidate for a role that would have otherwise taken you several more years to secure by climbing the corporate ladder.
  • Given yourself a cheat sheet – Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that mistakes are expensive, and can make or break a lean startup’s chances of success. Through a top-tier MBA program, you’ll learn from your classmates’ experiences, hear from those who made it big, and give yourself a foundation in the basics to boost your chances of going green.
  • Gotten the inside scoop – Like Keanu Reeves downloading an entire knowledge of martial arts in The Matrix, an MBA can round out your skillset and enable you to transition deftly into a new industry without needing to go back to an entry-level position.

Furthermore, the salary numbers from top-tier MBA graduates speak for themselves. Data from U.S. News highlights the significant starting salaries of 2018 graduates from top MBA programs. For example, someone who made $70,000/year before earning their Stanford GSB MBA can make a $176,000 starting salary after graduation, clearly a worthy payoff.

This major boost in salary potential is unique to top-tier MBA programs. As the U.S. News article further discusses, starting salaries for those who earned MBAs from schools in the bottom-fourth of their rankings only secured post-graduation salaries of just over $50,000. The 120K difference between starting salaries is enough to justify the higher sticker price of a top-tier MBA.

On-campus recruiting

Everyone earning an MBA from a top program has big goals. It follows, then, that the most competitive employers offering the most exciting opportunities in the business world will go straight to the source when attracting and recruiting new talent. This is where on-campus recruiting comes into the picture.

Pursuing a top MBA means you’ll be putting yourself directly in front of your dream employers. For example, in 2018, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management hosted elite companies at their recruiting events from a diverse set of industries, sizes, and job functions, from Accenture, to Facebook, to Visa.

While these companies don’t recruit exclusively from top MBA programs, they do look to recruiting events at elite MBA programs first for filling leadership roles. 

The effort of applying

Questions we hear a lot from potential clients are, “Is all of this work for each school worth the effort? “, “Is it worth getting an MBA from a lower tier school?” or “Does it matter where I get my MBA?” It is worth remembering that the architecture of your MBA application does not change significantly between MBA programs, no matter their rank. Each has a set of essays that ask similar questions, each requires a resume, and letters of recommendation. No matter which programs you apply to, the hard part of preparing for the MBA application process has already been done. You’ve achieved success in your career, worked to achieve a high undergraduate GPA, and developed meaningful professional relationships with your recommenders. 

However, there is one caveat: the GMAT. To be competitive for top-tier programs, you must earn the best GMAT score you can possibly get, (Average GMAT score is another metric that determines a school’s ranking). If your GMAT score isn’t what is required for schools like HBS and CBS, becoming more competitive may come down to more preparation and re-taking the test.

That said…

Go for it. It’s Worth It

You’re worth it. As cheesy as this sounds, if you have big dreams, are a fierce competitor, and are willing to go the extra mile, make the choice to invest in your career, and aim for the best MBA program to which you can gain admission.


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