4 Steps to Select Your Business School

4 Steps to Select Your Business School

TopMBA.com outlines 4 vital steps to help select a business school. If you are interested in becoming an international manager you may soon join the ranks of qualified MBAs. But business schools are not all the same. You need to carefully research your choice of school to ensure that it matches your personal requirements.

A systematic process for making your business school choice should be adopted. The QS World MBA Tour and TopMBA.com conduct annual research of 400 business schools, 50,000 MBA applicants and 500 MBA recruiters to assist you and some of the findings are summarized below.

Step 1: Why should I take an MBA?

The very first step is to analyze your personal motivations for taking an MBA. Are you a career switcher, or a career progresser? Do you want to carry on working whilst you take your MBA, or do want to focus on your studies and consider your options? Is a jump in salary what matters most, or do you seek international experience? Is your primary goal to broaden your education and your horizons, or to develop specialist skills for career enhancement? An honest self-assessment will save you a great deal of time and energy and help you make a more focused selection of schools.

QS research (see table 1) demonstrates that MBA applicants around the world take an MBA for career related reasons, to learn new skills and to build a professional network though "enabling a career change" has noticeably increased in importance in recent years. Boosting salary remains only the 5th most important factor, comparable with starting own business.

Table 1




To improve career prospects



To learn new skills



To build a professional network



To enable a career change



To boost salary




To start own business



Primarily for education



Source: Topmba.com Applicant Survey 2008

Step 2: Identify career goals

The second thing to do when considering business school is to try to narrow down the types of career you might like to pursue, balanced by a realistic self-assessment of your current abilities and skills base. Examine your motives carefully. Determining where you want to work after graduation should be a major part of this process.

Why ask these questions? For practical reasons, most business school application forms ask for your career aspirations. They want to see a clear, cogent explanation of where you want to be in the future and why that school can help you get there. For example, if you think you want to become a management consultant or an investment banker with a starting compensation of over US$130,000, there are only 50 or 60 international business schools, of which 50% are in the US, where these companies actively recruit. If you wish to work in a particular country, you may well be better off taking your MBA in that county and accessing the school's local recruiter and alumni network.

Step 3: Budget and study mode

The full time MBA is still by far the most popular program in terms of candidate numbers. Part time and executive MBAs are growing, but are still quite small by comparison. The standard period for an international full time MBA in the USA is two years.

In Europe, London Business School and IESE offer a two-year program, whereas IMD, INSEAD, IE, Cambridge, Cranfield, Warwick and other leading programs are one year.

In Europe, the annual cost of an MBA can be as little as £5,000 or as much as £34,000 for tuition, with books and living expenses a further cost. However, financial aid opportunities exist that can make the most costly programs affordable. Scholarships are offered by a variety of organizations, and many local banks offer low-start loans for the period of your study. Individuals are advised to apply to the school of their choice and to make specific enquiries about funding options.

If you wish to carry on working during your MBA, this will narrow down your choice of schools very quickly. Part time, executive MBA and distance learning study become the only options. For example, over 25,000 people are now using distance learning for an MBA or similar diploma with British institutions alone. Average costs for distance learning vary from £4,000 to £20,000 spread over 3 to 8 years.

Step 4: Determining the criteria for your choice of school?

Despite the media frenzy surrounding rankings, our research suggests that candidates vary significantly in terms of the criteria which matter to them in selecting a business school. During the QS World MBA Tour, candidates can review TopMBA Scorecard - a radically new applicant research tool which will allow them to apply their own weightings to a detailed set of selection criteria. Our research indicates the most popular selection criteria for choosing a business school are international reputation and career placement record, though return on investment and availability of scholarships important too. Rankings come only 7th.

Table 2: Business School Selection criteria


2008 (2007)

Career Placement Record

1 (1)

Return on Investment

2 (5)

Quality of Academic Staff

3 (6)

School Reputation

3 (3)

Profile of Students / Alumni

5 (6)

School Specialisations

5 (4)

Recent School Ranking

7 (7)

Accreditation Status

8 (7)

Scholarships / Financial Aid

9 (8)

Convenience of Location

10 (11)

Teaching Style

11 (10)

Course Length

12 (13)


13 (12)

Source: Topmba.com Applicant Research 2008

Career placement record is a priority for the majority of applicants - helping candidates in their job search is a key component of the MBA. Each business school has a career service department. Some schools attract companies to come on campus to interview students. The Wharton School in Philadelphia attracts as many as 400 companies to campus, of which roughly 300 are US-based recruiters and 100 are international recruiters.

INSEAD and LBS attract between 100 - 200 companies to campus, most of which are international recruiters. Today, the majority of MBAs find their jobs through an off-campus search and over 100 business schools subscribe to TopMBA/Careers, the leading online jobs network for MBA students.

Knowing your motivations, whatever they are, is the most important first step to business school success. It will get you through the interview process and stand you in good stead for your MBA and post-MBA experience. As it is such an involved process, getting it right from the start is essential. Do as much research as you can; visit the QS World MBA tour, look at Scorecard, read websites, talk to as many alums and admissions people as you can and move forward confidently with your choices.

Written by QS Blogger
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