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Safety School vs. Dream School: A Breakdown
Applying to business school is an exciting time. Sure, there’s a lot of stressors that come into play, such as GMAT preparation, financial aid, not to mention the time and energy spent making this important decision. But applying can also be a time to really dream, whether it’s through visiting your ideal b-school and seeing it up close or narrowing down your top five. It’s fun to imagine yourself there, walking the campus, participating in classes, interacting with peers and professors and burning the midnight oil getting together that last-minute presentation. (Okay, well, maybe the all-nighters aren’t all that exciting.) But still, it’s a time to dream, aspire and hope! Of course, there has to be some strategy involved when it comes to choosing the right school for you. It’s not realistic to apply everywhere. You’ve got to find the schools that align with your goals and future career plans. More often than not, any MBA application counselor will ask you to make a list of your dream schools and your safety schools. What are the difference between them? Here’s a breakdown in hopes to guide and inform you as you make this list. Safety Schools Safety schools are ultimately schools you are relatively confident you can get in. These can vary by location, time commitment and of course, price point – but ultimately, these are schools that you must be able to see yourself attending. It’s never wise to apply to a school you don’t want to go to and never in a million years can envision walking through the front doors. Safety schools should be determined and rooted in a genuine interest in the program, but also a desire to attend. Sure, they aren’t your first choice, but it’s important that at the end of the day they are exciting options. To determine a realistic list of safety schools, you have to do your homework on the university. For example, what is the ratio of students to professor? How high is the acceptance rate? What are the average GMAT and/or GRE scores of all admitted students? Determining the lay of the land, so to speak, regarding the student population and the instructors will help clarify your true interest in the program. Additionally, you want to decide whether or not your safety schools allow for further career opportunities after graduation. Are there internship programs available? Is there a dominant sector or industry graduates go on to work in? Ultimately, you have to brazenly ask yourself: Will this safety school get me where I want to go in five years? That in and of itself might take a bit more soul-searching and program-specific research, but no doubt it’s invaluable. Dream Schools Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Columbia – these top programs are dream schools for many applicants. While knowing a lot of the acceptance rates are in the single digits for these universities, it’s always empowering and imaginative to ask, “What if?” Of course, relying on hope alone isn’t a good use of your time or energy throughout the application process. Being realistic is also part of the game. Take a look at your GMAT/GRE test scores and how they align with the average at your chosen dream school. If you’re determined to attend any one of these programs, it may not be a bad idea to take either of those exams a second time in an attempt to boost your score. Careful scrutiny should be paid to the quality of your essay and overall application as well, since sloppiness never bodes well for prospective students. In addition, it’s important to ask in regard to your dream school, “Would I be in love with this program still if it didn’t have its name?” Sure, Ivy League schools help open doors after graduation, but the specifics of the MBA curriculum, extracurricular activities, professors, peer groups, and career opportunities should ultimately mean more. Remember the old adage “be careful what you wish for”? However small the acceptance chance is, with luck, there is still a chance, so make sure your concerted effort towards a particular school or program is for the right reasons. All in all, every MBA applicants’ list of dream schools and safety schools varies. Spend time carefully constructing your own list, as it will directly affect your education and career. Don’t forget to have fun when “dreaming big” and “dreaming realistically” – that’s a big part of the process, too! About Manhattan Admissions: Manhattan Admissions is dedicated to providing the highest quality admissions services on the market today to bring you optimal results based on your time and financial investments. For more information, please visit Manhattan Admissions’ MBA website, including our blog.
by Manhattan Admissions, April 23, 2018