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Why a top ten MBA program

An overview: The full-time MBA
A full-time MBA is an intensive management course usually lasting 1 or 2 years depending on the MBA program. Typically, students already worked 3-6 years full-time post undergraduate before getting their MBA. During the full-time MBA, as the name says, students are fully immersed in their studies and don't even work part-time (there's simply no room in an MBA student's busy schedule for this). The entire focus is on course work, study groups, student clubs, project work and of course recruiting.

In the US the vast majority of MBA programs is 2 years long with a 3 month summer internship between the 2 years, which is great for career switchers to try out something new. In Europe the majority of MBA programs is only 1 year in length, meaning you don't have an internship and take fewer classes, but at the same time your overall tuition will be lower while being out of the work force for only 1 year (less lost income). In Asia MBA programs vary in length.

Some students are sponsored by their employers to get their MBA (especially strategy consulting firms do so) on the condition that they return to the company in a more senior role and stay at least 2 years. The majority of students, however, is not sponsored and will not return to pre-MBA employers. In general, students try to achieve a change of the following in one or more ways:

  • Function / role (e.g. from accounting to business development)
  • Industry (e.g. within Industry from consumer goods to technology, or a general move from Industry to Finance)
  • Geography (e.g. from working in India to finding a job in the US)
The top ten MBA programs
Today, there are hundreds of full-time MBA programs in the world (e.g. see the top 100 global rankings by the Financial Times) but there are only a handful of truly prestigious top 10 MBA programs, most of which are located in the US (ranking below based on a mix of US News / BusinessWeek / Financial Times rankings):
    1. Harvard Business School
    1. Stanford Business School (tied)
    3. Wharton
    4. MIT (Sloan)
    5. Kellogg (Northwestern)
    6. Chicago Booth
    7. Columbia Business School
    8. UC Berkeley (Haas)
    9. Dartmouth (Tuck)
    10. NYU (Stern)
    10. UCLA (Anderson) (tied)
In Europe, the top 2 programs are London Business School and INSEAD which are on par with the top ten US business schools.

Advantages of a top ten MBA program
The differences between a global top ten MBA program and a business school ranked 70th are like day and night. Throughout the core curriculum you will study more or less the same material, but there are vast differences in terms of:

  • Your peers: The more competitive it is to get into a specific MBA program, the higher the intellectual horsepower of your peers.
  • Your recruiting opportunities: Top global companies in Finance (e.g. Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan or Morgan Stanley), Consulting (e.g. McKinsey, The Boston Consulting Group, or Bain), or Industry (e.g. Google, Facebook) will only come to top ten MBA programs to actively recruit students. It is not impossible to land a job at these firms from lower ranked MBA programs, but it will be much harder. Along with top firms fighting over top talent also comes a much higher average post-MBA compensation (~USD $100,000 - $125,000 yearly base salary) at top 10 MBA programs compared to lower ranked business schools (~USD $60,000 - $75,000).
  • Your alumni network: When it comes to your job search, the alumni network can be invaluable. Not only for your post-MBA job, but also later in life when switching. The better the MBA program, the stronger and more valuable your alumni network.
Hence, given the advantages above, if you want to invest into your business education (which can cost up to USD $50,000 in tuition per year alone, along with not having a job) it often makes sense to attend a top ten MBA program even if you have a scholarship at a lower ranked institution.

How do you finance an MBA with such outrageous tuition fees and living expenses? Unless you’ve saved up a lot of money in your pre-MBA career you will either have to take out a private student loan (which luckily has acceptable interest rates) or you are fortunate enough to get a merit based scholarship either from the MBA program itself or a corporate scholarships at select MBA programs. Federal / educational funds from your home country are also a valuable source of financial aid. Learn more about financial aid for MBA students.

Now, the big question is, how do you get into a top 10 MBA program? Check out our MBA admission requirements to find out more.