The 6 Dimensions In Choosing a Business School

As we exit the dormant months, and minds start to turn to applications season of Fall 2016, I’m starting to get the question: “which schools should I apply to?”

Choosing which business school MBA or EMBA to apply to requires knowledge of each institution, its culture, curriculum emphasis, extramural activities and recruitment opportunities, among many other things. The key parameters to consider are:

1. Fit. You’re paying the money and you’re going to be doing the work, so you want to put yourself somewhere you’ll be happy. Only you will know the answer to whether you want a small or big program, urban or rural, US or Europe or Asia, entrepreneurial or financial, etc. Sometimes it’s okay to knowingly put yourself in a slightly alien environment too, for the growth challenge. Either way, know thyself. Know the school. Choose fit consciously, don’t just apply to the “top” programs and take the highest offer.

2. Brand. Forget rankings. School brand is what matters. That’s what is going to give you your short- and long-term career boost. While rankings bounce around, real brand value of the top b-schools changes very slowly, if at all. If you genuinely don’t know a school’s brand strength, how do you get a sense of it? Every school publishes a list of companies that come to campus, how many graduates they hire, placement rates, and average starting salaries. Quality of recruiting firm and average post-MBA salary is a much better guide to a program’s real prestige than any magazine ranking.

3. Location and recruitment: Location strongly affects the industry orientation of the school and the companies recruiting on campus offering internships and jobs. You will get different exit opportunities in New York than you will in Texas, or Lausanne, Switzerland (IMD). Pick a school with an eye to your exit opportunities.

4. Profile of participants: Make the effort to understand the subtle differences in the type of person each school attracts. INSEAD and LBS both offer MBAs, and there is overlap in the student profile, but there are clear differences. This is true of HBS and MIT, Booth and Kellogg, and everywhere else. Go somewhere where you will more easily make real friends and you will be a lot happier and productive. Better still,  in 15 years, your alumni network will be real.

5. Length, structure, and flexibility: The time it takes to get an MBA can vary from 10 months to almost two years. Longer programs offer more electives, exchange options, and other forms of enrichment including summer internships. If you are younger, chances are you need the time to figure out what you want to do and will benefit from an internship or two on your resume. If you are older, speed of completion may be your highest priority.

6. Electives and options: The core curriculum is effectively the same everywhere and it doesn’t drastically matter where you do it. Electives however, differ significantly from school to school, according to faculty interest and expertise. External projects, “treks,” and exchange opportunities will also vary.

In short, the more you know the better your decision-making will be. Some of the information about schools is easy to find out via the Web. The rest will be more difficult to judge without visiting the campus or talking to current and recent past students.

 

5 Best Practices For An Online MBA Interview

Online MBA interviewing becomes more widespread and more important every year.  I came across this post  providing good advice for Web interviewing from Lindsey Plewa-Schottland, Associate Director at Baruch College’s Graduate Career Management Center.

Tipping my hat to that, I’ve adapted it slightly: here are my five things to remember when doing an Skype or equivalent online MBA interview:

    1. Protocol: Be on time, and be dressed just as if you were meeting in-person for this interview. In other words wear standard professional work clothes. In the U.S. a tie for men is still expected in interview situations. In Europe you have more latitude. 

     2. Check what’s behind you. Skype-type interviews are visually boring– you’re just looking at their talking head, and they are looking at yours. So expect their eye to wander and make sure you have controlled everything in camera view. On the Mac, “Photo Booth” will preview what your camera will show and how you look. No doubt similar exists on for the PC.  

     3. Set yourself at a medium distance. It’s no accident that Nazi (and many other) propaganda films put the camera too close to their target’s face, distorting it. If you sit too close you too will be all nose or all goggle-eyed. Obviously don’t sit too far back either. 

     4. Look at the camera.  This is tricker than it seems. Problem is your interviewer’s face will be on your screen but your camera will be on top of it or above it, which means when you look directly at your interviewer she will perceive you as looking down. Best solution is to minimize the Skype window and put it as close to your camera lens as you can.

     5. Check your Skype pic or gravatar. When dialing up the Skype connection your interviewer will probably see your still photo or icon. You should have a  professional-looking still as your profile picture, and it should be recent enough to be credible when your live video feed appears.

A Behind-The-Scenes Peek Into An MBA Adcom’s Workings

The b-school portal Poets & Quants has changed the game of bringing high-quality information resources to b-school applicants, not least in researching and writing superior MBA admissions articles that go way beyond simple first-principles that you can find anywhere.

A recent piece by John Byrne observes Boston University’s Questrom School of Business seven-member admissions committee in action, led by Assistant Dean of Graduate Admissions Meredith Siegel. It describes how Questrom adcom mulls over the pros and cons of each application, and how it thinks about whether to admit, reject, or waitlist. The full text is well worth a read.

Here are quote highlights for prospective MBA applicants:

“Our goal is not to keep people out,” insists Siegel. “Our goal is to build a class that will be excited by the opportunities here.”

Questrom is looking for a mix [my ital] of the typical admission metrics: a strong undergraduate GPA, solid work experience, a track record of achievement, leadership ability, a good GMAT or GRE score, favorable recommenations, smart answers to both the written and video essay questions, and professional poise and presence in an in-person interview. “There is no formula,” insists Siegel. “The more factors a candidate brings that are above average, the more successful the candidate will be.”

“Unlike in life, we get to pick our family,” says J.P. Matychak, Dean of Student Experience, who sits in on admission committee meetings. “We are looking for non-arrogant, genuine, gritty people, ready and willing to take on the world.” [my ital] Those attributes are integral to the process because the school’s culture emphasizes community and high degrees of collaboration.

The day or two after an application deadline, the admissions team does a quick assessment of undergraduate transcripts, test scores and resumes and immediately says “yes” or “no” to an interview. Roughly half the pool is interviewed in a given year. Then, those who get an interview with an admissions official have their application files assessed by another adcom staffer at the same time. By the time applicant files come to the committee meeting, the candidates have already been interviewed. “It’s so more of us can know the candidate and also keep bias out of the process,” explains Siegel. “So all the candidates have the possibility of having two advocates in the room.”

Most of the decisions in the room are handled quickly, often in less than five minutes. Surprisingly, there is little discussion of GMAT scores, though a few of the applicants have taken the test as many as six times. Instead, all the key elements of an applicant’s file were presented in a way that seemingly gave each metric equal consideration and weight. [my ital]

It’s not uncommon for a committee member to say that he or she “loved” the interaction they had with an applicant or that a candidate is “a good fit with our culture.”

Frequently, there is a nagging question about a profile that fuels an extended conversation. A quant score could below an average, causing concern about the candidate’s ability to handle the core workload. Or their work experience could be light, meaning that there’s either not enough of it or the quality of the work appears less meaningful. And then there are some international candidates whose English language skills could be problematic.

“It’s never easy to turn away someone and say we don’t have a spot for you,” says Siegel. “But it’s not the hardest part of the job. [The hardest part is] making sure that everything we do is reflective of who we are as a community.”

In a typical year, Questrom receives about 1,100 applicants for just under 150 seats. By the end of two full days of meetings in mid-December, the group will admit 93 applicants, deny 22, put 51 more candidates on the waitlist, and defer eight would-be students to get more feedback from Career Management on their employability at graduation.

The entire committee meets 15 times in an admissions cycle, while subsets of the group will gather for other sessions to take a second look at candidates who were initially declined for an interview. All decisions of the committee must be unanimous.

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