How To Choose The Ideal School For You?

If you thought the GMAT was hard, you’re in for a surprise!

Shortlisting schools that match your expectations can be a very long and painstaking process. Initially, you might feel overwhelmed and confused about where to start – after all, there are so many schools out there!

So why not simply apply to every top business school?

Well, there are a couple of reasons that might deter you from doing just that

1.Application process takes time. You simply don’t have time to apply to each and every school, as that would involve  writing countless application essays and going through several interviews rounds.

2.Application process is expensive. The average application fee for each school comes around  to be 90$. So you can imagine the amount of money wasted in application fees, after all,  you are just going to attend 1 school.

By shortlisting schools, you focus all your time and effort onto those select few school that you are interested in joining. That way, you can considerably increase the quality of your essays as well as spend less money in terms of application fees.

I’m sure the next question on your mind is – 

On what factors do I shortlist schools and how much importance should be given to each one?

Well it depends from person to person.

While some people are more focused on university rankings while shortlisting schools, others might decide based on the country it’s located.

But there are a few factors that everyone should take into consideration while shortlisting schools –

  • Self Evaluation

  • Career Goals

  • Specialisations Offered

  • School Ranking

  • Admission Requirements

  • Course Structure

Based on the above criteria you can then bifurcate the schools into the following sections “Dream”, “Competitive” & “Safe” (More information on this in latter half of the article)

We’ll talk about each factor in detail as we move along the article.

Self Evaluation

To start with, we would advise you to do a microscopic evaluation of your professional, academic and extra-curricular experiences.

Questions like these will help you evaluate your strengths, weaknesses as well as figure out areas of interest –

  • What accomplishments make you proud?

  • What motivates you?

  • What are some qualities that you feel differentiates you from the crowd?

  • What is the biggest criticism you received from your friends?

  • Describe a difficult work situation/project and how you overcame it.

You are the best judge of your profile (although, we recommend evaluating your profile with professionals to negate the under/ over valuation you might have done) in terms of your potential and the work you have done till now.

Once done, you can use the factors given below to shortlist and apply to b-schools that seem like the best fit for you.

You can also take MiM-Essay’s Free Profile Evaluation to get comprehensive assessment of your chances at top Masters in Management schools. After your assessment, you’ll understand which schools to target, which qualities to highlight in your essays to maximise your chances and much more..

Career Goals

What are your short term and the long term goals?

If you know exactly what you want to do in future, that’s great! But if you’re someone who’s still confused and can’t pinpoint to anything, this is where the self-evaluation comes to help.

To narrow down your choices, use process of elimination for things you do not want to do at all. This will help you keep 2-3 options (Marketing, Finance, Analytics, and Economics etc.) which you would like to explore during your course.

For example, You might have worked somewhere as an intern and based on that you could judge whether you would want to go that industry or not. You might have thought of an idea during college but never worked full time on it or you had some electives in your undergrad that you really liked and are interested to pursue your education in that field.

Additionally, college websites offer placement reports based on different business sectors (consulting, finance, marketing, etc). You can accordingly shortlist schools which showcased a good placement record for the domain of your choice.

And if you haven’t yet figured what interests you, there’s no need to worry. You can apply for a general management program where you can take all kinds of electives such as marketing, accounting, advertising, etc. Your course itself is a journey where you’ll eventually figure what you want to do if you don’t know that already.

Also, some countries have strict immigration policies which you need to take into consideration while shortlisting schools. So if you’re planning to work and settle abroad, you need to check country specific immigration policies. For more information, check out this Guide on Visa and Immigration: 10 Countries Immigration Policies.

Specialisations offered

Many schools try to differentiate themselves by specializing in a particular sector.

For example, IE Business School is known for it’s entrepreneurial spirit and offers many courses that could be a good match for future entrepreneurs. Similarly, schools like Wharton and Stanford are more familiar for their finance programs.

Taking a look at the specializations offered by the schools will help you prepare for the long term goals.

So choose your school based on the specializations they offer and not the other way round. Just because a particular school ranks well for some list, doesn’t mean all it’s specializations are equally good.

College Rankings

An email survey of 750 GMAT-takers was done at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School. The survey asked the participants to divide up 100 points among 10 attributes such as Starting Salary, Net Cost, Prestige of the School to indicate the relative importance of each attribute when choosing a business school.

An interesting outcome was witnessed.

Instead of ‘starting salary’ being the most expected attribute to rank as most important for applicants, it was actually ‘Prestige of the school’ which took the place at the top.

So yeah, school rankings do play an important part when it comes to deciding upon a school.

That being said, going to a highly ranked school matters more for some people than others.

If you’re within three years of undergrad, attending a prestigious b-school might be more important since you don’t have a lot of work experience to put on your resume. But if you’ve been in the workforce for 5-10 years, rankings might matter less, since you have real-world experience to bulk up your portfolio and help you land that post-grad job.

Also, the ranking methodology is based on a number of factors like average salary after graduation, value for money, location of the school, etc in varying order of importance. Let’s say, you have an interest in entrepreneurship and want to pursue it professionally. If some ranking methodology doesn’t include this as one of the important factors while ranking schools, some of the best schools that offer good entrepreneurial experience might be ranked low. So when shortlisting schools based on their rankings, tread wisely.

Admission Requirements

Look at the admission requirements for schools starting from top (GMAT score, academic achievements, work experience, career expectations, class profiles, language requirements, curriculum during bachelors, location, duration of course). Also, these requirements are to be considered as a whole and not one at a time. 

For eg. IE Business School has an average GMAT score of 650 with a very intensive focus on entrepreneurship. In case your GMAT score is 620 but have entrepreneurial experience, it will negate the low score.

But some schools do have strict eligibility criteria such as age, CGPA, undergrad degree requirement while applying for certain programs. So keep that mind before you shortlist schools where you are ineligible in the first place.

Its a good idea to send schools your resume and ask if you can get a profile evaluation w.r.t that particular degree.

Life At School

Next, visit in-depth the websites of these schools to see what they offer and how it will act as the right catapult for you.

When shortlisting schools based on School life, following options should taken into consideration –

  • Course structure: 1 year or 2 years

  • Do they have any exchange programs

  • How is the typical day at the campus? Will you get any free time to pursue other interests?

Additionally, try to look for more information related to your interests. For example, if you are interested in entrepreneurship you might want to look at –

  • How many startups have been incubated from that school recently

  • How well is the curriculum designed to give you time to work on your ideas

  • What is the class profile of current students

  • What are the different electives offered in case you want to explore

Some colleges give you an option on their website where you can chat with students currently studying there. College websites tell you a lot about the student life and clubs and associations that offer you practical exposure to various career paths.

Engagement in Social media (Facebook groups, pages for colleges and associations), Youtube interviews of students and faculty (Campus Channel) and school blogs (LBS/HEC student blog) are a good source to collect information.

The Final Step

Once, you figure out your requisites for schools which are the right fit for you, include schools that fall into these three segments – “Dream”, “Competitive”, “Safe

Having your list bifurcated this way will ensure that you considerably increase your chances of getting in a school that you like, as well as not set any unrealistic goals with regard to your application.

Now let’s get down to what each of these segments mean.


Like the name suggests, these schools are pretty difficult to get into. The average student profile securing an admit to this school is at a higher level compared to your profile. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply to such colleges. Your chances may be slim, but you still hope to get into these dream schools, especially if you have a great GMAT and strong essays.

Usually, students target and shortlist upto 1-2 schools that fall in this category.


These are usually the schools whose pre-requisites are a little above with what you have to offer, and students with similar profile such as yours have obtained an admit in the same.

You have good chances of getting into the schools included in this category, although there’s no guarantee. A point to be noted here, don’t add another set of dream schools in this segment as you’ll simply end up wasting your time and money if the schools are not within your reach. You need to honest with yourself and do a thorough self evaluation to avoid any disappointments.

You can shortlist 2-3 schools from this category.


In this section, add those schools where you’re certain to get an admit. And your GMAT and Profile fit in comfortably with this schools specifications.

These need not be Tier 1 Schools or creme de la creme, but they should have good reputation. Schools where you would be happy to study in.  You can shortlist 1-2 schools from this category.

If you follow these steps sincerely and diligently, you automatically start liking certain colleges more than others. This will also help you eliminate options that do not interest you at all. Now you will be left with a narrowed down list.

We recommend you apply to a mixed bunch of colleges from each segment. 4-6 schools overall, with not more than 2-3 schools from each segment.

If you still have a lot of options we recommend you to repeat the process again and then go for the best option as per your priority (study: overall rank, job: salary etc.)

Hope this article makes it a bit clear on how to choose a MiM School!

If you’re still confused on how to shortlist schools, we would be happy to help you out. Reach out to us at [email protected] for more information.