Choosing the right business school for you
Selecting a business school can be a very confusing process.
There are hundreds within the UK and thousands globally. The top schools will teach you marketing, accounting, HR, entrepreneurship and offer a range of exciting elective modules. They’re triple accredited and rank highly in the FT rankings. They will all ensure high percentages of post-degree employability and have notable alumni and promising partnerships among globally renowned firms.
This can make selection of a business school very challenging. To make the best choice, I came up with the following criteria: location, quality, size and gut feeling, all which led me to study the Full-time MBA at the Business School (formerly Cass).
I hope that this account of my selection process and experience with the Business School can help to guide anyone making one of the biggest commitments to change of their professional career.
The first level of selection was done purely on location.
I started my professional career in London. As such, I am fortunate to find much of my professional and personal support network in a city which is home to a number of globally renowned business schools. This proximity to my ‘nearest and dearest’ made it very challenging to look beyond London.
I attended a number of open days and even interviewed outside of London, however when it came to decisions and prioritisation, the location put the London-based schools leagues ahead.
Prestige, quality and investment
A second challenge was to find a balance between three measures: prestige, quality and investment.
When looking at such a significant investment of time, opportunity cost and— let’s be honest— money, the return on investment was a key consideration. Programmes vary in length, generally one to two years for full time programmes and financial investment.
In addition to the quality of the teaching, the name and prestige of the school play a significant role in the cost.
There are a variety of scholarships, bursaries and financial awards available, so finding those which I qualified for and could feasibly be awarded also had an influence.
My priority at this stage was to ensure the highest possible quality of education and prestige while remaining in the realms of the financially viable.
By this stage I had a shortlist that you could count on one hand and a very challenging decision to make. I applied to all the schools on my shortlist, attended networking events, webinars, open days and interviews. I asked them about their unique selling points.
Cohort sizes are generally between 50 at the smallest size, up to three or four hundred students for some of the larger programmes. Research within my connections and network lead me to favour a smaller programme.
Size helped me to narrow down the shortlist to three schools – each of which with extremely impressive teaching faculty and wider teams. They all had small and intimate cohorts, guaranteeing a personal experience whilst still ensuring a high degree of diversity.
In the end, the final decision came down to gut instinct and the quality of candidate experience. The Business School team were helpful, supportive, challenging and genuine. They were always quick to respond to queries and offered flexibility in the application timeline.
The open day was remarkably fun, especially the sample lecture which was delivered by the charismatic programme director. Dr Paolo Aversa’s introduction was entertaining, engaging and down to earth. He described the Business School’s Full-time MBA programme as “the Vodka Redbull of MBAs” and one with teamwork and cooperation at its heart, rather than competition, which greatly appealed to me.
The interview process was informed and caring. My final interview was with a senior faculty member, where other schools had me speaking with another member of recruitment. The interviewing Professor offered me invaluable advice on how to choose a school and his inquisitive nature and passion for his subject and education were highly infectious.
The whole application process made me feel highly valued— a person rather than an applicant, and a true asset to the future cohort. All things considered, when waiting for my final offers, during the agonising days of refreshing my email every thirty seconds, I knew that the offer I was truly excited to receive was the offer from the Business School.
Questions to ask yourself
My advice to business school and MBA applicants would be to ask yourself the following questions:
- Think about your personal balance of investment, prestige and quality when looking at the schools. Do any of them offer a specialty that resonates with you and your future career goals?
- Find potential locations: cities and countries. What about them appeals to you?
- Do you want a big, competitive cohort of 300+ or a smaller, collaborative one?
- Go with your gut. How do you feel about the interview process? Which school’s email are you waiting for? At this stage, you’ve got to do what feels right to you.
Peter Walls, Full-time MBA (2021)