Choosing the right B-school

  • Why is the quality of the students at a given institute important?
    • Your batchmates are often the best source of learning: Most institutes in India follow a case-based learning methodology which in turn depends on the quality of interaction one has with the peer.
    • Building the right networks: A couple of years down your MBA, your batchmates are going to be at key positions in the corporate world. It is important to create the right networks and good quality students have a higher chance of making it big in their careers.
    • The quality of students eventually drives the image of the institute. And you are going to be known by the institute you went to for the rest of your life.
  • A top institute attracts the best students and the best students, in turn, gravitate towards the best institutes in the country. Thus, a good institute and good students have a symbiotic relationship. If the number of students who wish to join an institute increases, the selection process naturally becomes more difficult. As a rule of thumb, the quality of a b-school is directly proportional to the rigour of the selection process. It is akin to saying that the better the institute, the more difficult it is to get into, and the easier it is to get admission to an institute, the higher the chance that the institute is not worth getting into.

However, there are a few exceptions to the rule:

Selection Process & Quality Of Students

Location refers to the geographical location of the B-School. Location doesn't matter for the top institutes; it matters only for the lower rung institutes. The impact that the location has on an institute is very little for the Top-30 institutes, while it becomes more and more pronounced as you go down the ratings list.

How does the location of a B-school matter?

  • Companies often find it much easier to recruit management graduates from institutes located geographically closer to their own headquarters rather than go to an institute which is located far away. For this reason, other things remaining the same, institutes (of similar category) located in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bangalore score better than institutes based in other cities. Chennai, Pune, and Hyderabad make up the next level of cities. (The top-30 Institutes would be an exception to this.)
  • Every B-schools employes a mix of full-time and part-time faculty members. Often the part-time faculty members offer exceptional training for a course because of their expertise in the area. Now, for institutes located in the better connected cities the part-time faculty members can come and take sessions with relative ease. And this translates into overall better quality of training.
  • With your MBA, you may wish to take up trainings/internships etc with various companies. This will help strengthen your candidature for the placements. If you are located in a city that has good industry interface, you are more likely to be able to secure such opportunities.

A factor that need not specially be emphasised is the reputation a given management institute commands and the image it perpetuates in the industry. While it can be said that it is natural for older institutes to have a better reputation than the ones that have started recently, it cannot always be generalised. Also, remember that it is often possible that a recently set up institute has been established by an older, well-established institute. In such cases, the "parent/guardian" institute certainly helps the new institute through its formative years. This help may include, but may not be limited, to faculty support, support in the selection procedure, and, more importantly, placement support. If an institute falls into this category, even though it is a newly-established one, students can be assured that the institute is a good one.

One thing that students should consider here is that they need not be unwilling to join a given institute purely on the basis that it is newly established. There are some institutes which might be newly established but there is some assurance with regard to their becoming one of the top in the near future. This is particularly so in case of the institutes that are started under the aegis of older, reputed organisations. One relevant example here are the relatively new IIMs. For instance, every time a new IIM is set up, there are doubts about whether it will be as good as its older siblings. It has to be remembered that, in due course, it is bound to establish itself and enjoy the benefits of the "IIM" brand name. What matters in the long run is the image of the institute during the course of one's career and not just its image at the time one studied there.

Many students also apply to institutes based on the programmes offered by them. Programmes offered can be classified into two categories:

  1. General Management Programme (GMP)
  2. Specialisation-based Programme (SP)

A General Management Programme gives a student the flexibility to join any sector and thus affords maximum diversification and placement opportunities as opposed to a specialisation-based programme. All the IIMs and most of the Ivy League schools offer this programme to students.

Some B-Schools offer programmes catering to a specific sector or specialising in a specific area. Institutes like XLRI (PGDHRM), MICA, IRMA, and TISS, are the best in their respective sectors and students should have no reservation while applying to them.

However, there is a plethora of programmes emerging now catering to specific sectors and needs of the industry like those in actuarial science, retail, and insurance. The placement opportunities in these specialised programmes are restricted to companies in that sector and as such do not lend the kind of flexibility to one's career that a GMP offers.

Many top institutes offering GMPs have, of late, started offering specialised programmes. Students should note that though the image of the institute lends credibility to such programmes yet it cannot be equated to the GMP being offered. As one goes down the ratings list, this rub-off effect diminishes and one needs to carefully evaluate such specialised programmes before applying to them.

The single most important parameter in the selection of an institute would be the return on investment. We need to consider how much money (in salary terms) we can expect to make post an MBA from a given institute and how much money will be spent in acquiring the degree. The following things needs to be kept in mind:

One positive factor is that these days, it is also relatively easy to get an education loan from banks at concessional rates of interest particularly for those studying at top management institutes. A number of banks, both in the public and the private sector, are willing to provide these loans to those who have gained admission to the reputed management institutes. In most cases, loans from these banks cover the cost of tuition and may also cover some of the other costs such as computer fee, library fee, hostel fee, and laptop.

Sometimes, it may so happen that a given bank may not 'recognise' the management institute to which the student has secured admission. In such cases, the bank may still provide a loan if the student is able to furnish adequate collateral/security.

Financing one's management education is much simpler than it was in the past. If a student gets an offer of admission from the top B-Schools, he/she need not give up on account of the financial cost. The right kind of effort should be made to secure a scholarship or an education(In most cases, the institute itself provides a merit-cum-means scholarship to the deserving students. This supporting gesture from the institute can require details like the family income of the applicant or those specified by the institute. Generally, the institute's application form has queries regarding the manner in which the student intends to finance his studies. These questions should be answered very carefully and honestly. The scholarship-awarding body of the institute will consider these responses very carefully before arriving at a decision on the suitability of the candidate to receive the scholarship.