Just a month into school, Tuckies are deep in the trenches of first-year recruiting and classes, and the issue of fit remains top of mind for me and my classmates. Even now that we’re enrolled, we frequently look around and weigh the question that is so relevant to you as an applicant: “Did I make the right decision?”
People will tell you over and over again that selecting an MBA program is all about fit, and I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: they’re 100% correct. In the pre-MBA process as well as in the trenches of your MBA, you’ll find time and time again that you’re tempted and pushed towards careers, schools, and clubs that no one could have paid you to consider just days before. It’s tough to focus when schools are all waving beautiful facilities and impressive employment statistics in your face. If you start succumbing to what other people think you should want out of an MBA now, just think how frazzled you will be when the stakes are raised and you’re staring at a calendar of 50 recruiting events and don’t know which to select.
Everything begins with knowing what you, in the deepest recesses of your mind, think is best for you. Here are the three most basic factors to consider:
Location, location, location.
Location is more than just East Coast or West or city-person vs. nature-lover. Is your prospective school near an industry you’re interested in? Proximity can greatly impact your access to employment options. Some schools have great presence on one coast and little recognition on the other—this can affect how much you can leverage your network in certain parts of the country. City schools can offer prime access to local corporations and bigger exposure than out-of-the-way schools. But out-of-the-way campuses often win on quality over quantity—fewer recruiters who will spend more time getting to know the students once they make it to campus.
Small schools focus their resources on a small number of students. Go small enough, and you’ll find there’s staff and resources to help you with just about anything. The upside of big schools, on the other hand, is that they can offer more resources at scale: bigger dining halls, more recruiting companies, and wider networks. What it comes down to is: are you comfortable navigating a bigger pool of resources on your own or are you looking for more support throughout your MBA?
Seriously. If you’re stressed because your school list is still 8-10 schools long, a visit can help you cut it down ASAP. No one can tell you what to look for, but you’ll know it when you see it—that sinking feeling in your stomach that says, “This isn’t for me.” I can still quote to you the specific moments in my visits that assured certain schools would never receive an application from me. The important thing is not to miss them when they happen—hold on to that feeling when people tell you that you should be going to school X, when you really love Y.
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate Class of 2015
Dartmouth (Tuck School of Business)