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How to respond to the right B-school call

  At this stage of your B-school journey it's quite obvious that you will end up with calls from more than one institute. How would you know which one is best for you? Here are some parameters to look into while selecting the B-school of your choice.  

There’s a popular saying: Nothing’s over until it’s over. Very true!

When you’ve undertaken to do something, you cannot rest until it’s completely finished, every little bit. Whenever it was that you started on your journey to obtain an MBA, the moment of truth has arrived. The CAT has been vanquished, the other tests such as the XAT, SNAP, NMAT, IIFT, etc have been conquered, and the group discussions, essay writings and personal interviews too have been overcome. Now, all that remains is to choose the institute where you will spend the next two years.
This is perhaps the most important part of your admission procedure. For those of you who have made it to this stage and gotten a call from an institute, all is well. Go for the admission, join the course and you will be on your way to getting your degree. But for the vast majority who get calls from more than one institute, this is the most crucial choice you will make.

Choices – easy and difficult
This question has both simple and difficult answers.

For instance, if you get calls from two institutes, one of which is in the top five of institute rankings while the other is in the nether part of the top twenty, the choice is quite an easy one – opt for the former.

If there is a particular field you want to specialise in, and you have multiple calls from institutes, choose the one that will give you the most value in that field of specialisation. Consider the following situation, for example. Let’s suppose you want to specialise in Human Resources, and you’ve got calls from several institutes. Again, the choice is simple – select the institute that is known for its HR programme. The same holds for other specialisations as well, like finance, marketing, etc. Of course, this point is moot when it comes to the top 10 schools; pretty much any of these are a good bet.

The problem arrives when you get calls from institutes that come very close when you’re evaluating your options. What if you get calls from institutes that are all very closely ranked, at the top, middle or otherwise? What if you get calls from institutes that offer fantastic programmes in the specialisation fields of your choice? What if exorbitant tuition fees are a problem, but you’ve got a call from an institute that charges high fees but is a very well reputed, highly ranked B-school, and another call from a lower ranked institute that charges less? If this is the situation you find yourself in, you have to be very careful and make sure you choose the institute that will be perfect for you.

What should you consider while selecting your B-school?
While choosing your institute, there are usually two points of view you have to consider.

  1. What you want from the institute
  2. What the institute can offer you

What you want
Which industry do you want to work in, and what is your profile?
As you must have found out during preparation and sitting for the interview, this is a very important factor you have to evaluate, and you must take your educational background into consideration. If you’re from a computer science or IT background, a role in the IT industry would be best suited for you. If you’ve studied economics, you might want to work in the consulting or banking industry. If you’ve graduated in biology, you could look at a career in the pharmaceutical or healthcare industry.
If you have work experience, remember to take that into account, and try and match it with the institute from which you’ve got your calls. Have you worked in an operations role? Do you have work experience in sales and marketing?
Evaluate your future choice based on your educational and professional experience, and it will be easy to convince anyone, including yourself, why you want to do an MBA and work in any industry. If, however, you want to switch fields, irrespective of whether you have work experience, you should know why you want to do so, and what you expect to gain from it.

What kind of companies do you want to work for?
If you’re clear about the industry you wish to work in, the next step is to figure out the major players in that industry. Find out all information you can about the companies that can offer you the best opportunities. For example, if you want a career in the FMCG industry, some of the best companies could be ITC, Pepsi, HUL, Proctor & Gamble, Dabur, Colgate-Palmolive, etc. And after you’ve found out all you can about these companies, go through the placement reports, brochures or any other source of the institutes where these companies go to recruit.
The idea is to select your B-school from the company and industry perspective, and this can guide you in choosing the most appropriate institute for you.

How much will you be paying for your course?

This is another very practical factor you have to take into account. Never think short term; always try and evaluate the long term gain (more than eight to ten years). An MBA degree/diploma is a professional qualification, and the education you get during your course will last you a lifetime, and ensure that you always have a forward moving career.

So, for example, if you have got a call from an institute that you want to get into, but the cost of the course is quite high, don’t dismiss it immediately. Instead, sit down and evaluate what you will get in return after you complete your course with the amount that you will be paying in fees.

What the institute can offer
When it comes to what the B-schools you’ve got your calls from, there are a host of parameters you can use to choose what fits you best. In case you do end up getting calls from reputed institutes that are too closely ranked or are equal in several respects, you can try and evaluate them on the basis some of the following factors.

Your peer group
One of the most fundamental parts of the learning acquired at a B-school is through your interaction with your peers – the people you study with. After all, once you’ve finished your MBA course, a few years down the line, these will be the individuals who will form your network, and the better and more varied they are, the greater and more beneficial your network will be. So it is imperative that you select an institute that has a good mix of students from different educational background.
Unfortunately, the fact is that the best Indian management institutes tend to have a majority of engineers in a batch. In such a scenario, you can also try and figure out the work experience of the previous batches. These will give you an idea about the people you will be spending the next two years with.

Apart from the peer group, it is also essential to ascertain the alumni network the institute has. Make sure you select a B-school that has the better, widely spread alumni network, and in the long run, you will appreciate how much this will help in your career.

Institute recognition
Another point to take into account is whether the institute is recognised by a competent authority, like the Association of Indian Universities or the AICTE. However, this isn’t a failsafe evaluation, as having this accreditation doesn’t necessarily imply that the institute will be of top notch quality. It is a fact that several Indian institutes which do boast of such accreditations lack in some areas, like quality of faculty, peer group, infrastructure, or even placements.

This is one area that should be given serious consideration. Recent trends show that candidates tend to give placements more importance than teachers at the institutes. While placement figures are certainly important, equally important is the institute’s faculty, who will be the ones to create interest in the minds of the students, challenge their intellectual boundaries and raise the standards of learning. Ideally, faculty in management institutes should not only be qualified themselves, but should also be writing and presenting papers in different forums, teaching in other quality B-schools across the world, consulting with organisations and be in constant touch with the market and industry.

Usually, location is not really an important factor when assessing premier institutes. Recruiting companies seek out the best institutes and their students irrespective of where they are located. However, in a situation where the calls aren’t from the crème de la crème, location can be an important factor. For example, an institute a little lower down the ranking ladder in Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, should get greater consideration than the one in Kolkata or Thiruvananthapuram.

Infrastructural facilities
Again, the infrastructure is not a parameter students usually use to whittle out the best B-schools. Remember that large campuses and in-house facilities, along with ample recreational opportunities, provide an atmosphere more conducive to learning. Also, a residential programme is more preferable than otherwise. As mentioned earlier, one of the most important, long-lasting factors of the MBA course is the peer group. Residential programmes mean better interaction, more interchange of ideas and establishing of relationships, and this is amply supported by the fact that most of the best B-schools have compulsory residential programmes.

This is probably the first parameter that students look for in an institute, and one that even the institutes like to play up. However, the truth is that placements as a whole consists of the kind of companies that come to the campus to recruit students, the roles that are offered as well as the pay packets that the students get. As a call getter from multiple institutes, consider all three with equal importance. If there are certain companies that you wish to work for, make sure that these companies are prominent recruiters you will choose. In fact, some companies offer different roles at different institutes, so that’s another factor you can check.
Another important placement criterion is the number of students in a batch that have been placed. The best institutes are usually able to place every single student, but a placement percentage of more than 95 per cent is a good bet.
Finally, when checking the compensation offered by the companies at the institutes, make sure you look beyond the highest salary, especially the average, median and minimum salaries. That will give you a fair indicator of the compensation you can expect at the end of your course.
So remember to take into account all of these parameters if you end up with several admission calls and can’t choose between them. With a little research and information gathering, you will select the institute that is best suited for you, and it will only help you in the long run.