3 Things To Look For In A Business School

by Marquis Parker Steven Rao, James Hu, David Santos, Frank Tobler, Jeffrey Hu, Michael Medrano, and Brian Nguyen

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Top Ten MBA Admissions.

I applied to only 3 business schools: Stanford, Wharton, and Harvard. I could have applied to more schools, but I didn’t want to spread myself too thin. I was working a full time job and I wanted to have a small, manageable goal that I could work toward. As a result, I focused my effort on just three schools.

My job didn’t require me to go to business school, so even if I had been rejected from every school, I could have still stayed at my job. If I wanted a change of setting, I could have even made some lateral jumps to other firms in the industry. Basically, because I didn’t need a business school education for my job, I could afford the risk of applying to only a select few schools.

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I applied to only 3 business schools: Stanford, Wharton, and Harvard. I could have applied to more schools, but I didn’t want to spread myself too thin. I was working a full time job and I wanted to have a small, manageable goal that I could work toward. As a result, I focused my effort on just three schools.

My job didn’t require me to go to business school, so even if I had been rejected from every school, I could have still stayed at my job. If I wanted a change of setting, I could have even made some lateral jumps to other firms in the industry. Basically, because I didn’t need a business school education for my job, I could afford the risk of applying to only a select few schools.

While picking which 3 schools to apply to, I looked for these 3 qualities.

1. Does the school have a prestigious reputation?

Why did I apply to Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton business schools? Those 3 schools are quite simply the three main schools people think of in the United States. Prestige may seem like shallow reason for choosing a school, but behind every reputation is a reason for that reputation..

Part of the reason you immediately recognize Harvard Business School is its history of success, a history Harvard helps its students continue. If nobody has heard of your school, you won’t be able to use your school’s reputation to get your foot in the door.

2. Does the school have a good atmosphere and culture?

One of the reasons I applied to Stanford business school was because of the atmosphere. I went to Stanford as an undergraduate, so I had an emotional connection to the school and its student culture. I knew firsthand that the students at Stanford were happy, laid back, and friendly. That, combined with Stanford’s robust entrepreneurial spirit, made me want to spend another 2 years there.

If you’re lucky enough to have a firsthand experience of a school’s educational and social environment, those intangible characteristics should definitely factor into whether you decide to apply to a school.

3. What fields does the school specialize in?

Each business school has its own set of resources and curriculum. You’d be surprised how much one school’s MBA experience can differ from another school’s.

Wharton, for example, has a really strong real estate program. It’s also really strong in finance, which was something I didn’t have much of a background in. Going from my econ major in undergrad to a career in consulting, I didn’t receive the necessary, in-depth training in finance I desired.

Part of why I applied to Wharton was for the opportunity to acquire a new set of expertise from a school that specializes in it.

If there’s a particular skill set you’re looking for, you should look into which programs a school emphasizes. Stanford has a really strong entrepreneurial focus, and Harvard takes a decidedly broad, general management approach to business education. As with most things in life, some schools might not be the right fit for you.
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