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How to select the right business schools for your MBA

How to select the right business school

So you have decided to do your MBA after a few years of experience. You have some idea about what it would take – you have heard about or may have even already done with the GMAT.

For the fence sitters aren’t sure of an international MBA’s value proposition yet, pick up a copy of Beyond The MBA Hype. For an overall view on how to get things started once you’ve made up your mind, read this article on how to get into the best MBA colleges.

The big question to tackle though is, where to go? With nearly 400 schools (per Wikipedia) out there to choose from in the US alone and thousands spread across the world, the prospect can seem daunting and many could falter at this first step itself. This post is an attempt to put some method to this apparent madness and get you started on a firmer ground.


The usual way of choosing business schools

In the absence of any apparent structure, the mind tends to grab any data available and make that as ‘the’ peg.

In this case, that number, more often than not, tends to be the GMAT, in conjunction with Rankings. Most candidates decide the ranking range and then look at the average GMAT – match it with their own score or target score, and just apply.

There are several reasons why this approach is fallacious.

The first issue is, which is the best MBA ranking that you can use? There are several out there – some older, some more popular and some dubious. There is no ranking of these rankings to really decide which to keep as a base.

The next issues is of the GMAT score. Schools don’t publish data of GMAT average by profession/country etc. Those factors, among others, mean that even if you are at the average of a given school, you may be way off the mark when it comes to one of your comparison peer groups.

Remember, schools slice and dice the data in several ways/groups – so there is no one comparison you can prepare yourself for. You need to essentially go all guns blazing in full glory.

If this has left you wondering whether your approach so far has been too simplistic, that’s a productive step forward.

The idea was to debunk the approach you thought is good enough; after all, you are going to put your (or your family’s) hard earned money into this – so ever step should be carefully planned out.

Factors to consider while choosing MBA programs

We wrote a post a while back on what matters in your MBA application. That should be the cue for you. For each of these, try to collect data rather than using gut-feel.

For instance, don’t just go by a school saying that they promote international diversity – check the percent of international candidates – most schools would give that data.

In some cases, the data may have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The GMAT averages for example have to be looked in a slightly different light – the ‘Indian’ GMAT average at a given school tends to be far higher than the overall average.

This is something that you would rarely find hard data about; but if you do enough research, you would know the ballpark number for a given school or at least, in general.

There are also some factors that you would find hard to assess. Your communication skills for instance. Or the soundness of your goals.

The admissions committee’s work is not about being Excel junkies. It is about doing the fine balance between using data and such non-objective information to make the right decision.

For such factors, it is important that you have done your research, have stress-tested these and are not relying only on your judgment. You may think that you are the best orator but others (like Adcoms) may think differently.

Bschool Acceptance Rate for MBA programs

Apart from the factors already mentioned in the previous post, there is one more important parameter that can help you assess the chances of making the cut at a given school. And that is called the selectivity rate or sometimes known as the acceptance rate.

Simply put, this given an indication of how ‘exclusive’ the school is – meaning, of say 100 applications received, how many actually make it. Most schools publish this data though you’ll have to do a bit more digging to get to it.

Internal Vs External Factors that affect business school selection

All the factors mentioned so far are external. Making a decision purely basis a detached, data-based analysis can hardly ever be right though. There are several ‘personal’ filters you should evaluate too.

The first among these is the cost factor. While a generic cost estimate as the one presented on our blog earlier (here’s the link – How much does an international MBA cost?) is good as a starting point, but it should not be taken as a deciding factor.

You should do some ground work here in terms of where the funds will come from; the worst you can do is ‘hope’ you will get a scholarship and that’s how you will manage things. MBA scholarships are rare and near impossible to predict.

There could be other personal filters ranging from the quirky weather preference to industry preference. While your goals should never be modified to meet a given school’s placement records, but make sure you are not shooting in the dark.

If, for instance, a given school has had very few tech placements, and you plan on becoming an IT Consultant after graduating from that school, chance of failure are bright.

So the playbook, if you may, should be to first consider all the objective data about bschools and MBA programs. Match these with your personal filters and then come to the target school list.

Extremes are always questionable. Rarely would an all-out aggressive or too modest a strategy in selecting business schools make sense.

Think of categorizing your list into different buckets – Ambitious, Stretch and Practical for instance. This is going into the next level of analysis and is importance to hedge your risks. Doing this categorization will also be a check on the level of analysis and research you’ve done.

Need help in shortlisting schools that are right for you?

At MBA Crystal Ball, we’ve done a lot of research into this topic. Having spent several years in the industry, we’ve gathered loads of information and data.

We’ve put that all together to create a statistical algorithm that accomplishes the above task to the point of categorization – this is our famed MBA MAP process. Of course, it’s not just an automated process. There is a greater deal of human involvement to judge the non-objective aspects of your profile too – your clarity of career goals, your ability to connect the dots and make an overall good impression on the Admissions Officer.

If you’d like to get a head start on the detailed process outline above, go check it out.

Read these related articles:
How to know if you ‘Fit’ an MBA program and Business School
Fashion industry professional, and Simon MBA admit with scholarship, shares application and MBA Program selection tips
How to plan your MBA Application Timeline
How to get into the top international MBA programs
MBA class size: Small vs Big – Which is better?
Is it a good college or bad college? Here’s how to find out
List of MBA Specializations: Which one to select?
1 Year MBA Abroad vs 2 Year MBA in India
Difference between MBA in India and abroad
How to make the most of campus visits to choose the right business school

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

32 thoughts on “How to select the right business schools for your MBA”

  1. HI MG

    My profile is:
    10th : 89.8%
    12th 89.6%,
    BE (EEE): 84.77 ( Gold medallist)
    GMAT: 530 (Q48, V17, AWA 5.5) 🙁
    I will have 5 yrs of exp in IT Industry by Oct 2016 and so I wish to apply for SPJain 1 yr PGPM programme. Please could you let me know what are my chances if I apply?
    In my IT experiene, I have worked into Production Support for technologies Oracle BI Apps, BI Reporting and have Oracle certifications as well.

    Looking for your assistance please…

  2. Dear MG

    I am an Army officer and want to switch now. Have an experience of over 20 years and age 45 years. Suggest MBA stream. I am in logistics


    • SBS – you seem to be approaching the MBA the wrong way around. At the risk of sounding pedantic, think of what you want to do after MBA first and then assess whether MBA is the right next step.

      At your age/experience, most regular MBA programs won’t be a prudent decision. You can potentially explore the likes of Sloan Fellows and Stanford MSx programs.

  3. Hi MG,

    I am an IT professional with 2.5 years of work experience. I am planning to go for an MBA now that i want to change my career track. Could you please guide me with regards to which colleges/exams I could target keeping in view my work exp.

  4. Great article written for MBA aspirants. Actually an MBA can make or break career of an individual if the right business school is not selected. I have gone through many universities, colleges and institutes which offer MBA, PGDM etc however, I felt that the practical aspect of the education was lacking in most of them.

    [Promotional part edited out by moderator]

  5. Hi MG
    very relevant article.
    I did M.Tech from one of IITs and after that working with Top automotive companies in India only with 10 years of experience in project management. Will 1 year MBA like Insead or IMD switzerland make a sense at this juncture mainly with an intention of settling abroad. I have GMAT=690 (Q=49, V=35).
    Please suggest.

    • RK,

      With your years of experience, you are likely to be a bit of an outlier at INSEAD. IMD, maybe. Also check the options of MIT Sloan Fellow/Stan MSx/LBS Fellows – those will be much more in line with your age/experience bracket.

  6. Hey MG

    I tried to reach you and sameer but to no avail

    My profile is 10th -90 percent(cbse)
    12th-85 percent (cbse)
    BE- 65 percent(1st class) from Mumbai university
    Work ex of 3.5 years as project manager for godrej groups…lots of extra curricular activities
    I’m planning to take my gmat next month and would want your guidance in that

    I have already shortlisted my choice of country for MBA and would need insight from you . Kindly share me your email id or phone number so I can call

    Thank you

  7. Hello sir
    I have got a 316 on GRE with Q170 and V146
    And 660 on Gmat Q50 and V30
    I have applied to 3 Business schools in US such as Georgia, Arizona and BYU
    For Round 2
    My work ex: 4yrs in Indias largest car manufacturer -Production
    Btech – 7.64 from NIT
    Please let me know my chances for admission in these schools and
    Also suggest some other schools based on the above data.
    Thanks in advance
    Best regards

  8. Dear MG

    My profile is:
    10th : 76% (State Board)
    12th: 71.33% (State Board)
    Grad : B.Sc (physics) : 64%
    MBA- Marketing ( tier 2 institute) : 60%
    I have 36 months of experience in Steel Industry in Sales and Marketing Domain. For last 2 years I was preparing for civil services while working for educational institute as a centre administrator but now realized it is not my cup of tea. My previous experience provided me limited exposure as they were limited to a particular region. I need a major thrust to boost my career and want a wide career exposure. In that direction, I am thinking of one year mba in India from reputed institution ( as my experience teaches me brand does matter) . Kindly suggest , with the given profile should I consider one year mba or not.

    Looking for your assistance pls……
    P.s : age – 28 yrs 8 Months.

  9. Hello MG , Please find below my profile summary:
    10th: 84% (WB State Board)
    12th: 86% (WB State Board)
    B.E.: 8.6 CGPA (Jadavpur University)
    Work Exp: 8.5 years in IT (TCS)
    International Exp: 4.5 years (UK & US)

    Age: 30
    Now, I am thinking for doing one year mba from Indian schools. I have not started any preparation as of now, so I think it might take around 2 years for me to get into a school. What are my chances of getting into IIM’s then since by then I’ll have 10+ years of experience. I am mainly thinking to get a job into consulting firms after doing my MBA.

    Could you please suggest whether this will be a good idea. Thanks in advance.

  10. Hello Manish …

    I am Mechanical Engineer currently working in Automotive OEM and having a work experience close to 5 yrs in
    Vendor Development (Supply Chain ) .

    Now I have made up my mind to go for MBA and looking for a distance / online MBA program which will help boost my career in long run. In this regard need your kind guidance . I have some queries which are mentioned below .

    1. Should i go for 1 or 2 Yr MBA program ??
    2. MBA School suggestion ???
    3. Supply Chain + Operations Management will be good ???
    4. Executive Program will be more beneficial ??? …

    My Profile is mentioned below :

    1. BE Mechanical Engineer – 2011 Passout – Panjab University, Chandigarh.
    2. 12th 2007 – 77 % – CBSE
    3. 10th 2005 – 87 % – CBSE
    4. AGE – 26 Yrs

    Looking for your assistance pls……

    Arun Raina

  11. x/xii/cgpa—85/75/6.69,
    cat2015/xat2016/iift2015-94/96.9/98.5(prepare in 2012-13 for mba then plan changed, 2015
    attempt given w/o prep due to civils)

    Engineer – 2012, 1 yr honda experience as a get(35K)
    , ma in political science(IGNOU) and 2 yr fake experience(18K) in same field-
    prepared for civils- cleared prelims twice

    Selected in imt ghaziabad finance(calls iift,xlri bm/hr)
    What should I do give gmat/gre or join imt- avg package -8lh with my profile or retake cat 2016 but that will make
    my profile more vulnerable than it is already now
    Later on want to settle in india
    I have heard that within 2 yr of job u would repay ur loan and save around 15 lh rs easily
    I can get 720 score in gmat (though i don’t much inclination for going abroad)
    My friends are saying that retaking cat will not solve my problem as my profile not suited to
    marketing,hr,operation(i don’t wanted to do), and for finance i have to do cfa no matter from where i graduated– i
    have no particular interest in any field as such
    I also have interest in public policy issues but don’t want to be professor-earn decent money

    • Mohit, your post seems very hurried and inundated with too many unstructured queries. First things first, I am not sure what you mean by ‘fake experience’? NEVER ever indulge in unethical practices – either for an application in general; its just not worth it.

      It will be too premature for me to comment on your career without knowing your goals/aspirations/personality in detail. In general however, a bird in hand is worth a lot more in the bush.

      Finally, I have no idea what your friends are saying – CFA is definitely not imperative for ‘finance’ – simply because that is such a broad field. In fact, there isn’t a single field within finance where CFA is a must.

  12. Hi,

    I have done Btech in Mechanical domain with an aggregate of 66.6%
    12 – 74%
    10 – 80.6%
    Ielts score – 7.5
    GMAT/GRE – Due to be given
    Work Experience – 3 years 04 months with Evalueserve in Intellectual Property domain

    Kindly suggest good colleges for 1-year MBA. Also, with my credentials can I apply for IIMs’ 1-year program?


    • Neha, in India, the main target should be ISB. You wouldn’t qualify for the IIM courses but check once as they keep modifying their intake criteria year over year.

      Outside India, you can look at schools in Europe and Asia most of which tend to be about a year long.

  13. Hi,
    I just wanted to know what do you mean by ” The GMAT averages for example have to be looked in a slightly different light – the ‘Indian’ GMAT average at a given school tends to be far higher than the overall average.”, and how much GMAT score would be enough for tier 1 MBA schools considering good academics and 3-4 years of work experience.

  14. Hi MG!

    I have heard about you from many different forms and Blogs.

    I am 25 yr old Male with following credentials:-
    *10th- 9.2 CGPA
    *12th- 93.2%
    *B.Tech NIT Kurukshetra- 7.65 CGPA
    *3 yrs experience in Blue Chip IT companies as Data Analyst
    *Extra curricular in College and Workplace
    *Active member of India Red Cross Society

    GMAT score 660
    I want switch my role to Management Consultant and wanna work in any of top 3 consulting firm.
    Given the work permit scenario I am planning to pursue MBA from either India or Canada in 2022 intake. Please provide me the guidance on how to choose colleges and whether I should go for another GMAT attempt? Is CAT an option for me?


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