A question "what school to attend" comes to a great number of accepted applicants and the answer is always specific to your particular goals. See below my reasons for attending Anderson this fall and some thoughts and things to consider when you have to make a decision.
1. Rankings. A lot of people consider school's placement in different rankings and I was also the one who googled Full time MBA rankings before I made my decision, so I could understand the inclination to just go with TOP-5 or TOP-10 school and be just fine. But then I made a consideration of other factors (that I will mention below) and decided just for myself that rankings is just one factor and not the decisive one. I even compared it with GMAT score during application process - it is good if it is withtin school's 80% range and is balanced, but not "the make or break". So, with ratings I decided that a school within TOP -20 in the US will be this "80% range" and I never turned to rankings again.
2. Employment report or companies that recruit on campus. I have talked to dozens of alums from different schools and the majority of them said to look closely to the employment reports first. The closer the school year is, the better I realize how right they were. For instance, if you dream to work for company X, you should look at the # of graduates and interns this company hired from the latest intake in the school. I made a close look at Anderson employment report, considered trends within several years and came to 2 conclusions:
- Tech companies have very good presence at Anderson and they hire about 1/5th of the class and as I look closely on technology sector, this school is very much for me!
- Anderson class is very diverse in terms of career paths people choose. There is no dominant industry and I like this fact from the learning environment point of view.
3. Class atmosphere. When you apply, sometimes you just omit this factor and don't pay much attention to it, but it is very important! I have been to class visit in one school where the air was filled with competition and the work in class was mostly individual. I have talked to several students of that program and some of them expressed their concern about the competitive atmosphere on campus and I decided not to apply to that school at all as I want to have a comfortable MBA experience within a collaborative and tight-knit community. So, Anderson with its collaborative school culture is a great place for me and its friendly atmosphere also helped me make a choice.
4. AMRP. It was very strong reason for me because I love the idea of learning through action and I think the opportunity to apply knowledge to real business situations is essential to get solid business education.
5. Location. People are different and so are their preferences: someone will like a small campus with familiar faces and small community , others will prefer the opposite. I love big cities, I love LA and the opportunities it gives, so the location of UCLA Anderson was a huge deal with wonderful LA winter that was a GREAT plus for a Russian girl!
6. Personal feelings. This reason is very important and I advise you to listen to yourself when you make a decision because something inside you will let you know that rankings or salaries upon graduation are not the measure of success and something more touchy will come up. I felt very at home when I visited Anderson and wanted to become a part of the community. After speaking to school representatives, students and alums I felt very confident that the school is moving in the right direction: they make so many marketing efforts to promote UCLA Anderson (and new brand positioning is one of them), keep up with the latest technology and trends and have changed the curriculum to better serve the students' career interests. I am sure all these efforts will finally pay off in rankings placement as well.
All in all, remember that getting an MBA will take 2 years of your life and make sure to choose the right place where you will feel comfortable from all aspects of life: social, academic, professional, where you'll get connections useful for your career and where you will feel at home. UCLA Anderson is such a place for me.
Alena Kostenkova, MBA'15 at @UCLAMBA