The most common question that I have heard from anxious prospective students, particularly those who have no connection with studying abroad, is where to apply for an MBA.
It is a valid concern because many factors come into consideration when selecting the right business school – location, perspective of post-grad employment, personal and professional priorities, course curriculum, faculty, facility, fee structures and scholarships.
Perhaps one prefers to be in a particular city after graduation, or maybe you have small children, and suddenly the safety and the living standards of a city become significant.
Yet, everyone's perspective is always different. However for me, the location was relatively flexible. Given that I already studied an undergraduate program in the USA, and my family and friends were dispersed across the globe, most locations were open to me.
Even so, I did not take such a crucial decision lightly. In order to help me assess the location, I focused on three key features: affordability, proximity to industry or post-graduation location, and alumni distribution.
As an undergraduate student, cost was a major concern for me when applying abroad for an MBA program. Looking at the fee structure was like pouring salt on a wound. I was already in debt due to an undergraduate program in the USA, so I was very concerned about affordability.
Of my options, I ended up selecting London Business School (LBS). London was the most affordable and liveable city on my list, primarily because it had one of the best transportation networks, and it was economical for international students.
Although the rent was not necessarily cheap, living alone was feasible – and the overall costs of living and social activities in London were acceptable.
Proximity to industry or post-graduation location
Networking is of markedly greater importance in some industries than in others, so depending on your industry of interest, being co-located can be a significant advantage – or make little to no difference at all.
Your desired location can give you exposure to big companies. As it happened, studying in London matched my broad range of interests. There were many companies that I wanted to learn about, such as Amazon and Google, which had their local divisions in London, while others like auto firms, major consulting firms, retail empires and a handful of other tech companies maintained a strong regional presence in the city.
This one is not as obvious as it seems. However it turned out to be an important factor for me. For some schools, the geographic distribution of alumni will closely align with the second factor (proximity to industry), but for others like LBS, alumni distribution is quite widespread with strong communities in other cities and countries.
So it is essential to check not only the established alumni profile of the school, but the profile of recent incoming classes, to get the best picture of your recruiting opportunities both immediately after finishing the course, and in the longer term. Your peers and recent grads are often your strongest allies.
For me this has certainly been the case – I can easily attribute the majority of my learning and recruiting successes to the immense support and guidance of the LBS community, which in hindsight was the single greatest influence on the shape of my career.
I had enormous flexibility to explore in London, and never felt I had to compromise on access, while enjoying life in a community which I absolutely love.