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by Vault Education Editors | May 06, 2011


By Jeremy Shinewald, mbaMission

Here we present part five in our nine-part series, Selecting Your Target MBA Program. This week, we discuss the importance of looking beyond a target program’s stereotypes and truly understanding the depth of their specializations. Next week: Alumni Base.

Everyone knows the Kellogg School of Management is a marketing school, right? After all, Kellogg is home to Philip Kotler, author of some of the world’s most widely used graduate-level textbooks on marketing. And no one can deny Kellogg’s prowess in this field (and it goes far beyond Kotler). However, Kellogg perceives itself to be far more than a mere “marketing school.” “In fact, Kellogg has sent significantly more graduates into consulting positions every year for the past five years than into marketing roles—yet its marketing reputation persists.” 

Similarly, many candidates will likely assume that Columbia Business School (CBS) is “just a finance school.” Sure, it consistently sends a significant percentage of its graduates into positions in the finance field (an average of 53.2% of each class over the past five years), but assuming that CBS is “only” a finance school ignores the program’s strengths in consulting (which an average of 20.5% of its graduates have entered over the past five years) and fails to recognize CBS’s excellent entrepreneurial program (which boasts an incubator on campus), among numerous other strengths and resources. The Wharton School likewise faces the “just finance” stereotype, but it actually offers a first-rate health care program, the largest MBA marketing faculty in the world and more.

We could continue undermining the stereotypes of each top business school ad nauseum, but we hope we have made our point by now.

The dangers of stereotyping an MBA program are twofold. First, by assuming that a school offers “only” one type of educational experience, you may deny yourself the opportunity to explore a school that might be right for you. Second, if you believe a program truly has only one focus, you may be tempted to pander to the school’s stereotypes and try to present yourself as—or even become!—something you are not. Your logic might be “CBS is a finance school, so I had better become a finance candidate,” which would lead to an insincere or weak application—a non-finance person who tries to convince the admissions committee that he/she can compete with experienced finance professionals, rather than developing his/her own distinct story, is likely destined to fail.

So, to return to a common theme in this series: do your homework. Make sure that you understand what a school really has to offer in your area of interest. A specific academic discipline may be associated with certain schools, but do not fail to consider that these schools may have strengths in several other areas as well.

About mbaMission:

Since ambassadorial speechwriter and MBA Jeremy Shinewald founded mbaMission in 1999, the firm has worked closely with business school candidates from around the world, successfully guiding them through the entire MBA application process ("From Start to Finish") and ensuring that their unique attributes are showcased in a creative, compelling and focused way. mbaMission senior consultants are published authors/elite communicators with top-MBA experience, who work one-on-one with applicants to help them discover, select and articulate the unique stories that will force MBA admissions committees to take notice. mbaMission collaborates with candidates on all aspects of their application, reducing stress levels and maximizing their chances of being admitted to the business school of their dreams.

For more information on the particularities of the top MBA programs and selecting your target schools, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.


How Do You Want to Learn? Consider the B-School's Instruction Method

How Flexible Are You? Consider the B-School's Core Curriculum

Mountains or Metropolis: Consider the B-School's Location

Look Before You Leap: Consider the B-School's Class Size


Filed Under: Education|Grad School