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Weighing Your MBA Admissions Results

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As November has transitioned to December we have now reached ‘decision season’ for R1 applicants. By the third week of December the majority of leading programs will have released MBA admissions decisions for candidates who applied during Round 1. INSEAD and London Business School were first out of the gate several days ago, and Chicago Booth is scheduled to release its decisions on Thursday, December 8, after which we will hear from a host of top schools in rapid succession. Accordingly, MBA LiveWire should witness a significant increase in activity over the next few weeks, as candidates share their results, so stay tuned!

Of course, as schools dish out offers, the decision making shifts to the candidate – as he or she begins the process of selecting one of the programs that has made an offer (if he or she is fortunate to have multiple offers), or opts to submit additional applications in the coming rounds, with many deadlines in early January.

This post examines the factors candidates should consider when weighing these choices.

An MBA Degree Is A Means To An End

The MBA is designed to help you accelerate or redirect your career. With that in mind it is important to select the program that will best serve your career aspirations. Examining the career reports of the schools to which you were admitted will be important. Do the companies you are targeting for post-MBA employment recruit directly on campus? If so, do they recruit in numbers, or are their opportunities only available to a select few? If the companies you are interested in are not directly recruiting, does the school have resources available for you to engage those companies? It will also be worthwhile to explore the alumni networks of the schools you were admitted to and see if alumni are well represented in your target industry or firm.

Weighing Short Term v. Long Term Financial Benefits

Some candidates will receive a form of scholarship to complement their positive admissions result. Clearly this helps tip the balance in favor of the school(s) that offers this financial incentive. Some of those scholarships also come with additional advantages that the school(s) provide. You might be considered at the top echelon of students at the program that makes the offer. You can also add this to your résumé, which helps particularly with schools that have adopted a “Grade Non-Disclosure” policy. That all being said, when considering a financial award in your decision, make sure to keep a long term outlook in mind. While a $50,000 award is very tempting in the short run, in the long run it is much less significant when measured against the opportunities a program can provide.

Consider Fit

‘Fit’ is a word used a lot in MBA admissions, and rightly so. You are committing one to two years of your life to the MBA experience; you want to attend a program that you will enjoy, a program in which you will engage and in which you can excel. Whether it is the teaching style, the approach to team work in and out of class, it will be important to make sure you are choosing a program that seems right for you. Networking, which is an important part of the business school experience, will also be more effective when you are in a program you enjoy. An issue related to fit, is the location of the school. Will you thrive in an urban environment which will provide some great advantages and distractions, or will you prefer an environment which is solely focused on the MBA experience?

Don’t Focus Too Much On Rankings

Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the importance of rankings. Part of your application strategy was very likely based on this premise. That being said, there are quite a few leading MBA programs that can be ranked higher than another school for one candidate, but lower for another candidate who has different aspirations. For example, MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg and London Business School are all terrific programs, and if you were admitted by all three you have a very difficult decision to make. Whether one is ranked higher than another in a specific ranking matters little at this stage; it ultimately comes down to which program best serves your goals, and which program appears to be the better fit – enabling you to make the most of the experience.

For those candidates that were admitted at all the schools to which they applied, that’s a terrific problem to have. Lots of choices to make, including the decision whether or not to add a couple of applications in Round 2 if the Round 1 applications were targeted to schools that did not include the very best. At this stage, aside from the application fees and time involved, there is no risk in shooting for the stars.

Attend Admitted Students Events

As you mull over your decisions, you should also be planning to attend the admitted students events that schools host. These might be available on campus, but some schools also host events in regions around the world. This will help provide direct contact with the school and its resources, and just as important, fellow admits (your potential future classmates!). Attend these events if you can. While enjoying these events is important, it is also time to formulate the tougher questions you may have avoided throughout the application process. You should be asking those questions at the admit events, in your interactions with the MBA admissions team, as well as of any alumni you know. This is a significant investment on your part, which obviously also comes with tremendous opportunity cost, so make sure you are making the decision with full disclosure. When you do make your final choice, you will not look back.

When you have made your final decision, in terms of where you plan to enroll, please add your decision to MBA DecisionWire, and enjoy a great MBA experience.

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