Choosing The MBA Program For You (And How Many To Apply To)!

Choosing an MBA program is important, but it doesn’t have to be hard! MBA admissions and choosing which MBA program is best for you is a whole lot less stressful with a step-by-step guide.

Guess what today’s video is!

Angela Guido is here with 7(!) steps you NEED to follow to select the right business schools for you WITHOUT being overwhelmed. Along the way, she’ll be covering the number of schools to apply to, when to do MBA program research, general tips for the MBA admission process and everything else you need to build a solid portfolio of schools to aim high while keeping your feet on the ground.

Not tried yet to learn how your statistics stack up against MBA admits at the top business schools? Now’s a great time to find out!

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Welcome back the MBA Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, a Career and MBA Coach for many, many years here to help you get the most out of your career and your MBA journey. Last week I talked about the rankings, what they mean, do they matter, and how we use them to help our clients select the schools that they're going to apply to. Today, I'm going to give you a step-by-step process to choose your portfolio of target schools, so that you can do what we do for our clients. Give yourself a chance to aim high while still keeping your feet on the ground.

How To Choose The Right MBA Program For You

All right. This is, I think, a seven-step process. I try to reduce everything to three or four steps because, let's face it, nobody's got an attention span to do seven things. But I want this video to be incredibly thorough so that you can really, really do this right. So bear with me, I'm going to take you through seven steps to help you land at the best business school for you.

  1. Step number one is to start with the rankings. As I said in the last video, the rankings of all the reputable institutions do give you kind of a general sense of what the general public believes are the very best schools, the next best schools and the ones after that. And just to kind of sum it up, most people agree that Harvard and Stanford are in a league of their own. Certainly their acceptance rates would reflect that fact as well. Next comes Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg. After that, we've got MIT, Columbia, Yale, Dartmouth, and after that we've got a ton of great programs that are also very well equipped to set you up for success in your career. I'm talking schools like Michigan, Cornell, the University of Texas, NYU, Berkeley, UCLA, Duke, Darden. This is quite a long list. Who am I missing? Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, Foster. And then there's even more programs beyond that that are also really fantastic and I'm still just talking about the US schools. In Europe we've got INSEAD, we've got ISE, we've got LBS, we've got IMD, we've got HEC, we've got programs in Europe. There are so many MBA programs that are worth your consideration that you may find yourself a little bit overwhelmed if you just start with the rankings but that is nonetheless where you want to start.

  2. Step number two is to gather all of your statistics and to get them in order. So I'm talking about your GMAT or GRE score, your GPA, your years of work experience, the companies that you've worked at, the number of promotions that you've gotten, and anything else about yourself that is sort of black and white, quantifiable going to appear on the resume. Get all of that together and quickly take stock of where all of your numbers are at.

  3. Third step is to go to MBAmo and see what MBAmo says about where you line up with the schools that you're targeting vis-à-vis the rankings. MBAmo is our MBA odds calculating robots and for free, for like 30 seconds of work, entering your data into MBAmo, he will spit out a 20-page report that will not only tell you where you line up with the top 30 US MBA programs individually, one at a time, but he will also tell you all the ways in which you might want to adjust certain aspects of your candidacy, like your GMAT score, like your GRE score, to become more competitive at the schools that you are targeting.

  4. And that, by the way, is step number four. Look and see if there are things that you can do now, between now and when you apply, to increase the strength of your candidacy. Your GPA is water under the bridge, but your GMAT and GRE score may still be variables that you can improve. So think carefully about if you want to take the test again and get a higher score. If you are done with the test, but you still want to bolster your quantitative profile, you might look at taking an additional course where you can go and learn business statistics or accounting and get an A and just add a little bit more numerical credibility to your profile. One of the things you may also find is that when you look at MBAmo or when you assess yourself vis-à-vis the candidates that tend to get into your target schools, you may decide that you're not quite ready to get an MBA. You want a little more work experience, you want to change jobs, you want to actually grow and get promoted in your current company, or move a step in the direction of your goals. So now is the moment to really assess if this is the right time to apply and if you have all the statistics that you need to aim as high as possible.

  5. Once you've decided it's time to apply, now you need to choose your target schools. This is step number five. So we recommend that you apply to between five and eight schools. This is the sweet spot for most people, and you want to choose some schools that for you are a reach, meaning that if you look at your statistics and the statistics of the people who tend to end up at those schools, you might be a little bit on the weaker side. So these are schools where you still may well have a fighting chance of getting in, and even if you don't have a fighting chance, if you didn't try for it – if you're honest with yourself – you'd regret it. There are certain programs where if you just don't try, you're always going to wonder. So you'll have some of those in the mix. We call those reach schools. Then you'll have some schools where your statistics where MBAmo says you're a match. Your statistics are strong in the same way that historical admits’ statistics are strong. Those are match schools. And then safer schools are the ones where your average GMAT, your average GPA, the brands on your resume are slightly stronger than the average candidates who've attended those programs. And the reason you need one or two safety schools in the mix is because, as I say in just about every video on this channel, most people will benefit from almost any top MBA program. You don't have to go to the top top top to achieve what you want to achieve in your career. You can go to a school in the top 20 or the top 30 or even the top 100 and still achieve your dreams. And that's really the most important thing. The brand of the MBA is really secondary to the quality of your experience and what you gain from the MBA. So for most people, safer schools end up being amazing experiences that totally change their lives. So don't forget to add one or two safe schools to the mix so that's step five, choose your schools and make sure it's a portfolio that rounds out your risk.

  6. Step number six is to research these schools. A lot of people put research much earlier in the process. You look at the rankings, you look at Harvard, and you go off and you do a bunch of research and you start falling in love with Harvard. And then before long, you realize you're not going to be a fit for Harvard. There's no chance that you're going to get in with your statistics. Now, I would never say that there's no chance that anyone is going to get in because among our clients, we've had clients who've gotten into Harvard with statistics that were not a match. With lower GPAs, lower GMAT, more work experience, less work experience… It's very hard to know what the actual outcome is going to be until you try, which is why you need to try for reach schools, even if the odds are stacked against you, if you have your heart set on a certain program. But don't dig super deep into researching the right school for you until you've honed in on a set of schools that feels like it's in your range. Now you're going to look at things like, does this school set me up for the specific goals that I want to have? Is it in a place… geography really should have come into the picture much sooner. If you're constrained geographically, then focus on the schools in your geographic reason. But most MBAs are not geographically constrained and even if you say don't want to live in Chicago for the rest of your life, if you go to business school in Chicago, you can easily recruit to go work in California or New York. Most Booth and Kellogg alums leave the Midwest post MBA. So don't think that by committing to a geography for your MBA, you're necessarily committing to that geography for the rest of your life. Okay. That was a geography sidebar. I think we have to put it in, though, because it's really important. Back to the question of research. So you're looking into schools where they're going to set you up for the career goal that you want. They have cultures that you feel an affinity for. They have clubs and opportunities that are really going to give you what you want to help you advance your skillset and your leadership toolkit to advance in your career. That research is going to be very important for your MBA essays and your MBA interviews. So you have to do research, frankly, quite a bit of research before you submit your applications.

  7. But that's not the final step. Now you're going to apply to business school and see what happens. The last step, and this is maybe the most important one. If you followed my advice to apply to five to eight schools, and you calibrated yourself wisely, there's a good chance that you're going to get into more than one school. So step seven is to choose the best program for you once you've gotten in to your target school. This can be a very difficult decision for people. When you're admitted to two or three programs that you really put your heart and soul into gaining access to, it's hard to really say no to any one of them, and it's also hard to really discern which one is truly the best for me. If you're in this position, we have an article we'll link in the description about how to make a decision when you've been admitted to multiple schools and how to really drill down and do the really specific kind of research you need to do to make a final decision between which school is best for you and which ones you're going to have to sadly say no to. But that really is the final step. Most of our clients get into multiple schools and choosing the right one for you, after all the offers are on the table, is its own challenge and its own step in this process. I'm really hoping that you're going to have that very high-quality problem of having gotten into more than one MBA school and therefore needing to make a really challenging choice between great options.

So that's the seven-step process to choose, apply to, and then finally decide on the very best MBA program for you, keeping in mind that the best MBA program for you is not necessarily the program that's best for everyone. So you start with the rankings, you whittle down the list, you do your research, and then the final choice of where to go is ultimately a very personal one. Believe it or not, we've had clients who said no to Harvard in favor of schools that were ranked in the top 15 because they felt that that was the best place for them to advance their career. So start with the rankings, find your perfect match MBA program, and go forth and conquer. I will see you next week on MBA Monday.

Sign up for a free MBA strategy call right here:

Free Strategy Call

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

All Posts

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, March 2024)

Read More

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, February 2024)

Read More

The highest quality MBA resources you’ll find this month. (Jonny’s MBA Bulletin, January 2024)

Read More