The Admit’s Burden: How to Decide Where to Attend Business School

Top view of businessman standing against directions background

The hard work has paid off. After studying for and taking the GMAT, coaxing mentors to pen recommendations, writing and rewriting your essay, and waiting for admission decisions, you’ve received letters of admission from more than one of the business schools you applied to. Now the clock is ticking and it’s your turn to make a decision.

Though this is the best situation you could have hoped for, your impending decision can feel like a burden — how do you choose among many attractive options, each of which will shape the next years of your life? The following three considerations will help you choose the school that best furthers your career and fosters an amazing MBA experience.

 

1. Keep the end in mind

Whether you’re going to business school to climb up the corporate ladder, gain the know-how to start your own venture, or pivot to a new industry, choose the school that will best help you achieve your career goals. Each school has its own strengths, and the strengths of the school you choose should fit with where you want to go.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, which school has the best resources for entrepreneurship? Does the school have an entrepreneurship concentration or track? Are there clubs or school organizations that sponsor pitch competitions or renowned faculty that teach classes on entrepreneurship? If you want to work for a particular company after graduation, make sure that that company or industry recruits from your school choices. Are there current alums working for this company or in well placed in this industry? These kinds of questions can help you discern which school makes the most sense for your career.

Often though, all of the schools you got into will be well suited to help you get where you want to go — that’s why you applied to them in the first place. If there is no clear winner among your choices, don’t worry. Again, this is a great situation to be in, and the following considerations can help you reach a decision.

 

2. Calculate the true financial value

The ROI of an MBA is much more favorable than the financial return on other graduate degrees. That being said, the cost of your education can’t be ignored. The average monthly loan payment for a business school grad in 2014 was $635 a month for a standard 10-year repayment plan. For a graduate of NYU’s Stern School of Business, it was $1,300 a month. That’s a staggering amount of money, especially when you remember that these figures do not include any debt that may remain from your undergraduate degree.

However, choosing the best school does not equate to choosing the cheapest school you got into or the one that offered you the largest scholarship or financial aid package. You also need to consider what you’ll likely earn upon graduation. Though Stern graduates, like most graduates of top-10 programs, will be handing over more than grand a month in loan payments, most will be earning more than six figures after their MBA. Though expensive, their education can be affordable depending on their chosen field.

There are other factors to consider outside of cost and expected salary. The size and influence of alumni networks can also pay dividends throughout your life through connections that can help you find employment and advance your career. Take all of these factors into account when deciding between schools. Sometimes a higher-ranked but more expensive school makes financial sense when you consider the boon it will give your starting salary and career opportunities.

 

3. Check your gut

Sometimes choosing a school is simply a matter of trusting your gut. Especially when choosing between schools that look similar on paper, it’s the intangible qualities, the small yet significant differences between schools, that guide your choice. As cliche as it sounds to go with your heart or trust your feelings, this advice rarely misleads. Think about it: you’re going to spend the next two years of your life at a school — if you don’t vibe with the people, the place, or the culture, you’re not going to get the most out of the time and money you’re spending.

The best way to assess your gut feeling is to visit the school. Try to attend each school’s admitted students weekend if you can. See what campus is like and if you can picture yourself there for the next two years. If you live a great distance from campus, check for local events hosted by your admitted schools. Wherever you can find them, talk to alumni and current students to learn about their own experiences and to get the inside scoop on what attending the school is like. Ask about course load, social life, clubs, treks, abroad experiences, and anything else that you’d like to take part in. Find the place you’re most excited to become a part of and trust your intuition.

Finally, don’t neglect geography. Is the school you’re considering in a location you’d want to live in for the next two years or the next 20? Obviously if you dream of settling on the west coast, you’ll have a much easier time of finding a job there and benefit from a larger alumni network if you choose to attend a business school on the west coast.

 

Are you currently going through the decision process? What else are you considering as you make your decision. Let us know below!