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When you put together a list of MBA programs you are looking to apply to, it can be a very personal process. Although many individuals can advise you on where you might be accepted or the MBA program’s reputation, in the end you will need to make the decision based on where you want to spend the upcoming years and which university name you would like on your resume for the rest of your career.
While I do encourage all candidates to consider multiple MBA programs and to research a number of them, I would never recommend that you apply to a business school that you would not want to attend. Although it can be nice to have a number of options for MBA programs, there is no reason to apply to a business school that you know you will not attend.
Furthermore, if you have an ideal MBA program that you have had your sights on, you need to apply to that program. Even if others tell you that you will not be accepted, if after doing your research you still want to attend, you should apply. I would never want applicants go through an MBA process successfully but always wonder about that first choice that they never applied to. While lower statistics or work experience can limit your chances of being accepted, if you are a good match for an MBA program and can convey that in your application, you may be able to earn a spot in their class.
Many candidates have very specific work goals. If you know where you want to work after graduation, you should make a call to that company and find out what they think of the MBA program you are applying to. I had a client who lived in New York and wanted to attend Columbia Business School. She also had a short list of companies she wanted to work for after graduation. I recommended that she call several of the companies to find out where they recruit. It turned out that they recruited MBA graduates at only five MBA programs, and Columbia was not one of them. They also said to her that it would not be possible to secure a position if she did not attend one of those five MBA programs. These phone calls significantly impacted her choice of business schools.
Lastly, where you currently are and where you want to end up can greatly affect your list of MBA programs. Issues such as family or career happiness are significant and often overlooked factors. If you know that you would like to build your career in California near your family, but are considering pursuing a program in New York City, you will have to consider all of these factors before making your decision. You should never leave your family out of your thought process.
One of the consultants that now works with Stacy Blackman Consulting applied to Haas and Harvard and was accepted into both MBA programs. Many individuals are startled to hear that she decided to attend Haas. She decided to attend Haas because she wanted to pursue work in the wine industry. Years after graduating from the MBA program, she is living in Northern California, pursuing the career of her dreams in the location of her choice. She regularly connects with her network from Haas. When asked, she says that she has absolutely no regrets. In this situation, she had to focus on her own rankings based on preference and her focused work vision.
For more robust guidance on your MBA application essays, check out the Stacy Blackman Consulting Essay Guide Series – school specific guides with essay tips, sample essays, information on what your target schools value and more.