Yesterday we posted a question that was asked by a Brave Supplicant who had been accepted to a school we don’t frequently mention.
What we specifically said to this BSer was:
The blahg focuses primarily on the competitive top MBA programs and so no, we don’t discuss [School 3] all that often (every client we’ve ever worked with who’s applied to [School 3] has gotten in, so they’re just not overly selective – still a great school though!! you’ll love it if you end up there, we’re certain).
We will add to this comment that we have high regard for the school that the BSer has been accepted to. No, it’s not necessarily full of the movers and the shakers and the go-getter money makers of the world – but in our experience, there are some mighty nice people there (not that those categories of “go-getter” and “nice” are mutually exclusive, but, well, you know).
Also, if you’re planning on staying in the local geography, then it’s got some good recruiting opportunities with the regional corporations. This is often true for these lower-ranked schools. They might not have a broad national or international profile, but they will frequently have clout and status in their local community. Plus, these schools are typically waaaaay cheaper than the big-name MBAs. When you look at the ridiculousness of tuitions and fees at those behemoth schools, it can be a relief to see the more reasonable costs for education elsewhere.
And, obviously, lower-ranked schools tend to be much easier to gain admission to. They’re very open-minded in how they evaluate their applicants. It’s easier to stand out from the crowd because, well, there’s not so much of a crowd.
If you’re coming from an oversubscribed candidate pool like the stereotypical male Indian engineer or white guy in finance, and you have some flaws in your profile – or you’re just chomping at the bit to start your MBA **now** goshdarnit – then these are schools you may want to look into. Even now, at the tail end of a hypercompetitive season. There could still be room at some of these solid-but-perhaps-not-spectacular programs. (And, let’s be real, if you have tried with multiple apps in multiple rounds this season and have come up empty-handed, then we hate to say it but signs are pointing to the possibility that your profile is perhaps solid but not spectacular, too.)
Before everyone starts freaking out: Lower-ranked schools are simply NOT comparable to the prestige schools when it comes to the types of opportunities you can expect to see waltzing onto campus, nor the dollar value of starting salaries when you graduate, nor the numbers of dazzling celebrities and famous business personalities who will grace the halls of your program. If you’re headed to a name-brand top-tier MBA then yeah, it’s a different experience.
EssaySnark met someone at random recently who’d attended a Top 5 MBA program and all they could talk about was how SMART everyone was, that they’d never been around such a concentration of SMART people in one place for so long, either before or since bschool. She said it was inspiring but also intimidating. We’ve heard that from other grads, too. Again, we’re not saying that people at lower-ranked schools are dumb. We’re just offering reports of experiences. Some may also claim that the quality of professors at a brand-name school is superior – though we’ve certainly encountered some shoddy profs at top schools. However, the big universities can afford to pay their professors more than smaller regional schools can. They are able to attract teaching talent based on their reputation, too.
Our perspective is that you get out of your MBA experience what you put into it — because isn’t that true of everything in life? If you don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re going for an EDUCATION, then you can most definitely gain tremendously from a Master’s of Business Administration program that’s not hitting the top of every list.
And, if you have an impressive GMAT score, then you may find yourself in high demand at these lower-ranked schools – to the extent that they could be willing to throw some dollars your direction in an effort to entice you to join them. This level of school doesn’t typically have the massive endowments that schools like Harvard, Stanford and Yale do, but they do know how to use the monies available to them strategically to attract the candidates that will allow them to increase their standing in the world. So yes, your high GMAT score will potentially be a greater asset to you – and to them. Compared to the highly competitive schools, a next-tier program may be more ready to demonstrate that value through a scholarship offer. Their GMAT affects their rankings, so if your GMAT will be a great contribution to that, then you could find yourself in an attractive position.
Which can make for some complicated decisions of course! It all comes down to priorities, and these are personal questions that only you can answer. Saying one school is “better” than another is pretty absurd, and we’re not trying to make claims of that sort in these discussions. It’s to some extent subjective, and very individual. The best way to determine if a school is a good fit for you is to go visit the place, and to talk to people. Do enough of that and you will hopefully be able to gauge how you might fit into their culture and if it’s the right place for you.
Here's what others have said about this:
All the managers who have MBAs in my organization went to a local university that is effectively unranked. (Our organization is prestigious in its niche industry, and definitely not a small business)
At first it actually confuses people that I’m pursuing a degree anywhere else. If I wanted to stay here and move into leadership, the regional school everyone goes to would be perfect.
Yes! This is true at lots of places, the Midwestern region in particular. In certain companies, and sometimes entire industries, the MBA isn’t valued nearly the same way and when someone does go to the trouble to get one, very often they’re after an education more than prestige, and thus the thinking goes, “Where can I get the degree that’s convenient to my schedule and lifestyle?” There are strong programs all over the U.S. (and presumably the world though we don’t know that for certain) where you can get a great business education locally to facilitate career progress. Obviously there are other intangibles available at the “top” schools but it’s all relative to the values of the consumer. As they say, beauty is in the eye…
What do you guys think of McDonough Georgetown? I value your input and would love to hear what you think.
McDonough is a great school! We’ve worked with some very impressive BSers who have chosen them. Sometimes they get a rap as a public policy bschool but we see all sorts of people with all sorts of backgrounds end up at Georgetown. If that’s where you’re headed, CONGRATULATIONS!