Sunday, 9 September, 2012

Business School Selection Criteria for International MBA - Part 2/2

As promised in my last post, here are the remaining criteria which I think must go into Business school selection.

4. Teaching Methodologies

Now this is one more important thing that I feel can impact our learning. Although I have come to understand that much of the learning in a business school happens through peers but for whatever part that happens in the classroom, the teaching methodology will definitely play a significant role in grasping the fundamentals of some courses. Most popularly, there are two types of teaching methods viz. Case Based Approach and the Lecture based approach. These days, some business school believe that not one approach is suited for everything and hence depending on the course content, business schools are combining courses with a mix of cases, lectures and group discussions. Let us consider the values of each approach. While the case approach is best suited for learning the real-world applications of the concepts first hand, it might be sometimes not very suitable to courses which a student might not have any background about. In my opinion, case approach is best suited when a student has some background into the course content and then he learns to use those concepts to solve real problems. The theoretical lecture based teaching will help learn the fundamentals but only in a theoretical sense, there will be limited opportunities to see the concepts being applied to real world problems. Thus while selecting a business school, an applicant must gauge his best learning methodology based on past experience and knowledge about business fundamentals.
Information about teaching methods is usually available on the Curriculum section of the business school’s website.
5.  Student Culture – Collaborative vs. Competitive

This is again one of the major factors that must go into the decision making process while selecting a business school. As an alumnus once told me, the business concepts remain the same everywhere, Accounting will be accounting in every b-school but what differs from school to school is the culture of the school. Every business school has its distinct signature of the student culture. One has to find his fit within the student community. This fit is very important as it appears every time during discussions if business school selection. Business schools have either competitive or collaborative student culture. Even within these two broad categories, there is a lot of distinction and focus across schools. Unfortunately, getting to know about the student culture of the business school becomes the toughest job in business school research. A fit into the culture of the school helps to realize the true potential of the MBA program.
The best way to learn about culture of the school is to visit the school. However, this might not be possible for every applicant and hence as applicants, we must talk to current students/alumni at the business school. The online discussion forums are a great tool to connect to current students. A lot of current students from various schools have started discussion threads which are usually like “XYZ business school – Current Students taking question”.

6. Career Center, Recruitment, Work Visa Policies, Desired Companies.

One goes to business school with a desire to finally end up in his desired function/industry/company. Hence, as applicants we must understand the resources provided by the concerned Career Management Center in helping through the recruiting process. I am making it a point specifically for us Indian applicants who are used to the normal college (read guaranteed) placements. The job hunt in US or for that matter anywhere else in the world is entirely different. The student has to do a lot of networking before he gets shortlisted for the interview. Networking drives a lot of recruiting. The thing to look out here is how active and responsive is the career management centre towards the students’ requirements. In my research, unfortunately, I have come to understand that not every Career Management Centre is same and hence a lot of research is necessary in this direction.
Information on this can be availed only by talking to current students at various schools and then one has to make his own conclusions based on the conversation.
Apart from the Career Management Centre consideration, a prospective applicant must also know if his desired dream companies come to the campus for interviews. More so, the number of candidates being hired by one’s dream companies from a particular campus must be seen for. Almost all big firms go to many campuses but recruit in different quantum. One should look out for the business school where the desired dream company recruits big time.
The school employment statistics are a great resource to learn this aspect about the business school.
One other aspect of selecting business school based on this criterion is the Work Visa policies of the respective country. Obviously, this should be a part of the “Location” criteria pointed above but I’ve deliberately put it here as it is more relevant to career/recruiting post-MBA. As pointed above, the location where one wants to work post-MBA is a significant parameter for business school selection as the recruiting process is often more local. In this connection, a prospective applicant must be aware of the ground realities regarding the post-MBA work VISA issues. It is easier to get work VISA in some countries than others. In some countries it is really difficult to get work permits these days. In such situations, one’s dream company might be reluctant to hire international candidates.
Be an informed citizen to learn more about this. Talking to current students also helps in understand the recruiting of international candidates at the business school.

7. Alumni Network

Alumni network will be of special significance considering the fact that a strong alumni network which is tightly associated to business school goes a long way in networking for career and recruiting. A strong alumni presence in a region of industry helps is opening doors that might not be easy to get in otherwise. During my business school research, I’ve come across instances where a strong alumni network has helped new admits secure a pre-MBA internship. Now this is something which can’t be ignored. Moreover, if you are an international student like me and planning to return to your home country in the short to medium term then you must consider this aspect more strongly. Especially, we must look at the alumni presence from the business school in our home country. This will be very important in re-locating back.
When I talk of strong alumni network, it does not necessarily mean a very large alumni base. It essentially means who tightly knit are the alumni to the business school. A very large alumni base without significant engagement with the business school should be less relevant to even a small alumni base but a tightly knit one. I’ve talked to a couple of current students from some top business schools where they expressed that had it not been to the alumni, they would never have got that interview in the first place.
Now, the only way to learn about alumni network is to talk to alumni and preferably current students. Ask them to share their experience where they have contacted an alumnus for something and the response of the alumnus thereafter. Try to learn the activities and efforts the business school makes to engage with the alumni.

8. Co-signor Free Loans

This could be of a real BIG concern to applicants like me who don’t come from a financially good background to bear the almost around $ 200,000 for the international MBA program. If you are wondering if the above amount is true, just check the website of any business school. The total cost of attending the class (i.e. Tuitions and Living Expenses) comes to around $ 80,000 - $ 90,000 per year. Here comes the need for Bank Education Loans. Unfortunately, in India (and I suppose this is true for any other developing country) the maximum amount of education loan that one can borrow is Rs. 20 Lakhs (i.e. $ 40,000). Hence, for applicants like me, we need international student loans from banks in the U.S/Europe or other country where the business school is located. The hard fact about international student loans in the U.S is that they need a U.S Co-signor for giving the loan and the co-signor must have a credit history in the U.S. Now, for an applicant like me who has no connection to the U.S, it will be really difficult to finance the MBA program. Here come the Co-signor Free loans being offered by some business schools. Actually, in this case, the university/business school becomes the co-signor for the loan and hence the student does not have to look for a co-signor. Unfortunately, not every business school offers this but most of the top business schools offer co-signor free student loans.
Information on co-signor free loans is usually available in the Fee and Financial Aid section of the respective business school’s website. However, these policies keep on changing depending on the market scenario. Hence, it is not a bad idea to drop a line to the admissions office to check of the co-signor free loan program is being offered or not!
And last but not the least..!!!

9. Brand Name

Finally, I would say that Brand name does matter a lot. It can open doors which are normally always closed to people from elsewhere. The brand name helps to get connect to people at very senior positions in the industry. Some alumni have shared their experience of how they could connect and get an appointment with CEOs of MNCs by flashing their business school brand name. So it matters and matters a lot. This brand name can be of much more significant value if you are an international applicant and want to come back to your home country post-MBA. Consider the Brand recall of the business school in your home country. This will be very important to get your desired career once you re-locate back.
Talk to your contacts in the industry and get to know the brand reputation of the business school in their industry.
I’ve myself used the above criterion to shortlist an initial list of business schools. I’ve to do further deeper research again based on the above criterion to decide on the final list of business schools where I will apply. Next up is my roadmap to MBA admissions that I’ve prepared for myself. To know more…Stay Connected..!!!


  1. Interesting and informative post.Do cover Green MBA's and how Sustainable an MBA study is too. Green careers are coming up and this will help aspirants to mould their career.

  2. hi. seems very interesting. sure looking forward to have such experiences.

    International Student in US

  3. A couple of addendums to your observation. Alumni network is primarily local for most business schools.

    North eastern schools have strong network in north east. Midwestern school are strong in Midwest , West coast schools are similarly strong in West coast. Now this local strength also spills over to career and occupation. Columbia and NY are super connected in finance whilst Texas MCCombs is super connected in Oil and gas, Stanford in Norcal VC and PE scene etc etc.

    As an Indian your network in India will be highly limited if you dont try for top 6 schools. The alumni network of US schools is primarily strong in High finance like PE, Hedge funds, I banks, Mutual Funds etc. Corporates in India still dont hire much from US or if they do its a really recent phenomenon.

    That said in the broader Asian region you cant go wrong with a top 8 US school. Tons of alumnis in Singapore HK, other SE Asian countries and NE asian countries.

    One way to test it out is to check out how active the alumni club is in a given country? For my observation, columbia, HBS, Stanford and Kellogg seem to have the most active alumni clubs.

    FWIW if you are interested in Mgmt consulting in Eurasia/Africa/ Latam region. INSEAD is probably the best option for you. cheaper, more diverse high impact international network and great for consulting recruitment.

  4. Hi, Good stuff man.. U seem to have done a lot of research. Thanks, found this helpful!

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  6. thanks for sharing.

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  9. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with school and enhancing your education. I think your blog is a very helpful way to guide other individuals who are considering highering their education or who currently are. I'm actually going to start business school in the Fall.

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