Choosing the right business school. Again and again, insiders tell us how important it is for you to choose the right business school. As Chetna Shukla (NIFT) puts it, “If I’m going to be spending two years on my own, I want to make sure I’m happy.” This means looking at everything from academic offerings to leisure options when you’re considering schools. Visit the web sites of the schools you’re interested in to learn more about them. Finally, visit the schools you think you’re interested in. Talk to students at each campus you visit; check out housing arrangements; and give yourself time to get a feel for the place to see whether you would be comfortable there. Reputation/Quality “The most important thing to consider when looking at schools is brand,” says Ritesh Gauba (NMIMS). Brand, or reputation, certainly should play a major role in your choice of a business school. Why? The best students and the best employers tend to look first to schools with the best reputations when they’re applying to school or recruiting new hires. There’s no single way to measure a school’s reputation. Check out the admissions and placement statistics of the schools you’re interested in— things like percentage of applicants accepted, average scores of students, percentage of students with jobs upon graduation, and average post-graduate salary levels. These numbers should give you some idea of various schools’ selectivity and popularity among recruiters. top Academic Considerations Ø Academic Strengths and Specializations. A school’s areas of academic strength and specialization should be a major consideration when you’re deciding which schools to apply to. Why? Besides broadening your knowledge of the various areas of business, B-school gives you the chance to deepen your knowledge in specific areas. Gaurav Awasthi (IIFT, Delhi), “For foreign trade related areas we are second to none in the country with pay packages envied by the best b-schools.” Some schools have a reputation for excellence in certain fields. Ø Times School of Marketing (TSM), Delhi, for instance, is renowned for producing marketers. And some schools have specialized academic tracks that students can focus on (or “major in”). Both IIM-L and the IIM-C, for instance, have recently emerged unparalleled for students interested in working in IT-related businesses. Says Vishal Saxena (ACA), “ If your area of interest matches with what the institute is reputed for, then go ahead and choose it”. Ø Teaching Method. Teaching method should be a major consideration as you’re looking at schools. Traditionally, business schools use two main teaching methods. One is the case method, in which students learn by studying and discussing specific business scenarios that usually involve real-world business problems. This was pioneered by the Harvard Business School (USA) and is actively used in IIM-A. The other is the lecture method, in which the professor speaks and the students listen, take notes, and ask clarifying questions. One advantage of the case method is that it provokes class participation. Another is that it promotes a practical way of looking at running a business. Cases promote an understanding of all of a business’s functional areas, from product design and marketing to manufacturing and human resources, as well as of a wide range of markets and industries and the real-world issues affecting them. “Cases make you think on strong logic and expect analytical judgement.” says Shilpi Choudhri (IIM-B). Lectures, on the other hand, are often a more efficient means of imparting more abstract or theoretical knowledge— the distinctions between different accounting techniques, for instance. Because there are pluses to both methods, many schools use a combination of cases and lectures. Some schools rely on one method more than the other, though. If you’re more interested in learning general management principles, you might be interested in these or other case-oriented schools. The IIM-L and other traditionally quant-heavy schools are known for relying more on lectures. It might be smart to focus on these schools if you’re more interested in understanding business theory and developing quantitative analysis skills. Ø Grading Method. Various grading methods are in use, and they can have a palpable effect on the culture of a B-school. Some schools, such as IIMs, SPJIMR, MDI, etc., use Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA), grade on a forced curve, meaning that a certain percentage of the students in every class receives top grades while a certain percentage receives failing or unsatisfactory grades. Culturally, this grading method can lead to more competition among students because they must battle to avoid receiving low marks. Other schools have a simple pass/fail grading system, which tends to make for a less-competitive atmosphere. Facilities Talk about plush. Be prepared to work extremely hard when you get to business school, but if you are at one of the better ones, take solace in the fact that you’ll be doing it in style. Sumptuous meals, unlimited computer use, well lit-up rooms, cafeteria, Post office, general merchandise shop, PCO, Infirmary, etc., all are within the campus. The fact is that many of the schools are investing heavily in infrastructure to woo you. Remember that there’s a definite element of reciprocity in the relationship between schools and applicants. To put it simply, they want you to like them just as much as you want them to like you. As a result a significant proportion of a business school’s Director’s time is spent fundraising. Many schools are building brand new buildings, with brand new classrooms, libraries, conference rooms, cafeterias and students lounges all supplied with state-of-the-art technology. Just as one example, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow has purchased a plot in Noida to cater to the humdrum of Indian business in the national capital region, which will become functional from the year 2003 onwards. Connections The business world is ALL about connections. We’re not going to feed you the line that “it’s who you know not what you know” but rather that it’s “who you know AND what you know”. For that reason, an MBA program has become incredibly important for young people trying to get their foot in the door. At business school you’re going to be educated in the “what” and immersed in the “who.” Without even realizing it, you’re going to be spending two full years networking. Whether it’s faculty who have pivotal roles in major corporations, corporations who’ve formed alliances with the school, or fellow students, over the course of the program you’re going to be in close contact with individuals who are currently, or will be in the future, extremely influential in the business community. “Much of the benefit of B-school is from the friends and network that you have afterwards. Find a school with students that you like and feel you can learn from.” Yogesh Tewari (IIM-A). Imagine your new best friend happens to be the next Azim Premji, Narayanmurthy, Mark McCormack or Shiv Khera just waiting to surface. Well that’s the kind of relationship that fortunes are built on. IIM-A has a very strong and supportive alumunus. Student Culture A key factor in whether you thrive in business school is how you get along with the other students. So much of your time will be spent with other students— in class, in club and recruiting activities, and in study groups and group projects— that it’s important you fit in your business school’s student culture. Though all the top business schools will be filled with ambitious, career-focused Type A’s, you’ll still find cultural differences between different schools. SPJIMR, Mumbai has pioneered the concept of internship in India. The objective is to provide a better understanding of the company prior to joining, after 6th semester for about 8 weeks in a company. Hands-on experience in administration is identified by student teams as regards admissions, public relations, alumni relations, placements, internships etc. by the student's community. Sandeep Batra (IIM-B, now working with Standard Chartered Bank) raves about how supportive their school is whereas Ashish Srivastava (IIM-A) mentions the competition, saying things like “There’s high pressure to lead in both academics and extracurricular.” Read what the schools say about their culture in their literature. And be sure to spend time talking to current students as well as graduates of the schools you’re interested in. Ask them about the workload, the recruiting pressures, student housing, the level of competitiveness among students, how much time students spend together socially, what they do for fun, and so on. Abhishek Shukla (CFA, MFM, MCA, ICWA now with the ROULAC Group) says, “Talk to alums to find out what kind of people did well and liked it.” Location Would you prefer to go to school in a bustling urban environment? Or maybe in a suburb of a major city? Or on a remote rural campus, or in an industrial township? All these options exist— so check out? From the cosmopolitan to sun-kissed beaches the location may just invigorate your energies & pep it up. Be it the serenity at IIFM-Bhopal or a techno environment at IIM-Bangalore. The institutes usually are spacious and set-up to be a mini citadel. All kinds of options exist for the location of MBA programs. One major factor to consider when you’re looking at a school’s location is its proximity to major players in the industry you’re interested in. Students at IIM-B, for instance, find that going to school right in the middle of Silicon Valley of India means greater access to the venture capitalists and angel investors who have fueled the growth of various technology-related industries. At the same time, good schools in remote locations can still do a great job of placing students in key industries. IIM-L is all the way on the out skirts of Lucknow— yet manages to place an awful lot of students on top IT players in the world. Locational advantage or disadvantage only plays a miniscule role in final placements since recruiters are ready to go to any b-school for the right stuff. top International Focus As the 21st century progresses, globalization is having a huge effect on businesses of all kinds. As a result, MBA programs are striving to become more global in focus by including more case studies that are global and especially by including a large number of diverse field students in each entering class. For instance, isn’t it unique in having more than 30-50% engineering students. Some schools, like IIFT, New Delhi, place special emphasis on international trade related studies while students at MDI, located in Gurgaon, are offered by L’Oreal the international marketing internships for 8 weeks during summer break in one of the marketing structures of Europe. The FORE School of Management, New Delhi collaborates with Maastricht School of Management, Netherlands. If you’re interested in working for a foreign company or overseas, you might want to check out these schools and other internationally focused schools as well as some of the specialized schools. Even if you aren’t planning to go global yourself, though, it’s smart to consider a school’s international focus as part of your decision process. top Diversity Business school isn’t going to be the most diverse place in the world. You won’t find many artists or people from law colleges at business school or people who have lived in poverty. B-school is a training ground for future business leaders, not an all-inclusive mirror of society. The NITIE, Mumbai offers management program only to engineers. Different B-schools exhibit different degrees of diversity. For instance, a school with 50 percent specific state students is going to be less diverse, in many ways, than a school with fewer particular state students but largely populated by students who are experienced in a wide range of industries and job functions. Why is diversity important in choosing a business school? Because B-school students learn so much about different businesses and cultures from their classmates. top Cost For most students at top schools, the cost of an MBA program should hardly be a consideration. After all, they’re going to have a substantially increased income upon graduation and will be able to handle their loan payments without a problem. For some students, though, cost remains a real consideration. Those looking to go into careers with low compensation levels, in areas such as NGOs, might consider cost a significant factor in choosing a B-school. And to some students, saving money on B-school means having more money with which to start a business later on. The flipside, of course, is that many better, more-expensive schools will give students a greater network of contacts as well as greater access to funding resources— both extremely helpful for building a business. The government funding of the IIMs and university b-schools lessen the financial load on the institutes for an ever-increasing need for more funds. This helps in lessening the burden on the students to pay for their studies. Many nationalized banks provide study loans to students in b-schools at liberal rate of interest and pay back facility. Some top companies like Nestle, Infosys, L’Oreal, Usha International, Citibank, Aditya Birla Group etc., have instituted handsome amount as scholarships for students in various b-schools. Funding for education in any of the top b-schools is not a hindrance for the talented. gud night, Akhil.