Evaluating M.B.A. Programs

When you imagine your ideal MBA program, what factors are most important to you? What type of program best suits your career needs, budget, and lifestyle situation? Ultimately, you'll have to decide what's right for you; however, there are some basic criteria by which you can judge which M.B.A. programs.

  • Reputation/Ranking
  • Location
  • Class Size
  • Student Culture
  • Intership & Career Placement Opportunities
  • Average Starting Salary
  • Cost

Do Your Research

Researching your options is obvious. But with so much information out there, where do you start?

  • Your Network – Tap into the experience of your friends, relatives, colleagues, and mentors. Where did they attend? What factors were most important to them?
  • School Websites – There's no better resource for in-depth information on M.B.A. programs.
  • Other Websites – Top destinations include TopMBA, Business Week, Vault, US News, and GMAC. These sites are often more valuable for their message boards.
  • KaplanGMAT.com – Access top admissions advice through insightful articles, videos, blogs, and more.
  • M.B.A. Fairs – Fairs, like the World MBA Tour, provide an opportunity to meet admissions reps and alumni of a wide variety of MBA programs at one venue.
  • Students & Alumni – There's no better way to learn about the student culture and experience. If you don't know any students or alums from your target programs, ask the admissions office to connect you with some.
  • Rankings – Various publications issue annual or biannual rankings of MBA programs. Although U.S. News and World Report and Business Week are perhaps the most well known in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times also release rankings.

More on Rankings...

School rankings are controversial. And although they can be useful tools in comparing programs, it's important to recognize their limitations and put them into proper perspective. No rating system, no matter how sophisticated or complete, can capture the full measure or worth of a program—and the issuers of these reports are generally the first ones to point this out.

In addition, each ranking uses a different methodology, so be certain that you understand the criteria they,re using and how this affects their rankings. U.S. News and World Report, for example, bases their ratings on a school's reputation among professors and academics, its reputation among recruiters, and its "student selectivity ranking" (consisting of GMAT scores, GPA, and proportion of students admitted), among other things. The U.S. News and Wall Street Journal rankings do not gather any input from students, although some others do.

Ultimately You Are the Best Judge

The b-school you attend should be based on the strengths of the individual program in which you are interested, its campus environment, and what you see as the best overall "fit" between your needs and the benefits of the particular program.