If you’re not shooting high, or you need to stay very local, make sure your MBA is AMBA accredited. If it isn’t, you may as well wipe your ass with the degree certificate when you get it.
If you have the balls to go for a top MBA, do so. When you need to choose a school, bear in mind that these things mean nothing:
- Anything the school says about how it provides a rounded business education
Rankings really are dung. I mean, don’t face off a #2 school with a #50, but if you’re it makes diddly squat difference between #4 and#7, and once you get to #30 or so, who cares about the ranking anyway? The best advice I ever read is from “MBA Admissions Strategy”, a gem of a book by A.V. Gordon. He said, “Here’s the news. The top schools (in alphabetical order) are: Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth, Fuqua, Harvard, Insead, Kellogg, LBS, Michigan, Sloan, Stanford, Stern and Wharton – with Haas, Johnson, Tuck, Darden, IMD and IESE also there or thereabouts. Nothing will have changed by the time you read this or five years from now.”
If you want to get all Top Gun about it – you can brag to your parents if you went to Harvard, Stanford or Wharton. If you want to brag to anyone who knows about MBAs, go to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Columbia, Kellogg or Chicago GSB.
When you’re trying to differentiate these schools, they all drone on about how they provide a rounded education, and how you can go from this amazing school and do absolutely anything. Because they all say exactly the same thing, it really doesn’t help you choose.
Finally, ignore the course cost. I mean, going from a one year to a two year course makes a difference – but whether a course is $80k or $100k will make bugger all difference three years hence. Concentrate instead on the things that matter.
These things actually are important:
- Alumni destinations
- The feel of the school
Location is obvious. Do you want to freeze your ass off in Michigan for two years, or bathe in sunshine in Berkeley? Also bear in mind that a lot of people in that college come from the local area, and will return to it when they finish. If you want to build a network in Chicago for example, GSB or Kellogg is a good option.
Check out where the alums went. Did they all go into tech startups (Stanford)? Are they all on Wall Street making egregious amounts in private equity (Wharton)? It’s a rough but reasonable indicator of the types of people you’ll be meeting there.
Lastly, the feel. This is the least tangible and THE MOST IMPORTANT thing about a school. Let’s be honest – if you go to a top school, nobody really gives a monkeys which one – you can get into McKinsey if you really want to. But different schools attract different people. You can probably figure this out for yourself – for example, schools in the Midwest tend to be a bit more relaxed, Kellogg has a big rep for marketing, Wharton is very pro “quant”, and so on and so on. The best thing for you is to GO to the schools and the introduction evenings and find out who you get on with, and who you don’t. Pick the people you feel most comfortable with – the people that make you feel like yourself. These people will be your classmates, your network and your friends for the rest of your days.