HOW TO SELECT A BUSINESS SCHOOL

Finding the optimum combination of characteristics for you demands a careful investigation of your alternatives. To this end, you will find the ETS publication Graduate Study in Management an invaluable tool. It gives brief profiles of over 400 business schools. Several other publications found in the Career Center library are worth reviewing. They include: The Official Guide to MBA Programs, The Insider's Guide to the Top Ten Business Schools and The Best Business Schools. Olin Library has a complete set of business school catalogs. They can help you in your preliminary search for information. On occasion, representatives from various business schools visit campus to discuss their programs with interested students. They can provide information not available in the catalog and answer your individual questions. Although business schools rarely interview students for evaluative purposes, most welcome visits from prospective students. They will usually try to introduce you to a student, possibly a Wesleyan graduate, who can show you around and answer questions on the realities of life as an MBA student.

METHOD OF INSTRUCTION

Although no school relies solely on one teaching method, most favor one style of teaching/learning. The case method is an inductive learning process in which students acquire business skills by dealing with specific examples. There is a strong emphasis on classroom discussion and group work and students are frequently asked to "think on their feet." Students with little work experience are sometimes overwhelmed by this teaching method. Harvard is probably the staunchest proponent of case method instruction.

Other schools (the University of Chicago, for example) place far greater emphasis on theoretical learning. There may be significant attention paid to developing strong quantitative skills. Instruction is similar to that of undergraduate institutions; lecture courses are standard. Understandably, students entering business schools directly from undergraduate study tend to feel comfortable in schools emphasizing this teaching method.

In considering schools, it is important to note the balance between the case method and theoretical teaching. Keep in mind that various approaches will not only affect your compatibility with the school, but also indicate the qualities a particular school might be seeking in its applicants. Thus, Harvard, with its heavy use of case method teaching, tends to accept a class of which a high percentage has had prior work experience.

CURRICULUM

The curriculum and opportunity to specialize are important factors for you to review in selecting business schools. Most programs include a group of core courses to give knowledge of fundamental areas--finance, accounting, marketing and general management. However, the flexibility of elective options varies widely. At some schools you will be asked to select a concentration and courses are highly regulated. At others, you will be able to select courses from outside your concentration and possibly from outside the business school as well. If you are interested in a particular aspect of business- entrepreneurship, e-commerce, Not-For-Profit management, etc., choosing a business school with these courses in their curriculum is wise.

REPUTATION

With the proliferation of MBA programs and the resulting sharp increase in the number of MBAs, the reputation of the school can have a major influence on the marketability of its graduates. Various surveys rating the "top" business schools are published each year. You may find consulting several of them useful and informative. Other schools enjoy excellent regional reputations and may be equally good choices for you. Talk to professionals in your target field for recommendations for programs known for producing successful graduates.

EMPLOYMENT AFTER GRADUATION

One of the primary motivations of students entering business school is to get a good job upon completion of their MBAs. It is certainly important to consider how a particular school's graduates do in the job market. Many schools publish a report that you can request and study carefully. Sometimes information on employment is contained in the catalog. You can also ask questions of the representatives of the business schools when they visit campus. Some questions to note and consider in judging a school's employment record are:

  • Is it a regional or a national school? 
  • In other words, are its graduates working all over the country or predominantly in one locale? 
  • How extensive is its on-campus recruitment program? 
  • Are the companies interviewing on campus from all over or just one section of the country? 
  • Is a wide range of industries represented? 
  • What other services does the career office provide? 
  • What kinds of jobs do graduates accept? 
  • At what salary? 
  • What differences are there for those who entered business school directly from undergraduate work and without technical degrees? 

Although the placement record of a school is only one of a number of factors to be considered, it is nevertheless one important indication of the return your investment of time and money will provide.

LOCATION

The location of a business school can have a significant effect on your personal and social life, but its impact on educational opportunities should not be minimized. Location can determine the type of internships and projects likely to be available. Thus schools located near the steel industry, for example, will be likely to offer projects involving that. If you plan to go into business in a particular city or region, you may do well to consider the schools with good reputations and placement records in that area.