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MBA Programs - Location Isn't Everything

Location, Location, Location! Right? Well...


When seeking an MBA program, many applicants look at it as a golden opportunity to travel or live in their dream location. They think, “I have to be happy where I’m living for those 2 years, right?” Or, “I’m not much of a country person, so…” or “I want to live in a mild climate, so…”


I propose you set all that aside when making your decision.


Recently, I spoke with an applicant who literally crossed any program in a cold climate off his list, which is basically all of the ones in the Northeast. Many do the same for programs not based in a city. Some focus on small class sizes, which then puts Tuck at the top. Ross is the #1 feeder for Amazon hires.


It’s Not a Vacation, It’s a Conference


Here’s my message: don’t put location on the top of your list of criteria. This is not a vacation, nor is it a permanent move. And I say this a Californian city-dweller who did an MBA in the rural Midwest. I tell people I could have done my MBA on Jupiter because I was at the business school day and night, meeting with my learning team, organizing panel discussions, writing the school newsletter, attending speaking events, interviewing, attending club meetings, and everything else.


Think of this as a long conference with a 3-month refreshment break called the internship. If you choose to study abroad, location becomes even less important. Like a conference, you are going for the purpose of getting information and networking. The content – and the people – are what’s most important, so to get those things you put up with the location. You are there for a specific purpose. If you’re doing it right, that means long days, which don’t leave a ton of time to hang out at the beach or visit museums.


Prioritize Your Post-MBA Goal


Think first about what you want to get out of your MBA and work backwards from there. What are your criteria for success? For most, it’s achieving a specific career goal. If you don’t know what you want to do, at least narrow it down to a specific function. For example, if you want a career in marketing, you will want to apply to Kellogg – no matter how you feel about living in Chicago or how cold it is.


The one concession to this stance is that you will want to have a good alumni network in your target location. If you want to work in Europe, Texas might not be the right choice because it’s a more regional school. However, if you want to work in Silicon Valley, Haas and GSB are good choices, but so is MIT – a high percentage of MIT grads relocate out west. Think about this in terms of where alums work and live.


Rank and Fit Open Doors – Not Program Location


If you want to take a great vacation, do it! Before starting the program. If you want to move to a great new city, do it! After you graduate.


Going to a top-ranked program that fits well with your goals will increase your value and open doors, so make that your priority. Attend the best school you can for what you want to do. Become an industry or subject matter expert. This will give you the pull to be recruited by your dream company in your dream city.


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