We at mbaMission have tried repeatedly to persuade business school candidates who are evaluating MBA programs to downplay the various schools’ rankings, which can fluctuate wildly, and instead focus on fit, which is enduring. Now, in the midst of admissions season and “rankings season”—such publications as Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, and Poets&Quants typically release their rankings in the fall—we recommend that you accelerate and broaden your evaluation process.
One way to look beyond rankings is to speak with MBA students. Even if you do not have direct access to students, reaching out to them in a targeted way—via email, club websites, and social media—can be quite easy. Do not feel as though you are being “pushy” when contacting students this way, because most take pride in their school and are open to speaking with candidates. They are a de facto part of the school’s marketing arm. For example, if you are interested in a certain program for its entrepreneurship offerings, you can get in touch with the individual(s) leading the entrepreneurship club to learn more about the program (and the club!). Of course, you should be respectful of each individual’s time and be well prepared for your conversation. If you are conscientious, you will be able to gain some great insight into the school’s academic environment and then have time to learn more about the atmosphere on campus. Networking now should enable you to begin narrowing your search and more effectively focus your limited “free” time throughout the rest of the admissions season.