Does it really matter which business school you attend?Is there a difference between London Business School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, or Cambridge University’s Judge Business School? Is one MBA better than the other?
Many prospective students find themselves pondering these and many other questions as they decide where to submit their MBA applications, and with a multitude of business school choices spread out all over the world to pick from, prospective MBA applicants often find themselves in a bit of a panic. It is typically at this stage that they reach for the US News and World Report Business School Ranking or the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings, hoping for some direction or guidance.
While ranking lists are a great place to start, you shouldn’t base your decision on rankings alone. As you decide where to spend the next 1-3 years, it might be helpful to consider some of the following points, as well:
a) Alignment of the program with your goals
Ultimately, you want to attend a program that will nurture skills and provide experiences you need to progress in your career. Therefore, you need to honestly ask yourself whether your prospective program will really help you thrive and succeed.
It is important to consider the program’s strengths and key specializations, as well as location, and how they align with your own aspirations; for example, if you are dead set on global finance, then perhaps you could consider London Business School, whose graduates overwhelmingly end up working in the finance sector.
b) The Alumni Network
The strength and diversity of the alumni network are also critically important. Alumni can help MBA students and graduates land internships and jobs; additionally they can offer advice and mentorship, as well as networking opportunities.
Although many MBA programs pride themselves in having strong global alumni networks, they seldom provide any metrics, besides numbers and alumni achievements, to corroborate their assertions. Current students and recent alumni are usually good sources for information about a school’s alumni network. Additionally, The Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the Financial Times publish alumni network rankings that you may find useful. Remember, though, as with all rankings, they should only be used as guides!
c) Financial Assistance
MBAs are expensive, so attending a business school that offers financial assistance, whether in the form of fellowships, scholarships, or loan programs and partnerships, is helpful, more so if you are international student. Why? International students do not always have access to traditional loan programs; for example, in the United States, international students would not have access to federal student loans or private alternative loans, typical avenues used by US permanent residents and citizens to fund graduate education.
However, some business schools have specific loan programs for international students, such as University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Harvard University’s Business School. Additionally some of the most reputable business schools in the United States and the United Kingdom have partnerships with Prodigy Finance, an institution that offers loans exclusively to international students, giving them an opportunity to meet most or all of the costs associated with obtaining a postgraduate education.