MBA School Selection: What are the Alumni Saying?

While there are many considerations that go into forming a comprehensive list of well-fitting, potential schools—including prestige and career placement—one that can be easily overlooked is the “alumni factor.”  In the 2017 AIGAC MBA Applicant Survey, 45 percent of respondents listed ‘access to a strong network’ as a factor in applying to an MBA program this year, though just 32 percent of respondents listed the alumni network as the factor with the most influence on their specific school choice[i]. It is important to note that, while you are matriculated at a school for two years, the strength of an institution’s alumni commitment can have a long-lasting impact on your professional life. Alumni can provide critical information, advice, and access to industries and employers long after graduation day. Thus, we have isolated a couple of rankings that provide a more in-depth view of the alumni network experience and perspective.

Alumni Networks. The Economist surveys current and recently graduated MBAs in order to create an amalgamated “potential to network” score. This includes an equal weighting of the ratio of MBA alumni to current full-time MBA students, number of overseas alumni chapters, and a student rating of alumni network effectiveness. This score comprises ten percent of their overall MBA ranking[ii].

Alumni Recommendations. The Financial Times surveys MBAs three years post-graduation and asks them to select three MBA programs that they would recruit from[iii]. While this component comprises only two percent of their overall ranking, we feel that looking specifically at this variable can provide valuable insight into how recent MBA graduates view their programs as well as the programs attended by their peers in terms of workforce readiness.

While some schools are named on both lists (Insead, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, NYU, Harvard, London Business School, and University of Chicago), there is some variation between the two lists. For potential MBA applicants, careful consideration of the strength of the alumni network from the point of view of both current students as well as recent alumni may help you to create a broader, yet strategic list of prospective schools for visiting and exploring.

Key considerations when determining if an alumni network may be beneficial for you:

  1. The size and activity-level of the organization overall, but also how active the chapters are in regions/cities where you are interested in living post-graduation
  2. The number of alumni working at employers you are interested in, as well as in industries that you are pursuing
  3. The relationship between the school and alumni. For example, the school’s career-services support for alumni
  4. The number of alumni who continue to participate in events over time

Researching a school’s alumni network online, looking beneath overall rankings, reviewing LinkedIn groups and members, and reaching out to a school’s alumni group directly can provide you with valuable information that may serve you well as you start to narrow down your list of prospective schools.