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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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