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  • Malvika Patil

How to Choose a Business School in 2024

An MBA is a major investment, in terms of tuition fees but also lost earnings from taking time out of work. So, you’ll want to make the most of your MBA by choosing a business school that best fits your profile, goals, and personality. 

If you’re applying for an MBA in the 2024-25 cycle, here are our top 5 factors to consider before you choose a business school: 

1. Geography

Based on school employment reports, it’s clear that a significant proportion of MBA graduates enter the job market near the location of their business school. For example, 93.2% of Chicago Booth students found employment in the United States in 2023. Similarly, 63% of MBA graduates at both Oxford’s Saïd Business School (2021 - 2022) and London Business School (2023) found employment in the UK and Europe.

Here’s why location plays a key role in choosing a business school:

  • Opportunities to network: Choosing schools in a particular region can provide you with better opportunities to network with local businesses and industry professionals, which in turn can give you access to internship and job opportunities post-MBA. 

  • Local specializations: Businesses tend to hire from their nearest universities - for example, business schools in major financial hubs like London or New York City tend to have more relationships with recruiters from investment banks. Candidates who intend to work in Tech often target schools in the Silicon Valley region. Consider where you want to build your professional network before you commit to your school list.

  • Access to resources: Choose a school that can act as a ‘base’ for extracurricular opportunities like international experience through treks, campus visits, or consulting projects. For example, if you would like to explore both coasts of the US, Chicago might be a good choice. Additionally, check out the school’s partnerships with local research centers, volunteer organizations, or other opportunities that can enrich your MBA experience.  

  • Cost of Living: This can vary significantly based on the location of your target school. Make an informed decision by using platforms like Numbeo, Bankrate, or Payscale to determine the approximate cost of housing, food, travel and daily expenses you’ll incur during your MBA. Don’t forget to factor in additional costs such as medical insurance, especially if you’re targeting US schools. For instance, the UC Berkeley guide states that medical insurance costs approximately $6,000/year for graduates and each of their dependents, i.e. their partners and children. If you plan to bring your family to Haas, you will need to budget for medical insurance costs up to $48,000 for a family of 4.

2. Length of the MBA program: 1 Year Vs 2 Year

One of the most significant differences between European and US business schools is the length of their MBA programs. European full-time MBA programs tend to be shorter (often 1 year) compared to US MBA programs (2 years). Naturally, your first consideration should be the cost of attending - a second year will double your tuition, living expenses, and health insurance costs.

European programs typically attract candidates with more work experience, who tend to prefer shorter degrees. The key reasons driving this decision are: 

  • They are clearer about their post-MBA goals and don’t need the extra year or summer internship between years to explore their career options. 

  • They cannot afford to be out of the job market for a longer duration. Given that candidates lose income while taking an unpaid leave from the job market to do their MBA, it’s wise to account for personal liabilities such as mortgage, student debt or family responsibilities.

On the other hand, there are also benefits to choosing 2 year programs offered by most of the US-based business schools: 

  • Given the 2-year length of the program, students get more time to engage with the curriculum and extracurricular resources like career or research centers to develop their skills. This also gives them access to more on and off campus opportunities like industry treks and international experiences to build their network.

  • Two year programs have more/longer semester breaks. Students who want to explore different industries or job roles can apply to more internships that align with their interests before they commit to a career path.

3. Ranking

Rankings can often be a useful starting point in choosing business schools. Some of the most reliable business school ranking platforms are: 

Each of these platforms has their own qualifying criteria and methodology that they use to decide school rankings. This includes information provided by business schools on their current faculty, newly enrolled students, and the current graduating class. Alumni are typically asked to fill in a survey on the school’s resources, access to career opportunities, support systems, and average salaries. These factors combined produce a final annual rank.

However, proceed with caution. Since each of these ranking platforms use different methodology and weightage to each factor can change every year, these ranks can often appear arbitrary.

For example, the 2024 Financial Times MBA ranking shifted focus between certain factors by changing their weightage in the ranking. For example, the Percentage of Class Employed at Three Months carried less weight (2%) than the Carbon Footprint of the Program (4%). As a result, the Stanford GSB MBA program’s official ranking dropped from #4 in FT’s 2023 MBA rankings to #23 in 2024.

We meet hundreds of MBA applicants every year, including global sustainability leaders and visionaries. Even so, none of them ever chose an MBA based on the carbon footprint of the program!

So when you consider school rankings, make sure you do your research on the criteria used. We don’t recommend choosing a school based solely on ranks! 

4. Career Outcomes 

Most MBA aspirants pursue an MBA to boost their career, switch industry, or give them the skills to take on more leadership roles. Career progression continues to be one of the most important reasons for the ‘why MBA’ question for most applicants. So, it’s crucial that you research the school’s career statistics and employment reports, and connect with school alumni to learn more about career opportunities in their target geography, industry and roles. 

In the past, some of our clients for whom career outcomes are critical have created an Excel sheet to compare school employment reports. You’ll want to look at average post-MBA salaries for your industry, corporate recruiters that have relationships with the school’s career departments, and feeder companies (top recruiters at the school). 

Follow up your research by having conversations with current students, alumni, and even the admissions staff to learn more about career outcomes at the schools. When done positively and professionally, this engagement is well received by the school.

5. School Fit (aka find your tribe)

One of the most undermined aspects of school selection is the school’s culture. Candidates are often swayed by the school’s brand value and overlook their fit with the school. 

To make the most of your business school experience, select a school that aligns with your personal values. This also reflects positively in your application, as the school fit is one of the main parameters by which you will be evaluated. The Admissions Committee looks to identify how well you understand the school’s culture and values, and how these align with your career objectives and interests.

For example, Berkeley Haas is known for its culture of collaboration and focus on diversity, Stanford GSB is known for its entrepreneurial, innovation-driven culture, and Chicago Booth focuses heavily on analytical, data-driven thinking. 

So, before you apply, research the school’s curriculum, teaching methodology, career and co-curricular opportunities thoroughly. Reach out to alumni and current students to understand their experience at the school and then consider if that’s your tribe!


Want more advice on choosing the right business school for you? Book a free chat with our team. 

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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