Shortlisting the right business schools is one of the most important steps in one’s MBA applications process. After all, a candidate can get optimal admits only when one applies to an optimal list of schools. Unfortunately, with the serious focus on the content and style of essays, only a fraction of candidates lay the required emphasis on the process of schools shortlisting. ‘Perception’, ‘Brand Value’, and – worst of all- ‘Rankings’ often end up deciding the fate one’s portfolio of schools. Apparently, such approach may lead to sub-optimal results. Here is an organized approach towards schools shortlisting. Follow this six steps strategy for shortlisting the business schools in a systematic, effective manner…Know your career plans
Before shortlisting the schools, have a broad idea of the ‘theme’ of your MBA applications. Try connecting your background and experiences with the need for an MBA, target industry and profile immediately after MBA, and long term inspirations. Then, look for Business Schools whose strength converge with the nature of your plans. Any business school wants to select candidates who can make apt use of its resources and pursue a worthy career. Shortlisting schools whose strengths overlap with one’s career plans not only increases one’s chance of selection but also leads to better career opportunities after the MBA. Try to find business school rankings as per the ‘MBA Specialties’ and research about the industry wise distribution of recent pass outs from your target schools
Avoid perceptions, research well
Often, a candidate’s aspiration for the GMAT and a Global MBA begins with the big names- Harvards and Whartons of the world. Sometimes, it also begins with a few familiar names in the vicinity. Please avoid such perceptions and research well about the various options available; a wise thought suggests that one must know well about what one chooses to leave. My own pursuit for GMAT started with three familiar names in my vicinity- ISB, NUS, and Nanyang. However, after getting my GMAT score and conducting thorough research, I ended up preferring other, previously unknown (or seemingly out of the reach), options and went on to pursue my MBA from a completely different institution in a distant geography; from a perception that scholarships for an MBA program are an unknown phenomenon, I obtained 100% scholarship from a prominent institution and have, ever since, helped hundreds of my students obtain serious scholarships. Hence, avoid perceptions and conduct your research
Study the current class profile | Be realistic about your chances
The profile of the current class is of great use in evaluating one’s synergy with a business school and the chances for selection in the same. Study the average years of experience, average GMAT, average GPA of the class to get an honest idea of whether you belong to the fraternity. If your credentials are way better or significantly inferior than the class averages, you need to reconsider. Crucially, you need to be realistic about your chances and examine the same critically/analytically rather than being over optimistic or pessimistic
Know your budget
With everything in life, it is important to know your budget. Shortlisting the business schools is no different. Have clear answers to what you can fetch through personal savings & family support and how much you can/are-willing-to borrow. Understand the scholarship opportunities and try to factor in the same while shortlisting the schools.
Spread the risk
Neither be too optimistic not too pessimistic about the results. Try to have a balance of Dream, Practical, and Safe schools. Generally, a good strategy is to apply to 2-4 dream schools, 3-5 practical schools, and 1-2 safe schools. Again, use the legends- Dream, Practical, Safe- after an honest circumspection and introspection
Use ‘Rankings’ effectively
Don’t get too sensitive about the ranking of the schools and take the same with a pinch of salt. Please (PLEASE) don’t apply to a school because it’s ranked ‘X’ and don’t don’t apply to a school because it’s ranked ‘XX’. Use logical factors- specialties, placement statistics, location, tuition/ROI etc in reaching a decision. In most cases, the-much-heard-of-approach “I will either study in a top 20 business or I won’t pursue an MBA at all” is not correct. If one needs the academic and co-curricular rigor in business management for career advancement, one needs it. A better approach is“I will get into the best possible school that my credentials/finances allow and I shall be among the best performers there”
Last: Don’t hesitate in seeking help
The aforementioned six steps shall help you in approaching the convoluted business schools shortlisting process in a systematic, methodical way. However, if you think that you do not have the bandwidth to conduct the thorough research, please seek help. See if you can get an effective MBA Admissions Consultant that you can trust. Else, reach out to the seniors who may have been in your shoes in the recent past. However, ensure that you take well informed decisions and apply to the right set of schools. Remember, you won’t get the best admit for you if you don’t apply to the best school for you!