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Choosing A Business School

If you’re applying to business school, deciding where to apply to can be a difficult process. With over a hundred schools to choose from, how do you know which are the right ones for you?

Our guide takes you through a number of factors to consider that will help you narrow down your options.

1. Location

Unless you have plans to apply to specific schools (e.g. only those in the top 10, or within your neighbouring states), then location is a good way to start shortening your list.

Research the area of each school carefully, and think about whether it offers the types of companies or other places you might want to work at once you complete your business program.

Part of your studies will involve building relationships with fellow students, alumni and faculty members, as well as the professors that will be teaching you.

This can help you with employment opportunities once you graduate, so cross off any states where you feel you would not be happy living and getting a job in.

2. Your business career path

Business school can open a lot of doors for you - whether you want to work in a large FTSE 100 organisation, or be an entrepreneur and set up your own business, think about what you might like to do once you graduate.

Some business schools have their own specialties, so it’s worth investigating this if there are particular areas of business you wish to focus on during your program. Take a look at the faculty members to see if the school is home to experts in these areas.

If you opt for schools with a curriculum containing topics you’re interested in, this will aid your career ambitions later on.

3. Facilities and resources

You’ll be spending the next few years of your life at business school, so it’s important to find out what facilities and other resources they have on campus to support you through your studies. Make sure they are comfortable and up-to-date. Think about the following as you do your research:

  • Libraries - how many do they have? Are they large or small? What about online materials?
  • Computer labs - how many computers are available to students, and can you access them 24/7?
  • Sports - do they have a decent sports ground? What gym facilities are there? Do they have a swimming pool (this factor may not be so important to those who are not interested in sports/keeping fit, etc.)
  • Food - although you should be more concerned about the academic resources, it’s worth looking at the canteen facilities and what food is usually available. You’ll need to be fed well over the next few years to get you through your program!
  • Accommodation - does it look decent and comfortable? How much does it cost per semester?

4. Preview days

There’s nothing like experiencing a business school firsthand to give you an idea of whether it’s the right place for you. This is why attending a preview day at the schools you’re interested in applying to is essential.

Many business schools hold visit days specifically for prospective graduate students, and you will often be given a guided tour, allowing you to check out the quality of important facilities such as the canteen, computer labs, libraries, accommodation halls, gyms and sports grounds.

You should also get the chance to speak to faculty, allowing you to find out more about the program and how the department functions. Introducing yourself and building a rapport with professors at this stage will only help your application (rather than just applying “cold”).

Make time to talk to current students on the program and find out what their experience has been like so far.

5. Alumni

Contact the school and ask if they can put you in touch with the school’s alumni network. This will allow you to get some honest feedback on the program.

Jot down any questions you would like to ask beforehand (in case you forget), as the more information you can gather, the more informed decisions you can make about which business schools to apply to.

Ask them what they enjoyed about their experience, and whether there was anything they did not like about the school.

6. Admission requirements

Business schools look at a number of factors on their applications, including community service, work experience, challenges overcome, the personal statement and letters of recommendation.

In general though, your academic success so far and your GMAT score are two of the most important.

Be realistic about your school choices here, and choose ones that you are likely to be accepted to.

While it doesn’t hurt to be adventurous and apply to one or two schools you think are out of reach, e.g. Harvard or Stanford, you ultimately want to actually be offered at least one place to study at.

Many business schools publish statistics on recently admitted students, including GMAT and GPA scores. See if your own performance falls into these ranges, which will give an idea of whether you are likely to be accepted on to the program or not.

7. Rankings

While these are worth a look, you should not make any decisions about which business schools to apply to based on these alone.

Although rankings can be useful to compare figures such as tuition fees and student numbers, they should not be a deciding factor over your own research, and how you felt about a school after attending a visit day.

Check out our dedicated Business School Rankings section if you're interested in knowing which schools are generally ranked as the best.

8. Graduate employment

Contact the careers office at each school you are interested in, and find out how many recent graduates went straight into employment, as well as the average starting salary and what their recruitment is like.

After all, when you’ve spent thousands of dollars and three years of your life at business school, you want to reap the benefits afterwards.

You should already have several years’ work experience under your belt as a prerequisite for applying to business school, but further practical experience may help put you ahead in the job market.

Therefore, it’s worth checking whether the school provides any such opportunities during the program.

9. Financial support

Attending business school is unfortunately rather expensive, so find out what kind of financial aid is available to help you get through your studies.

This is another reason to find out the cost of living in the area, and whether you would be able to comfortably afford living there for the next few years.

There are many avenues of funding open to you, including loans, scholarships and grants from a number of organisations, so make sure you research these thoroughly to check  you would receive sufficient financial support.

Money is not something you will want to spend your time at business school worrying about, especially with all the studying and socialising you'll be doing!

With all these points in mind, you’ll find it’s best to starting thinking about your business school choices as early as possible.

Don’t leave it until a month before the application deadline to begin your research - give yourself a minimum of six months.

This timeframe will allow to attend those all-important preview days, as well as ensuring you don’t put yourself under pressure to get your applications submitted.

It also means you can make informed decisions about where you want to apply, and which business schools are likely to be best for you.

Our graduate school application timeline provides more detailed information on what to do and when, and can help you be as organised as possible during the application process.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applyng to business school, please see: