When seeking an MBA program, many applicants think of the MBA as a golden opportunity to travel or live in their dream location They figure, 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 would propose you put all that to the side when making this decision.
I recently spoke with an applicant who literally crossed off his list any program in a cold climate. Which is basically every program in the Northeast. Many applicants do the same for any program that is not in a city. However, Tuck has the smallest class size, which is important to some. Ross is the #1 biggest feeder for Amazon hires.
Here’s my message: don’t put location on the top of your list of criteria. This is NOT is a vacation, or a permanent move. And I say this a Californian city-person who did an MBA in the rural Midwest.
I tell people that 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 15-month long conference. You’ll convene in September. Six months later, take a 3-month long refreshment break called the internship. And then come back together for another six months. If you choose to study abroad, whittle that down to a 12-month long conference.
Similar to a conference, you are going for the purpose of getting information and networking. If necessary, you’ll put up with the location, because the content – and the people – are what’s most important.
When you are at a conference, you’re there for a specific purpose, and you’ll be working long days. There’s not a lot of time to hang out at the beach or visit museums anyways.
Think first about what you want to get out of your MBA. What is your criteria for success? For most, that means achieving a specific career goal. So back things out from there. If you don’t know what you want to do, at least get it narrowed down to a specific function.
For example, if you want a career in marketing, you will want to apply to Kellogg – no matter how cold it is there, or how you feel about living in a suburb north of Chicago.
With this in mind, 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, MIT is a great choice, as a high percent of grads relocate out west. So look at this along the lines of where alums live.
If you want to take a great vacation – do it before starting the program! Winter break, maybe. If you want to move to a great new city – do it after you graduate.
Going to a top-ranked program will increase your value, and open doors. Invest in yourself by attending the best school you can, for what you want to do. Get a top MBA and become an industry or subject expert. This will give you the “pull” to be recruited wherever, by your dream company, located in your dream city.