How to decide which full-time MBA program is right for me

5 - How to compare MBA programsIt is highly commendable to make the decision to return to school full time to get an MBA. It can be confusing, though, trying to determine which programs you want to apply to and which one you want to subsequently enroll in. Rankings can be a great place to start, as they have done a lot of the narrowing down for you. It’s safe to say you will get a phenomenal business education from any of the top-20 programs. It is up to you to take that list and delve in more deeply to examine the qualitative aspects of those programs that best align with your goals.

Location

From small towns to large cities, the top-20 MBA programs vary in terms of school location. It’s important for you to take a look at the school’s location when determining which program is right for you. If you have lived in a city all of your life, maybe you’re looking to go to a smaller town for your MBA education. UNC Kenan-Flagler is located in Chapel Hill, a college town in the heart of North Carolina’s beautifully mild Triangle region. While it and towns like it may not have the expansive public transportation system of a large urban area, the town is not short of entertainment options, outdoor activities or delicious restaurants. Regardless of what your intended location is, it is something you’ll want to consider when choosing a full-time MBA program.

Quality of life

Quality of life is very important when deciding which full-time MBA program is right. Given that you already will be forfeiting an income for two years to obtain your MBA, you may want to think about the cost of rent, transportation and other factors. What does the cost of living look like in the areas you are considering moving to? You likely will want to enjoy all that the town or city you are moving to has to offer, so take into account the cost of living to ensure you’ll be able to do all that you want while you’re there for two years.

Culture

One of the most important things you’ll want to get a feel for is the culture of the schools you are considering. The best way to do this is to visit the schools, if you can, and spend some time with current students. Current students can help you figure out whether the schools you are looking at will be a good fit. If you are unable to visit, try reaching out to some current students online. Their responsiveness to you and eagerness to help can be an excellent indicator of the culture of the student body at the program, and that can help you decide whether it is an environment you would or would not enjoy being a part of. To get a feel for what life is like at UNC Kenan-Flagler without visiting, reach out to one of our many MBA Ambassadors.

Opportunities for partners/families        

When choosing which full-time MBA program is best for you, consider the number and level of opportunities for the people who will be moving with you. If your partner is joining you for the two years, you should explore job and extracurricular opportunities for him or her in the area. Also look at opportunities within the program for networking and involvement for your partner. UNC Kenan-Flagler has a club for partners called “Kenan Connection” that provides them with the opportunity to connect with others, participate in group events and get involved in the community. If you have children, take a look at school districts to figure out whether it’s a place you would feel comfortable enrolling them.

In the end, the rankings can help you narrow down your search, but you have to pick out the schools that best align with your interests in a number of qualitative areas. Examine the school’s location, quality of life, culture and opportunities for partners to make sure you choose the school that is the right fit for you. Remember that you’ll get the same extraordinary foundation in business education at each of the top-20 programs, but it is the non-quantifiable characteristics of the programs that will make the difference for you.

Choosing an MBA program is one of the most important decisions you will make. Watch our “Insights on Choosing an MBA Program” video to get a unique perspective on choosing an MBA program from someone who has been in your shoes.