One of the first things that most people interested in an MBA will do is research top MBA schools and start dreaming about walking through the hallowed halls of Harvard, Berkeley, Northwestern, Kellog or the other best MBA schools on the planet.
They think to themselves, “The movers and shakers leading the corporate world attended the top MBA schools, so I need to go to one too if I want to be one top. And not to mention the respect I will get with an MBA from one of the top MBA schools!”
It is true that graduates from the top MBA schools often do find success in the business world, but you don’t necessarily need an MBA from the best MBA schools to achieve your goals in business. MBA school ranking alone will not indicate to you whether an MBA school will help you to get to where you want to be.
Rank doesn’t mean much if you can’t get in
Dreaming about the best schools is nice, but when it comes to the process of applying to MBA school, you should concentrate most of your energy on making yourself the best applicant for the best program that you can realistically get into. At the same time, you should apply to a few “reach” schools, which are schools where your GPA and GMAT are below their average for acceptance.
There’s a method used by MBA admissions coaches called the “1:2:1” rule. For every two schools that you apply to and are likely to get in, apply to one reach school, and one safety school. That way, you’ll almost certainly get admitted to several good schools, and you may even luck out and get into your “reach” schools.
Rank doesn’t mean much if you’re not a good fit
How you fit into an MBA program and how you spend your time as an MBA student has much more of an effect on your post-MBA school success than simply the ranking of the program you attend.
There’s a growing trend among MBA school programs: segmented curriculum catered to different demographics. Some MBA schools are meant for fresh-out-of-undergrad 22 year olds. Other MBA programs are for late-in-life applicants. Others are even structured for young applicants who want to earn dual BS/MBA degrees.
Each MBA program has a different focus and each program is affiliated with a different network of businesses, so the best thing you can do is to identify what your post-MBA goals are, then identify which school will help you achieve those goals.
Attending a top MBA school might be a viable option for you, but you may discover that other MBA schools without a big brand name will help you reach your goals just as well, if not better than the top MBA schools because their programs are made for you.