You'e Aiming Too Low

Most MBA Applicants Aim Too Low

You'd think that the people who walk into my class every spring would be aiming at MBA programs that are above their station. After all, this is business school, and by definition it attracts Type-A personalities.

But just the opposite is true. Very few students start my class planning to apply to the elite schools that they actually enter 18 months later. I literally have to talk them into stepping up to top-tier or very good second-tier programs. And that's surprising because most of the value that comes from an MBA degree is built into the brand equity of the school. As I put it in the classroom:

"You can go to grad school at Stanford or at Chico State; both schools offer an MBA. But don't be fooled by the similar letters. These are two profoundly different degrees and they will lead to vastly different life outcomes."

The Hype

Much of the problem is rooted in the student profiles that magazines publish. There always seems to be some amazing clown who built and sold his first dot-com before he lost his virginity. It's intimidating as hell because you can't compare with him in any category (except maybe the virginity thing) and you believe that everyone at his school must be just as impressive.

But it's bullshit. The guy's accomplishments aren't what they seem in the magazine, and he's not at all representative of the student body as a whole. He's an embellished media product created to sell magazines, nothing more.

The Reality

Most students at top-tier MBA programs are ordinary worker bees. They don't have amazing accomplishments, they don't come from spectacular privilege and they don't look anything like the people profiled in magazines.

I know this because I've put hundreds of applicants into the world's most elite business schools over the years, and with very few exceptions, they weren't amazing. They were ordinary, smart, educated people like you and me. Frankly, they played the game well and then caught a break. Now they're MBAs from top schools, and as such, they get opportunities that most people can only dream of.

But they would never have applied to those programs had I not convinced them that getting in was possible and that doing the work required to look good on paper was worthwhile. They would have ended up at Chico State.

Aim Higher

So why are you aiming so low? Why are you taking the easy way out? Why can't you do what the vast majority of my students do and step up to a challenge that will change your life dramatically?

Aim higher. Accept the reality that you'll be rejected by a lot of schools. That's normal, even for very strong applicants. But give yourself a chance at a top MBA program or a very good second-tier school. That process starts with researching the programs thoroughly — keeping in mind that your GMAT score doesn't have to beat your target school averages.

And if after doing your research you still believe that all MBA degrees are basically the same, then good: Chico State needs students.