Let's take it as a given that Harvard Business School offers an excellent MBA program. We are not calling that into question.  What we are calling into question is whether HBS (or any other school for that matter) is right for you. Each year, we get a few calls from confused MBA aspirants who say, I visited HBS and I am not sure if there is a fit (as if there is something wrong with the caller.) Indeed, and this may be shocking to some, HBS is not for everyone - particularly those who do not relate well to case based learning, those who want a lot of flexibility in their first year curriculum and those who would prefer a small class size (HBS's class  of 2012 is 900, Haas's is 240).
Again, we are not writing to bash HBS, but we are hoping that some will use this post as a jumping off point to critically appraise their target MBA programs and determine which schools are indeed right for them. Ask yourself the following questions (and more) to start...

  • Would I prefer to be in a larger program or would I be overwhelmed by a larger program's size?
  • Would I prefer to be in a smaller program or would it feel claustrophobic?
  • Would I prefer to be in a flexible curriculum with a consistent stream of new classmates and where I would make my own academic choices early on?
  • Would I prefer to learn in a comprehensive core curriculum where I am, for a period of time, learning the same material as my classmates and where academics would provide me with a course structure? 
  • Am I best suited for the case method, lecture method or programs with strong experiential components? (And, do I really understand what each entails - for example, the teamwork and public speaking that is necessary within the case method?)
  • Do my target schools match my academic objectives?
  • Do my target firms recruit at my school?
  • Are alumni well-placed in my industry/post-MBA location? (Are alumni even crucial to my career?)
  • Do my target schools have facilities and an environment that appeals to me?

Again, these questions are just a start - we could pose many more. Our point is that you will get far more than a brand from your MBA studies. You will get an education and an alumni network and you will spend two years of your life and thousands of dollars on your experience. So, you should skip the rankings, determine what is important to you in your selection process and then do your homework so you can pick a program where you truly fit.