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Selecting Your List of Business Schools

Generally speaking applicants to MBA programs at the top ranked US business schools tend to share the following characteristics. They are about 27 or 28 years old and have five years of work experience. They often have GMAT scores above 700 points.

In comparison, for European business school, applicants have a slightly different profile. They tend to be a few years older and accordingly have more work experience. On average, their GMAT scores will also be slightly lower.

Beyond these statistics, MBA applicants hold a variety of undergraduate majors and come from a wide spectrum of industries.

So, how many business schools?

If your basic profile (age, years of work experience, GMAT score, and GPA score) is a close match with the averages for your target schools, then applying to five or six schools is a safe number. However, if you are slightly younger or older, have a lower GPA or GMAT score, or other potential weaknesses in your application, then you should be cautious and apply to six to eight schools.

As you consider your list of schools, they should be a mix of schools across a range of rankings. Aiming for the best program that you can get into is understandable; however, make sure to be realistic. Applying to more schools is a way to keep your options open. For instance, if you are concerned about funding, applying to programs that might be safety schools for you can increase your chances of getting scholarships.


The entire application process takes months and requires a major time commitment. Some people prefer to apply to only their top two or three choices and if they are not successful apply to additional schools in later rounds. You will need to consider your personal circumstances and decide if you would have the time to submit additional applications later and if you are comfortable with the wait.

Keep in mind that once you receive offers to business school, you will only have a few weeks before you will need to put down a deposit to secure your place at a school. Although it may be difficult to complete all of your applications in the same round, by doing so you will know all of your options and your scholarship information and you will be able to make an informed decision about your next steps.


There are many personal considerations to take into account when considering a school’s location. Do you want to be in a large city or in a smaller town? Is the school closed to the city or region where you want to work after the MBA program? Top business schools will have recruitment links with companies all over the US and internationally; however, they will naturally have the strongest ties to their immediate community.

If you are set on working in a certain location, you may benefit from also attending a business school in that location. While it is possible to use your weekends or treks during the year to visit companies or to attend recruitment events, this will require a larger time commitment and more planning on your part. You will have to weigh the benefits and challenges of a school’s location and decide what makes the most sense for you.


While there will be similarities between all of business schools, each will have distinctive elements within their curriculum. For instance, Yale is unique in using a ‘raw case’ approach where cases studies are delivered on paper and with various other media and in requiring you to participate in a Global Study. Another example is MIT Sloan. The school has innovation periods in the middle of each semester that allow for student to participate in different types of experiential learning.

All business schools will deliver a strong business education but they will have nuances in what they focus on. You should think about what you are looking for in a program. Also ask yourself if the schools that you have selected will allow you to have the experience that you want for yourself.


Each business school will have a distinctive culture. You want to be sure that you will be comfortable in the two years that you spend at a school and that you have found the right fit for your personality and interests. Culture can be best determined by speaking to current students and recent graduates. This is an important element of researching a program and one which you should not skip.

Alumni network

Gaining access to an alumni network is a major benefit of going to business school. These are the type of connections that can benefit you throughout your career. Additionally, do not limit yourself to alumni of your business school. The network can extend to your greater university

Many post-MBA roles are facilitated by alumni. You should consider where the alumni from your target schools typically live and in which industries they work. You want to be able to interact with alumni who live in your area and who work in your preferred industry. Searching for alumni groups in your area and on LinkedIn can help you to learn where alumni are most active.

Early in the admissions process it is easy to cast a wide net and apply to many schools. However, you should only apply to schools that you would genuinely be happy to attend. Do not waste time with safety schools if they do not appeal to you. You want to enjoy the two years that you will spend in business school and you should be proud of the name that you put on your resume. It will stay with you for the rest of your career.

At Oriel Admissions, we have helped applicants to gain entry to top business schools. If you would like to know more about our services and how the Oriel team can help you with your applications, please contact Rona at for a free consultation.

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