Why get it right?
Selecting the right B-School involves a lot of considerations and can be a hard call to take easily. Choosing the right B-School might quite simply be the most important decision you make- one that might set you on a fast track career if you get it right – and yet, often most of us feel ill equipped to take this decision. Before you embark on choosing a B-School, first and foremost you must spend significant thought on what you hope to achieve out of an MBA program. Ask yourself what kind of Industries are you interested in? What are the roles that you would love to do? Which Companies would you rather work for given a chance? Do you want to become an Entrepreneur? Once you have reasonable fix on these, make an extensive list of potential B-schools that excite you and/or match your requirements.
Make a list
At this stage it might be interesting not to restrict yourself to Indian B-schools but to generally take a look at all the good B-school Programs that are out there and come up with a list of potential business schools that you are interested in attending. There are plenty of places to start building a list like this. Compile a list of the Top 20 MBA programs worldwide as well as the top 30 MBA programs in India; add to this list of 50 B-School programs any other MBA programs that may be of personal interest to you. To help guide you make a list that works for you, you can take a dekko at the list of B Schools provided below. Once you have your personal list ready, the serious work of gathering information begins.
List of Good MBA programs / B Schools (Indicative List of 50 B-Schools across India and abroad)
Wharton, HBS, MIT, Stanford, Kellogg’s, INSEAD, IMD, Said & Judge (Oxbridge), GSB
Chicago, LSE, LSB, ESADE, HEC Paris
IIMs – A, B, C , L , I , K ( plus 6 others not including IIM Shillong mentioned below)
XIMB/ SIBM/SCMHRD/ SJMSOM-IITB/NMIMS /DoMS-IITD/VGSOM IIT-Kgp
TAPMI/ IMI-Delhi/IMT -Ghaziabad/DMS IIT- Kanpur/SIMSREE
TISS/MICA/IRMA – these have a specialized focus to their programs
ISB – Hyderabad/ Great Lakes – Chennai [ executive one year programs tailored
to the needs of working professionals]
Gather genuine information.
Please take your time and ensure that you do as much research as possible, visit all the websites of B- Schools on your list. Visit public forums and check out what people have to say about these schools. Talk to family, friends and current students and /or alumni of your potential B Schools. This is very critical – reach out and talk to people in the industries where you want to work post MBA, talk to people at the companies of your choice, talk to alumni from the B-Schools on your list- most importantly talk to students currently undergoing programs at the B-Schools on your list. While all of this is pretty obvious stuff, the real benefit of this exercise depends on what you talk about when you discuss with these people.
Hence, we would suggest focusing on the following parameters during such discussions:
Learning more about the Faculty at each Institution will take a significant amount of research and time. This is time well spent. Unlike during Bachelor’s, learning at a B-School can never be limited to mere theoretical concepts and frameworks, all learning must translate into skills and knowledge that are relevant and applicable in today’s demanding work life. If Faculty members have had previous working experience in the field you are looking to break into, and possess a strong presence in the industry, these are the types of individuals that can greatly assist you in achieving your career goals.
Curriculum & Teaching method –
Many schools in India are now offering specializations in only one aspect or discipline of business; this is in addition to the general management program that is typically the most sought after program on most campuses. However, concentration should still be considered, especially by those with relevant background work experience or clarity on the kind of career they are looking for. For example, if you are interested in Marketing; choosing a school that has an outstanding Marketing program might make sense.
Try and evaluate the relevance of the curriculum to the future opportunities that each B-school will open up for you. For example, a school that has a curriculum strong in Finance but only has placements predominantly in the Marketing space might lead to a lot of personal dissonance later on.
Also try and find out the teaching methodology that will be adopted at each B-school , some B-schools adopt a case method based pedagogy , others adopt a quantitative framework based approach ; assess which methodology you are most comfortable with and most likely to learn best under.
Student Activities & Extra Curricular activities –
Beyond Curriculum, every B School offers its students the opportunity to unwind, relax, and engage in activities that help them develop in directions beyond merely academics. Participating in or organising B School events can be a great way to polish your skills, pursue your passions or even more importantly these could help improve your leadership and managerial skills and hone your interpersonal skills. Look at the calendar of activities that exist at the B Schools on your list and evaluate whether these events and activities seem enticing to you.
Does the B School have excellent conference facilities? Are the classrooms fully equipped with all A/V and Internet tools? Clearly such facilities will positively impact the quality and impact of the course. On the other hand some factors may not have a bearing on the quality of the MBA program offered but might still make a difference to how you spend your two years at the school, therefore they could be a consideration even if not very important or critical. e.g.:- Does the B School you are considering have an all night canteen? Does it have good lodging facilities? Is there a gym or a swimming pool for fitness enthusiasts? In the long run it may pay to think with clarity about what facilities are critical to your B School experience and which ones might be add-ons.
Is the campus located at the heart of where jobs are? Is the B school located in the middle of an ecosystem that enables students to get jobs? For example, Mumbai is the financial hub of India; Bangalore & Hyderabad are clearly India’s IT hubs, while Delhi & Mumbai still remain the Hub for all Marketing related activities of most companies. Hence location can clearly be an advantage.
Normally, we have a tendency to go with the ranking or reputation of a B School based on what we hear from our friends, family and peers. For a decision as critical as B School this may not be the correct set to rely on for opinions. One should verify the reputation of established B Schools with Corporate and Industry insiders, and people working in Companies where one wishes to work in and sound them out on what they feel about the B Schools on your list as also whether they recruit students from these B Schools or not.
Exclusiveness & Diversity of Students –
A B-School experience must provide students exposure to industry, and while a large chunk of this happens through the curriculum and interaction with Corporates and Faculty during the course, the greatest value addition to us in B-School on this front occurs as we interact with our batch mates. Hence, we have to try and see what is the diversity of profiles of the students in any given batch and also what is the quality of peers that we will be spending our next two years with.
Typically a good B-School is generally very selective and this is what we mean when use the term exclusiveness. A good parameter to test the exclusiveness of any School would be the ratio of applicants to selected candidates. This figure is typically very high for good B-Schools in India. This should never be the sole criteria for selecting a B-school but it can be beneficial as mentioned above. E.g. – In 2009; The IIMs typically had a selection ratio of 800-1000. In that same year next most selective Schools were JBIMS, SIMSREE(Sydenham), XLRI, FMS, and IIFT in that order.
As far as diversity of profiles is concerned, most top B-schools provide prospective students as well as recruiters a snapshot of their current and previous batches with details of Work Experience and Educational background, this can be treasure trove of information to give you an idea of how diverse the student profile is and also if people with your background and credential have a chance of making it to these Schools!
A detailed Return on Investment (RoI) analysis should be made comparing all the B-schools at the top of your list. Clearly, the cost of a B-school program has direct bearing on the RoI calculations. Any RoI analysis in the B-School scenario should factor in:-
a) The cost of the program – this includes all tuition and course related fees and all living expenses
b) Opportunity costs – this should include an analysis of lost pay for duration of the course and may be relevant to those who were either already working or had job offers prior to joining a course.
c) The kind of salaries you will get immediately on passing out of your course
d) The kind of learning and job skills you will pick up during the course that will enable you to perform
well in your career
e) The kind of career progression that Alumni of your chosen B-School typically have, as also how connected Alumni at your chosen School are with each other and with students at their respective Schools
No RoI analysis can be complete without an analysis of RoI in the larger context of total career earnings. However, a word of caution – first, this analysis is not easy to do unless you are close to a very senior Alumni from one of your wish list B-Schools; second, such an analysis must always be tempered with an understanding of how much the B-school itself contributed to the career progression of this individual versus other success factors like personality, knowledge, skills, luck, etc.
Placement Statistics –
Students usually pursue an MBA to enhance their future career options. Therefore, choosing a school with a good placement record is important. Most business schools will willingly supply placement statistics to interested applicants. Checking recruiter records and speaking with former graduates of the school will also give you further insight. However, placements should not be the sole criteria for deciding on a B- School. Ideally, rather than focusing on placement statistics, one should focus on how well networked the B-school’s Faculty and Alumni are, as typically this will inevitably translate into greater job opportunities for students at these schools.
Alumni Network & Mentoring –
As already mentioned above, beyond the placement statistics, the real benefit at a good B-School program comes from the mentoring and support one receives from a well placed Alumni network. Therefore, it becomes crucial to know how well networked the alumni network of any B-School is as also how involved they are with the students of their alma mater.
“Right Fit” –
Each B-School has its own strengths and weaknesses, its own peculiar culture and lifestyle. Rely on your knowledge of yourself and also on the judgement of others who know you well as a person, to understand from them what they think will be a “Right Fit” School for you. A higher ranked program or one with better placements statistics may not necessarily mean the program is the perfect one for you! Typically a
“Right Fit” arrives from a uniquely suited combination of the parameters mentioned above that works best for you.
What should an MBA give you?
While reams can be written on what a good MBA provides versus what it doesn’t , academic disputes
aside, we are certain that all good MBA programs MUST provide the following :
Industry Exposure – An ability and a forum to connect regularly with industry big wigs and people who are comfortably placed in their career
Communication Skills – A good B-School should definitely polish your communication and presentation skills ( this includes being presentable, which is equally important, if not more so in the Indian context)
Interpersonal Skills – no managerial job exists that does not touch upon handling negotiations, and or guiding and motivating teams, interpersonal skills are therefore something that a B-School must absolutely teach you a lot about.
Knowledge coupled with practical understanding – This is a function of how relevant to today’s corporate world the curriculum and courses at a B-School are, and hence can be critical to your success.
Self-Belief – A good MBA program should finally instil in you tremendous self-belief that you can make a fighting go of any career that you choose.
Finalize your Shortlist
Once you have gathered all available information, take the time to go through your list and eliminate schools that no longer seem to fit your expectations. Also keeping in mind all that has been discussed above, pick the ones that really excite you on your list and also the ones that you clearly see adding value to your career. Once this is done, apply to all the schools that still remain on your list (assuming you don’t have an application fee constraint.) However, for most of us, an application fee constraint does exist and in such cases it makes sense to focus on 6-7 schools. We would recommend applying to 2 to 3 Schools that you would really be happy to make it to; at least 1 or 2 Schools where we have a decent chance of making it; and again a minimum of 1 to 2 Schools where our chances of securing admission are reasonably high.
Get the Admits.
Once you have your shortlist, and have applied go all out and ensure you get admits from all the schools you have applied to. This is again most important, don’t focus on just the good schools on your list, work hard to get admits to ALL the programs on your list. Remember the game at this stage is to ensure that you have several ADMITS to choose from. Go all out, and secure those admissions. Once you have the admissions in hand, pick the one that you feel is best suited for you, the “Right Fit” school as mentioned above. You are now set for a long and rewarding career.
Wish you all the very best!
Arka Bhattacharya, BE (COEP), MBA-IB (IIFT Delhi)
The author completed his Engineering degree in Metallurgy from the College Of Engineering, Pune and has an MBA in International Business from IIFT, Delhi. Prior to his MBA, Arka was handling Marketing and Sales at ESAB, the world’s leading welding solutions provider, and at T.I.M.E Mumbai. After his MBA he worked with Singapore based Olam International for 3 years, heading business operations for their FMCG arm in West Africa. He currently heads Academics & Corporate Relations at Vanguard Business School, Bangalore
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