Last Saturday, I attended the 2010 New York City Forum, hosted by MBADiversity and GradPrep. Unlike many MBA fairs, the MBADiversity forum was very intimate. With only about 100 registered prospective MBAs, two GMAT prep companies and 14 schools attending, applicants were able to have real face time with school representatives rather than compete with hundreds of other applicants for memorable moments. Interestingly, as an outsider (neither school rep nor prospective student) who visits many MBA fairs a year, I was struck by some slight demographic abnormalities: The attendees were slightly older with a higher percentage of women than their counterparts at larger events, such as the QS World MBA Tour or Kaplan MBA Fair. Given the traditional MBA student body business schools look to create, the MBADiversity attendees were much closer to their target demographic. Good news for attending schools and applicants!
Student body playing a larger role in business school decisions
Based on my experience with attendees and other recent MBA applicants, quality of student life is playing a larger role in decisions regarding which business schools to apply to and which to attend. At the MBADiversity event, a common factor in attendees' choice of business schools was the vibe and feel of the student body. Whether that meant preferring an urban school over a rural one, a school with a small student body over a larger one, or a school on the East Coast rather than the West. One attendee noted the "good diversity and women leadership" programs at her school of choice. Another asked the alumni panel about the of student club selections at their alma maters--in particular, affinity organizations and social enterprise clubs.
Listening to attendees' questions and discussions, I was struck by their focus on student experience over rank or prestige. Although they were aware of rank (in fact, every attendee at the MBADiversity event really did their homework!), it didn't factor into their school decision process as much as prospective MBAs I met at the Kaplan event last year. I spoke with Tommy, an MBA applicant interested in politics and entrepreneurship. The number one factor in his decision to apply to Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, Columbia Business School and Fordham University's Graduate School of Business is their strong academic programs in his areas of interest, with their lively student environments a close second. When I suggested Babson College's F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business as a business school that matches his interests, Tommy said, "Well, you know they're ranked No. 1 for entrepreneurship," but the small school and suburban setting doesn't match my interests.
Last week, one of my friends in the MBA Class of 2010 announced his plan to attend UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business over the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Despite Booth's higher rank, my friend chose Haas because he could see himself thriving in Haas' student body. Business school is more than where you spend two years of your life. It's an environment to network with and learn from successful peers, pursue exciting professional interests and grow—not just in terms of your career, but personally.
So what's the number one factor in your decision where to apply to and attend business school?
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