What to Consider When Applying to Business School

What to Consider When Applying to Business School main image

Applying to business school can be a long and daunting process. However, there’s more to think about than just the GMAT, interviews and essays – you also need to weigh up your reasons for studying an MBA, and the benefits of the business schools you’d like to apply to.

Factors to consider

Cost vs. return

All potential MBAs will be well aware of the cost that comes with the degree – the tuition fees alone will burn a hole in your wallet. As a result, many people will take on debt in the process of completing their degree.

However, the return on investment (ROI) can be worth the financial sacrifice. It might be worth taking into account what graduates can earn – depending on the industry you’d like to pursue – and comparing it to the debt you’ll accrue.

MBAs are almost always great long-term investments, but you can save yourself added stress by being aware of the budget you’ll need to live on during and after the program.

What’s your career journey?

The program may have been chosen, but what are you going to do with it once you graduate? Some people may decide the financial boost is what drives them, but this may not be the most fulfilling element for everyone. Think ahead about the work or positions you’d enjoy and make sure your MBA will take you the whole nine yards.

Taking this into account will help you decide whether a general degree or a specialized MBA program will be the best fit.

See it in the flesh

You never truly get a sense of anything without seeing it up close, whether that’s a new location, a new home, or in this instance a place of study.

The importance of visiting an institution shouldn’t be underestimated – no matter how prestigious or well-ranked the program. Traveling to the campus and getting a feel for the place is one of the best ways to find out if you want to go to that business school as you’ll be able to experience campus life, housing, and the culture of the institution and the wider city.

Understandably, not all applicants have the luxury of traveling to numerous institutions before applying, but if you’re accepted on the program, many schools offer visitation days and events to ensure you learn more about the campus and program firsthand.

Or, you may be able to meet university representatives at events held closer to where you live, which will enable you to ask any questions you have and learn more about the campus environment.

Structure of the program

Does the school’s curriculum have a strong focus on your interests? If your quantitative skills aren’t the strongest, would you rather study a program that will help improve them, or one that enhances your solid qualitative knowledge? If you’re hoping to make an industry switch, this may be particularly relevant. Choose the schools that will best prepare you for your planned career.

Other factors to consider include whether you want to study full-time or part-time, or if you need to work during your studies and/or take courses online. Taking these elements into account will help you pick the best program to fit your lifestyle for the next two years. The beauty of an MBA program is they can be tailored to you.

Extracurricular activities

When you think about your business school experience, what sort of community are you looking for? Do you want to see extracurricular groups and events related to your professional goals? Are there activities or resources (political, cultural, etc.) you can’t do without? If you think groups will add value to your MBA experience, it’s important your chosen business school offers you the opportunity.


How important a school’s brand is depends on the individual, but it’s worth considering future employers may have a more favorable impression of reputable MBA programs. However, to land a spot at a prestigious institution, you’ll need to have strong qualifications – as those with strong achievements and stats can afford to be more selective.

Personal considerations

Are you in a relationship? Do you have a family to consider? Do you want to be close to your family rather than struggling with long distance? Do you want to study in an urban or rural area? Will you want to choose an institution in a city you hope to work in after graduation? Make a list of all the things you need from your MBA and be sure to take them into account before making a decision.

Alumni network

The benefit of entering a school’s alumni network can’t be underestimated. But it’s not just alumni connections you should look at – alumni can also serve as an estimate of where your career could be after graduation. Researching the positions and industries of alumni could help applicants decide whether a particular degree would be useful in their field.

Career services

Taking your own career goals into account, how strong is recruitment at the school you’re considering? How much support will you want as a student? Does it match your needs? It’s worth researching how much interaction you will have with the career services at your desired school to see if they will be able to help you when it comes to landing your dream job.

There are a many different factors to take into account when applying to business school, but we hope our points will make the decision making process a little easier.

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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