Choosing a business school is all about finding the school that fits you the best, just as it was when you chose a college for your undergraduate studies. However, your needs have probably changed since then. Business school is a big step up: Not only do the expectations and workload change, but so do your needs and perhaps even your goals. How the school works for you is still important, but you'll probably find that how it works with you and the life you're now living is high on your list of things to consider in the MBA admission process.
Find the best MBA programs that match your career goals
Reflect strongly on your career goals and select a program that will meet your professional development goals. For example, if you want to work on Wall Street, look at MBA schools that serve as feeder schools for the investment market. Simply put, your development goals should mesh with what the program has to offer.
Consider program quality and affordability
Consider the quality and reputation of the programs you're exploring. There are plenty of MBA schools around, but some are better known and more readily recognized by employers than others. This doesn't necessarily mean that they're better, though — and even if they are, you still have to consider your odds of getting accepted and whether or not you can afford to attend them.
Explore teaching staff and methods
Quality and reputation pertains not just to the school, but to the staff that teach there. In some MBA programs, the faculty teach undergraduate programs as well; in others, the professors are dedicated solely to postgraduate teaching. How do you feel about courses taught by junior tutors with limited real-life business experience? Are you comfortable with that or should you insist on learning from senior staff with higher degrees and extensive industry experience?
Before you submit your MBA application or write your MBA essay, don't forget to look at the teaching methods of the school as well. Many MBA programs teach material that is also taught at the undergraduate level — accounting, finance, management, and so on. If you've already learned this material, then the school is probably not a good fit for you. You'll be better served by an MBA program that covers management material and shows you how to apply it through lectures, case studies, projects, simulations, etc.
Peer group is a factor in MBA admission process
If most of your fellow students are straight out of college, you won't learn much about management from them. When you're working closely with other students in groups, discussing cases and solving real problems, experience counts. Consider what you want to get out of the classroom experience and look into the demographics of the student population.
Investigate program flexibility before submitting MBA application
A program's flexibility may be very important to you if you value the ability to attend classes on weekends, at nights, or in the mornings, depending on your schedule. Perhaps you need to defer your studies for a while or switch from full-time to part-time (or vice versa) so you can slow down or speed up your degree depending on your circumstances. Your needs are unique to you and attending a school that can flex with you is important.
Determine if personalized degrees are a good fit for you
Some programs offer flexibility in tailoring your degree to your needs, so when it comes time to market yourself, your degree stands apart from the crowd. The best MBA programs for you might be flexible programs that offer a wide choice in electives that enables you to personalize your degree or the ability to complete career-specific projects. If you know what you want to study and have very specific ideas in mind, a flexible program may be much better suited to you than a program that offers the same curriculum to all its students.
Research schools' networking ability
Some MBA schools have outstanding reputations for graduate career success and opportunities for networking. Whether you're a working professional or just getting started on a career path, a good program will offer these benefits to you and help launch or propel you further forward into a successful and satisfying career.
Consider school location in MBA admission process
Of course, you can't overlook the obvious qualities of a school that are necessary to you as well as to your sanity, such as location and size. Your choices in business schools may be sorely limited by things such as your great job, three kids, and a spouse with his or her own career. Packing up and heading out to a campus a thousand miles away may not be an option. If your locale doesn't offer choices that are suitable to you, consider looking into online programs. They are far more common and acceptable than they were just a few years ago. You may be able to get a great education without ever leaving home.