what business school is right for you

What Business School Is Right For You

One common business school application question is “Why are you pursuing an MBA?” Although you are not expected to map out your entire life plan before b-school, you should be able to at least provide a thoughtful, well-reasoned response.

According to an mba.com survey, the top reasons for pursing a graduate MBA degree are:

  • Opportunity for more challenging and interesting work
  • Personal satisfaction and achievement
  • Long-term income and financial stability
  • Remaining marketable and competitive in a given industry

An MBA is often cited as a life-changing experience and an opportunity to develop extensive leadership, teamwork, management and business experience. Given the commitment and investment required, be sure to investigate all of your options and make the best-informed decision for you.

What GMAT Score Do You Need?

While approximately two-thirds of all GMAT test-takers score above 555, the mean GMAT score for those accepted to top 10 programs is often closer to 645 or higher.  Below are average GMAT scores from a few of the top schools in the US converted to the new GMAT Focus scaled scores:

School Avg GMAT Score
Stanford 685
Harvard 675
University of Chicago (Booth) 665
New York University (Stern) 665
University of Michigan—Ann Arbor (Ross) 655

As of Mar, 2024. Source for GMAT scores

B-schools look for strong GMAT scores because they use them as a way to predict your success in your first-year. The GMAT is not a math or an English test, though there are quantitative and verbal sections. Rather, it tests critical thinking and analysis skills through questions on math topics, grammar, reading comprehension, and more.

The good news is that your GMAT scores can be improved with focused and dedicated GMAT prep.

Evaluating M.B.A. Programs

When you imagine your ideal MBA program, what factors are most important to you? What type of program best suits your career needs, budget, and lifestyle situation? Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what’s right for you; however, there are some basic criteria by which you can judge which M.B.A. programs.

  • Reputation/Ranking
  • Location
  • Class Size
  • Student Culture
  • Internship & Career Placement Opportunities
  • Average Starting Salary
  • Cost

Do Your Research

Researching your options is obvious. But with so much information out there, where do you start?

  • Your Network – Tap into the experience of your friends, relatives, colleagues, and mentors. Where did they attend? What factors were most important to them?
  • School Websites – There’s no better resource for in-depth information on M.B.A. programs.
  • Other Websites – Top destinations include TopMBABusiness WeekVaultUS News, and GMAC. These sites are often more valuable for their message boards.
  • M.B.A. Fairs – Fairs, like the World MBA Tour, provide an opportunity to meet admissions reps and alumni of a wide variety of MBA programs at one venue.
  • Students & Alumni – There’s no better way to learn about the student culture and experience. If you don’t know any students or alums from your target programs, ask the admissions office to connect you with some.
  • Rankings – Various publications issue annual or biannual rankings of MBA programs. Although U.S. News and World Report and Business Week are perhaps the most well-known in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times also release rankings.

School rankings are controversial. And although they can be useful tools in comparing programs, it’s important to recognize their limitations and put them into proper perspective. No rating system, no matter how sophisticated or complete, can capture the full measure or worth of a program—and the issuers of these reports are generally the first ones to point this out.

In addition, each ranking uses a different methodology, so be certain that you understand the criteria they,re using and how this affects their rankings. U.S. News and World Report, for example, bases their ratings on a school’s reputation among professors and academics, its reputation among recruiters, and its “student selectivity ranking” (consisting of GMAT scores, GPA, and proportion of students admitted), among other things.

The U.S. News and Wall Street Journal rankings do not gather any input from students, although some others do.

The b-school you attend should be based on the strengths of the individual program in which you are interested, its campus environment, and what you see as the best overall “fit” between your needs and the benefits of the particular program.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time

Let’s face it: any quality MBA program—part-time or full-time—will demand a significant amount of your time and energy. Finding one that fits comfortably into your life and schedule will be challenging at best. Deciding on going full- or part-time will be based mainly on your situation; however’ each offers specific pros and cons.

The Full-Time Option

The most cited advantage of attending business school full-time is that students can devote as much time as possible to this extraordinary amount of coursework without being stretched too thin by other competing demands.

Immersion and Networking

A full-time program means that you and your classmates are fully immersed in coursework’ group projects’ and out-of-class activities’ so you get to know them extremely well. Networking among classmates is one of the greatest benefits of attending full-time. B-schools generally admit students with significant prior work experience. Consequently’ your fellow students often become invaluable contacts who can help you throughout your entire career.

Internships & Job Opportunities

Full-time programs also provide an opportunity to gain significant professional experience through summer placements or internships. Through these important programs’ participants can try out an interest in a particular field and determine if it’s right for them. Most schools’ placement services generally focus on helping full-time students conduct their job searches for the often dramatic leaps in job responsibilities and salaries and the unique disruptions that go along with it.

Juggling School & The Rest of Your Life

The intensity of being a full-time student can exact a price. This is especially true for those who have been working for a while and recently returned to school. In addition’ there are competing demands for time for those with families. Finally’ attending business school often entails relocating to a new area and the unique disruptions that go along with it.


Paying for two years of full-time school is often the biggest disadvantage of being a full-time student. While financial aid is available for b-school—usually in the form of loans’ although some programs offer grants and scholarships based on GMAT scores and other factors—you should plan on accumulating significant debt as a full-time student.

The Part-Time Option

Attending business school part-time is often not a matter of choice but one of necessity. However’ a part-time program can drag on for several years’ during which your commitment to an MBA will be tested by professional and personal obligations as well as by simple fatigue.


This is the main advantage of the part-time route. Part-time students generally decide whether they want to enroll for any given term. This can help relieve some of the pressure from competing professional or personal demands. Many vary their course load to concentrate exclusively on a particularly difficult course and then take a heavier load later with less intensive courses.


Because of the flexible nature of part-time programs’ enrollment patterns of students tend to vary greatly. This makes it comparatively difficult to develop the same kind of relationships with peers—or to do the same kind of networking—that full-time students enjoy.

Executive MBA Programs

Executive MBA Programs are especially attractive to those who have significant work experience and plan to continue with their present employers after graduation. Most of these programs offer classes on weeknights or on Fridays and Saturdays. They are often completed in two years. However’ Executive MBA Programs are usually open only to the most senior managers who are supported by their employers.


Most schools have little ‘if any’ financial aid for part-time students. However many companies reimburse some or all of the cost of tuition for continuing education. Because of this and the fact that most are working during their education part-time students often do not incur the massive debt associated with full-time students.