An investment worth about 2 million rupees in India and 3-4 times abroad, MBA is probably the most important choice that a person makes while in his 20s. Therefore, it becomes imperative to put in something more than research when choosing your preferred business school.
Related articles on the subject and most people around you will always advice you to go for the higher ranked college. However, that might just be the biggest mistake you will make with respect to ‘YOUR’ management degree. I emphasise on the word ‘your’ because one key cannot unlock every door. These rankings are mainly based on aspects such as faculty strength in research and placement records, which do little to give you an inside perspective of life at a business school.
With a professional qualification and Investment banking work experience in a client facing role, there was no real reason for me to do MBA apart from changing my routine. Like most of the engineers working in IT companies, my real answer to ‘Why MBA’ was ‘I want a break’. And that’s absolutely fine, provided you put it to good effect. Therefore, to make good use of this time, here are the things that you should ensure.
The importance of a mentor in life is inexplicable. I believe a protégé is only as good as the master’s vision. So it’s important that the people who shape you not only have the wisdom but also the willingness to nurture and guide. The faculty through their teaching pedagogies have the ability to unlock your mind and heart. Look for schools with faculty that make you feel like you are not in just another school, you’re in a b-school! Look for teachers who are subject experts, opinionated, and ready to invest in you. After all, wouldn’t you too want to learn from a Michael Porter or Aswath Damodaran? Well, look for such names in India such as Prof. H. C. Verma or Prof. A. F. Mathews. It’s the teachers leading schools that help create students leading the world.
Location is another critical factor in determining the right school. On a practical level, schools located in major cities of the country invariably have better access to job opportunities, thereby giving you more options in terms of placements. Guest lectures/seminars are essential components of MBA, and presence in Tier II/III cities can substantially limit the school’s ability to invite reputed names. Teachers cannot be expected to have a perfect grasp of the changing times, therefore you need fresh and outside perspective from a person of considerable stature. At a personal level too, location becomes critical as that’s the place, beyond the campus, where you will spend two years of your life. You would not only want places to visit, and activities to do, but also people, who you could meet to develop an understanding, of the city, state, and the nation. They might just be your target population, when you work for any company or start your own venture.
When I say opportunities, I mean everything except the lectures. This may be in the form of participation levels in competitions, organised by companies and other business schools. It's affiliations with global schools for the foreign exchange program. I would strongly recommend students to opt for this as living for 3 months in a foreign country can do you a lot of good. And what better than a Harvard or Stanford for exposure! Look for schools having different interest groups, clubs and committees that help you pursue your passion and learn at the same time. Also, the scale of cultural/management festivals and other events organised by the school become crucial not only from the point of view of experience but also the pressure and responsibility of organising them as a committee member.
Matter of identity
Lastly, do note, that your school defines you more than any other thing on your resume. At least in the short term. So you are not just choosing a school, you’re choosing your identity. Gone are the times when just being an MBA was enough. What matters now is ‘From where’? So make sure you want to be referred to as the alumnus of the school you join, because it will stay with you, long after your college life.
All in all, over and above the importance of placement record, I would honestly suggest all the students reading this post to think about the above-mentioned factors when choosing their college of choice. Read, Research, Rate! Devote time to this because it’s going to account for two very important years of your life. Talk to seniors, undergraduate teachers and everyone else under the sun to get your questions answered. But remember, you need information, not opinion. Make your own choice and get ready to experience the golden phase of youth.
P.S. prospective students might also have to consider other factors such as placement reports, their own academic background, entrance exam requirements and so on. The factors mentioned here are more qualitative in nature that they should look to examine.