Where Oh Where to Apply?

A really great Stacy Blackman e-mail popped into my inbox earlier this week. (Maybe it popped into yours too?) It was about figuring out where to apply — is it more important for you want an MBA from one particular school (Stanford or bust!), or just to get the MBA?

I decided to post highlights from that e-mail then figured, why not also share how I picked schools? That’s what MBA blogs are all about, right?


Stacy Blackman E-Mail Highlights

“If you’d truly be at peace with never getting an MBA if you weren’t accepted to School X, then you can move forward by focusing all of your efforts solely on your dream school or schools. However, if you want an MBA no matter what, then you’d be wise to consider five or six schools, or maybe spread your efforts across Rounds 1 and 2.”

“Each year we see excellent candidates who want to prematurely take themselves out of the running for some of the top programs. […] Applying to top business schools is something of a self-selecting process: most people who apply are overachievers who would be assets to any class. It’s easy to let that discourage or intimidate an applicant to the point of not even trying. You might think, ‘What’s the use? There are thousands of other people like me fighting for spots.’

But we’d argue: 1) no, there isn’t anyone else exactly like you, so figure out how to differentiate yourself, and 2) why would you want to make it easier for someone else to get in by taking yourself out of the mix? You deserve a shot just like everyone else.”

My School Selection Process

So, I am no expert at all this MBA stuff. As far as school selection goes, there are other folks who are way more qualified to get into the nitty gritty of the different considerations than I am.

That said, here is how I picked where to apply:

  • Friends and family. I am a community-driven person — I need to be near family and/or friends to feel grounded. This was actually my most important factor in school selection, so I applied where I knew a lot of people: the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. I knew I wanted to apply to about four programs, so I would only apply to one school per area.
  • Fit. I know that some people think the entertainment industry is super cutthroat and that we’re all hyper-competitive sharks. I am not like that. I am a warm and fuzzy, collaborative, rah rah teamwork kind of a gal, so I applied to schools that value that approach. (This would be how I chose to apply to Kellogg, although I might have been biased to start with… #gocats)
  • Industry. I wanted to apply to strong schools for entertainment, which (for me) meant choosing between UCLA and USC and between NYU and Columbia. I loved Anderson when I visited, so that was that. I picked Stern because of their strong entertainment curriculum and ties to the film graduate school.
  • Stats. I didn’t pay that much attention to the school stats at first, but once I started making admish consultant calls, they clued me in to the fact that I should be keenly aware of how I fit into the school’s published stats. I was in range for Kellogg, Stern, and Anderson.
  • Safety. I was also on the hunt for a safety. I was hoping to go to a top 20 school but didn’t need to go to a particular one to make getting an MBA worthwhile. I just needed to get in somewhere that year — I knew I wouldn’t reapply if I got dinged everywhere. An admissions consultant suggested that I check out UT McCombs, and I really liked ’em. Safety: check!
  • Reach. I was all set on school choice up until I took the GMAT the second time. I got a 750, was floored, and decided to add one more reach school — Stanford. Looking back, I think that I should have always had Stanford on my list. Why not, right? (See above.)

Your decision factors will of course be different from mine. I guess I wanted to share my process because my search was so heavily impacted by being near people I care about, which isn’t necessarily the most common consideration. It’s all about knowing what’s most important to you!

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Television.

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