A Beautiful Mind

The Reflections Of My Mind

Identifying schools to apply

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This post is intended for those who are thinking about applying for an admission to an MBA program for Fall 2011. This might seem a little early for this but I believe this is the best time to start preparing for GMAT (if you haven’t already done so) and research schools. When I started my school search, I started after I gave GMAT and as a result I was a little pressured on time. Researching schools requires patience and involves more than just compiling the average of all the rankings available on the internet. Here are some of the steps that one can (or rather should) begin with:

Identify your target post-MBA field: If you are interested in a particular field of work then start by identifying the reasons behind it. Many times, and as was the case when I started, the information available is huge and many things appear to be related to our target career. If you are an engineer and interested in consulting then Strategy (Management) Consulting, IT Consulting – Implementation, IT Consulting – Strategy, Product Management, Organization Development and Restructuring, or more; almost everything will seem to be interesting and worth to pursue post MBA. If you are interested in moving into Financial Services but have limited exposure to it, understand the difference between Investment Banking, Investment Management, Corporate Finance, etc.

An important thing in choosing the post MBA target field is the ability to connect it with your interest and what you have done till date. If you cannot link your post MBA goals with what have you done till date, it will be difficult to convince the AdCom that you are serious about your target field. It also reflects your efforts at achieving your target goal and in this difficult market, it is a necessary thing to do. This way the AdCom will be comfortable in reading your application as you will have a lot less difficulty in securing a job post your MBA. If a student cannot find a job in 3-6 months post MBA, it is a negative mark on the school’s career development office and hence affects the school’s rankings and marketability.

Research school related to your target field: Sticking to the schools that are relevant to your target field of work is another important thing. Some schools are very good for finance, some for technology management and some for strategy consulting. Identifying the correct set of schools is very important as sometimes a higher ranked school need not be the one where you will gain most benefit to take your career further. Many times school location plays in important role here. For example, NYU (Stern) and Columbia are amazing when it comes to Finance. Being in NYC, both schools enjoy an unlimited access to Wall Street firms and majority of the students get jobs there. Similar argument holds for UC Berkeley (Haas) for a career in Technology. Sticking to schools relevant to your career goals will give you access to a big alumni network relevant to you.

Research the school Curriculum, Faculty and Infrastructure: This is another very important aspect of b school research. A school with strong and wide curriculum in Finance will be more relevant for someone interested in Finance and less for someone interested in Strategy Consulting or Marketing. Look for prominent faculty members at each school. Having prominent faculty members who are well-known for their research and corporate involvement adds to the strength of the school’s ability to market its students to the industry. Also, look for the infrastructure at each school. If the school has made good investment in its infrastructure, you will benefit from it. For example, look for how much a school spends on access to real-time data and software for trading if you are interested in Financial Sales & Trading. This will help you in gaining practical experience. You can visit the school to see the classes in action and the infrastructure in place. Or may be even the support for your partner if you are married.

A good resource for identifying relevant schools is a ClearAdmit Career Guide to your target field. For example, the ClearAdmit career guide for Consulting is helpful in identifying the best schools for Consulting. It is not a full fledge guide for developing a career in Consulting. It’s purely a guide to b schools for Consulting. It covers some of the best known business schools for Consulting. The main pros of this guide is the details on each school. It has details on the curriculum structure, core and elective courses relevant to Consulting (more specifically Management Consulting, but also has more), list of prominent faculty members at each school and more.

You can gain an understanding of what exactly the school is known for in the market, the most recent class composition, placement statistics, Consulting companies that visit the school and whether the most sought after companies visit the school or not. It also has the details of relevant courses, organization of these courses (like when exactly  can a student, during his/her  two years take these) and the level of flexibility offered by the school. Some details on the relevant student clubs and events sponsored by the school are also mentioned in the guide.

All in all, it is a good source of information for identifying the correct school for your target field. However, these guides cover only the top schools in each field. As you know, getting in at a top school is not an easy task and sometimes even luck is important here. Moreover, these guides do not carry any information that you will not be able to find on the internet or using other sources. But, these are a good source to begin with. You can start researching on the schools not covered in these guides by looking for the same information (and more if you know any) as mentioned in these guides.

Identify your reach: Identifying the school within your reach is another equally important factor. A reach school is the school where your statics (GMAT, GPA, exp, etc) are competitive with that of the most recent class profile. This way your application will not be at any disadvantage when compared with that of the rest of the applicants and you will have a good chance of making it. Applying only to dream, but out of reach, schools is a bad strategy as you might not get any admit. Identify 2-3 reach schools to apply to and also identify 1-2 safe schools. Also, keep one or two dream (out of reach) schools in your list as business school application process also involves a little bit of luck. You never know when exactly she smiles on you.

Connect with the students: Another important aspect of the research is networking with the current and former students of each of your target schools. Current schools will give you an idea of the current situation at the school. Like the latest curriculum developments, career scope post MBA, current placement scene, etc. Also, get feedback from the school alumni on how are they finding their education/time at the school useful in their career. This will be useful in understand the amount of effort you will need to put-in in each area once you begin your MBA.

Financing your MBA: The last but equally important factor. This is more relevant for internationals than domestic applicants but I hope everyone finds some useful information here. Domestic applicants usually have many options to fund the MBA. There are many loan schemes available in almost each country. Some are backed by government (and hence low-interest rate) and some are available privately (and hence easily available). Do a research on the estimated expenses for your study and your ability to repay the expenses in a reasonable duration. You don’t want to pay instalments for 20 years of your life, do you?

Also, for international students, many time loans without co-signer are not available. However, some schools have special programs where the school acts as a co-signer for you. In this case, the rate of interest might be high but you will still have access to funds. Before applying to a particular school, check if you can manage to pay its fees. I had to remove/change two schools from my “Reach” list because the schools didn’t have such loans in place and I do not know anyone who can act as a co-signer for me in US.

In some cases, you can try to apply at a lower ranked school (lower not in the rankings list but in your preference) and where your application will be strong, to secure some funding. This way your expenses will be less and you might just manage to fund your MBA easily.


Like I mentioned before, this is the correct time to start as you will have enough time to cover everything. I hope you have managed to read this long post completely.


Written by abeautifulmind1

February 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm

14 Responses

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  1. Sunil … email me at rkeshup@gmail.com will help you out.


    February 16, 2010 at 7:47 pm

  2. Each type of loan has different terms, so you have to choose carefully when you apply for a loan for school. Online Banking

    Online Banking

    February 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

  3. […] and credited Clear Admit’s Wiki for helping him in this regard. A Beautiful Mind took a look at Clear Admit’s Consulting Career Guide, and received a wait-list notification from Cornell. Steve also received waitlist news from […]

  4. […] and credited Clear Admit’s Wiki for helping him in this regard. A Beautiful Mind took a look at Clear Admit’s Consulting Career Guide, and received a wait-list notification from Cornell. Steve also received waitlist news from […]

  5. […] the original post: Identifying schools to apply « A Beautiful Mind Share and […]

  6. […] applicant blogger ‘A Beautiful Mind’ dedicated a recent post to sharing advice on how to compile a list of target schools, and, in tandem, offered his thoughts […]

  7. […] applicant blogger ‘A Beautiful Mind’ dedicated a recent post to sharing advice on how to compile a list of target schools, and, in tandem, offered his thoughts […]

  8. […] in Daily Buzz News on Feb.24, 2010 MBA applicant blogger ‘A Beautiful Mind’ dedicated a recent post to sharing advice on how to compile a list of target schools, and, in tandem, offered his thoughts […]

  9. […] more here: Identifying schools to apply « A Beautiful Mind Share and […]

  10. Hi. Thanks for your perspective. I have got an admit and have absolutely no idea on how to go about financing the thing. I have an elder brother who would co-sign (in US) but beyond that…..I think I am really running out of time and am in dire need to connect with individuals who have done their research (seeing your current blog and activity it pagal guy), I hope you could spare little of your time and help me out?

    Please share your email id.

    thanks again,


    March 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    • I guess you still have a lot of time to do all the paper work. Even I have not started anything yet on that front. If your borther will co-sign then you don’t need to worry about anything. This solves your major problem of funding.


      March 18, 2010 at 7:16 am

  11. […] If you are about the apply for the Fall 2011 season and are yet to identify your schools, you might find this post useful. For now, here is some information on how to go about for one more very important part of you […]

  12. […] … here are some useful links for prospective MBA applicants: Selecting Schools and Recommendations. I hope people find these useful. I have benefited a lot from MBA blots and […]

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