Choosing a school or a university

If you are graduate or an experienced professional looking to grow your professional career in the business world, I am sure you are contemplating an MBA, MS, MSIS or a similar course to pursue. So, which school is fit for purpose? It is imperative to know the factors to consider while choosing a school that will have the most impact on yourself and your career.

1. Accreditation and Ranking

The accreditation of a school or a university is a sureshot way to acknowledge the standard and level of education they cater to and provide to all the students and the faculty they host.

To receive and retain accreditation, the business school must uphold the values and quality the accreditor require on a time to time basis.

E.g. For a school or an university that provides an MBA program, the three global organisations that provide accreditations are:

AACSB – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is an accreditation organisation that was founded in 1916. “AACSB’s mission is to foster engagement, accelerate innovation, and amplify impact in business education.”

EQUIS – The EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) is an accreditation organisation that offers an internationally recognised accreditation system for both business and management schools. It was founded in 1998.

AMBA – The Association of MBAs (AMBA) is an accreditation authority that was founded in 1967 and is “committed to raising its profile and quality standards internationally for the benefit of business schools, students and alumni and employers”.

If a b-school is accredited by any or all three of these institutions, it is a strong indication that it offers a high quality of education, better environment that fathers business ready professionals .

2. Reputation and alumni

The alumni of the university or school are their ambassadors and represent what the school’s values and credibility. Sometimes you can best judge the school by talking to the alumni. The alumni meets that a b-school organizes are not just for them but also for future students who aspire to be a part of that school. Often the alumni will be honest about their experience at the school and whether the time, energy, and effort invested brings about the desired results or not.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from doing your own research on the school’s credibility. One way to do this is to can use LinkedIn’s Alumni tool to find Alumni to get in touch with.

3. The industry network
A school or university’s business network is vital in connecting the students with their future employers and product companies.

During your tenure at the university, you will have ample opportunities to network with professionals. Often the alumni network is a connecting point to the business network. Get in touch with the placement committee to understand the kind of companies that visit the campus. E.g. if your interest is in pursuing a career in Consulting, check out which consulting companies have visited the campus in the last 5 years.

If your interest is in entrepreneurship, the school or university must have an entrepreneurship cell and linkages to VCs. If there are alumni who have been entrepreneurs or VCs – that’s even more better.

4. The exchange component

A number of schools and universities offer exchange programs with other universities so that students will gain critical business and cultural experience outside of their comfort zone and learn about challenges in different continents.

5. Research orientation

If your mind is set on pursuing a doctorate, the school should have high bent on the research capabilities. How many faculties in the university encourage research? Do many professors and academicians have doctorates? Have they been guides to PhD students? How many papers have been published by the university? These indicators can give you the right direction whether you will thrive in the school’s environment.

6. Program variants

No more a full time 2 year program is necessary to achieve a master’s degree. Most of the top universities offer a full time, part-time, distance, and online learning format. However, in today’s virtual world, there are some courses which are best taken online and some are better with classroom discussions. If you have to judge a program, try to see if it offers the right delivery format for a particular course. Some courses could have online pre-reading to be done before the actual classroom discussion – a mixed mode of delivery.

7. The quality of the program

This is where the quality of the faculty also makes a difference – after all they are the ones who design the course curriculum and delivery.  The university may offer many programs, but there is one flagship program which has either been the first program that the school started or is the most popular. Often, the university or the school is judged by this particular program. However, this should not skew your decision while looking at other programs the school offers. Often the faculty is distributed between the flagship and other programs as well.


The above factors should give you a good direction in terms of which school or university to choose. Finally, it depends on your requirements. For some students all these factors could be important and for some students on a few would really matter. The next step would be to classify schools in these 7 buckets and narrow your choice until it becomes obvious.

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