Originally Posted: May 22, 2012
Last Updated: Jun 10, 2015
Programs such as Harvard Business School or MIT’s School of Engineering have well-deserved reputations. They boast impressive faculty, powerful alumni associations, and a terrific education, but as you consider graduate school, you may want to consider the hidden “cons” of applying to only “big-name” schools and programs.
The most reputable programs tend to be at bigger schools, which often means more alumni working around the world. Yes, you might get your foot in the door with these alumni, but too many alums could potentially lead to fewer job opportunities in the sense that there’s more competition. A smaller school with a smaller, tighter alumni group might actually be able to give you greater opportunity since you’re not just one face among a sea of graduates.
Less individual attention
If you’re the type of person who thrives with more guided attention, the cutthroat world of a larger graduate program may not be beneficial. Smaller schools typically have greater access to the faculty and you’ll likely develop a closer relationship with your advisors. Look carefully at the student-faculty ratio, and ask questions about your prospective advisors. Will your school and its faculty be able to mentor you?
The bigger schools (both in size and prestige) tend to be more costly. You may want to opt for a B+ level school and get a great education for a significantly reduced fee. Expensive does not always equate to a better education.
Schools that appear regularly on the "top 10" or "world's best" lists published annually by U.S.News & World Report are very competitive to get into. If you have a limited amount of time to devote to grad school applications and GMAT/GRE study, you may want to look at a few less-competitive programs. A program that is 12th or 13th in the nation is still a terrific school, and may be easier for you to gain admission!