Every year, people applying to business school eagerly await the annual MBA rankings released by The Princeton Review and publications like Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist, and the Financial Times. One common misconception about b-school? Acceptance to a top-ranked MBA program is a golden ticket to lifelong career success—and that it isn't worth applying to lower-ranked MBA programs.

MBA questions

Of course, that isn't true. While highly-ranked business schools offer a fantastic education and a wealth of professional opportunities, they don't guarantee success; similarly, just because a business school isn't as highly ranked doesn't mean you won't receive a great education. In reality, how well an MBA program matches your individual needs and goals is a more important measure than prestige, reputation, or rank. 

It's fine to consider MBA rankings when deciding where to apply—but ask these five questions about each school as well:

1. Where is this MBA program located? 

Consider where you want to live when applying to MBA programs: Do you prefer big cities or more remote locations? Is proximity to family or loved ones important to you? Most MBA programs take two years to complete, so where you live can affect your happiness and success—after all, you want to be close to jobs you'll apply to after graduation.

2. What does this school specialize in?

Find an MBA program that specializes in a professional interest of yours. MBA rankings take a lot of information into account, but the top-ranked schools may not offer the best programs for your career goals. 

3. What is this program’s teaching style? 

Different schools offer different learning experiences. Do you prefer professors with academic or real-world experience? Large, lecture-style classes or small seminars? Think about how you learn best and what skills you want to acquire at business school. Learn more about finding MBA programs with the best teaching.

4. How will this MBA program impact my life?

Think about the cost of your MBA (including financial aid packages and scholarships), as well as the fact that you'll likely have to take time off work. Consider personal commitments as well.

5. How likely am I to be accepted?

It's a good idea to be realistic about your chances of acceptance. To be admitted to top-ranked MBA programs, you'll need impeccable undergraduate grades, impressive work experience, high GMAT scores, and compelling applications. It's important that your applicant profile matches the schools to which you are applying.

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