So many schools. Only so much time. If you’re wondering where to start with researching schools, we invite you to join Darden Admissions for a workshop all about the school search process! During Thursday’s session, we will share tips and insights for developing your target school list, staying organized as you search and more. Space is limited to ensure meaningful conversation during the event. Sign up here for Researching Business Schools: Strategies for Finding Your Best Fit.

In advance of the workshop, here are a few things to think about as you do your research:  

A season for all things. There are distinct phases in the application process, and your research goals will vary by phase. For example, early in the process, you will be exploring your target schools and determining where you will apply. Later on, you will be sharpening your application and preparing for a potential interview. At the end, you will be weighing your offers and finalizing your decision. 

As a result, be sure to pace yourself. The application process can be long, and it takes a fair amount of energy. However, this extended timeline is to your advantage when it comes to researching programs. You don’t need to know everything about the school before you apply, and there will be plenty of opportunities for you to learn more along the way. The goal is for you to have all your questions answered by the time you make your decision. In other words, you have time.      

What school-specific resources are available? While rankings and third-party websites can be useful in sorting the broader MBA market, once you’ve developed your target school list, you will want to spend some time on each school’s website.  

We recommend making note of any school-specific resources – blogs, podcasts, social media, etc. – that can help you to stay current on student life, school- and University-related news as well as upcoming events. We’ve previously shared that a spreadsheet can help keep you organized during the application process. If you’ve created this spreadsheet, be sure to note these resources – including URLs – for quick reference.     

And if you’re a social media person, follow your target schools on your preferred platform(s). In the Darden feeds, you will encounter alumni profiles, student spotlights, faculty features,  application tips, event reminders and much more. Check out Darden’s Instagram and LinkedIn feeds, for example!

Darden Admissions has two podcasts: Experience Darden and The ExecMBA Podcast, not to mention the other podcasts, like Ideas to Action, that are part of the broader Darden podcast family. Each of these shows is a great opportunity for you to hear firsthand from students, faculty and staff in our MBA community.

How can current students and alumni be helpful to you? The placement of this tip (i.e. last in the post) is intentional. We recommend reaching out to current students and alumni after you’ve done some preliminary research for each of your target schools. By the time you are reaching out to current students and alumni, you should be able to describe each school in relative detail, highlighting its key strengths and differentiators while also referencing a few areas about which you would like to know more. 

While business schools can seem very similar online and in print, there are significant experiential differences between schools. Personal interactions can be helpful in identifying and exploring some of these differences, and, for this reason, you will want to have a strategy when engaging students and alumni. How do you plan to use these conversations to learn more about the school? What questions are most important to you? Having clear goals will ensure you are maximizing these interactions.  

How many conversations is the right amount? Usually around 3 or 4 of these kinds of discussions during the early research phase is about right, and believe it or not, it is often more convenient for current students and alumni to talk than type, so consider proposing a short phone or Zoom call. 

Interested in additional perspectives? Supplement one-on-one interactions with student-focused webinars, podcasts, blog posts and news articles. These resources will allow you to easily and efficiently “meet” even more members of the community, and, as you encounter more people, listen for the resonance across conversations. What does everyone talk about or mention? These points of commonality are typically the school’s core brand and identity.     

Pro Tip: As you move through the application process, you will meet more and more people. In your spreadsheet, be sure to note the people with whom you’ve interacted, what you discussed and any key takeaways from the conversation. This attention to detail will come in handy, particularly when you’re finalizing your decision and comparing between programs.   

Be sure to consult the Latest News regularly for the most updated news releases and media hits. Check out faculty thought leadership published on Ideas to ActionAnd stay connected with us via social media: FacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitterWeChat.