Why You May Want to Avoid a Big-Name Grad School

Programs such as Harvard Business School or MIT's School of Engineering have well-deserved reputations. But as you consider graduate school, you may want to consider the hidden "cons" of applying to only "big-name" schools and programs.

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.

More competition

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?

Higher costs

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.

Tougher entry

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!

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best grad programs best grad schools grad school graduate school Harvard Business School MIT

About Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep companies including Kaplan for whom she taught ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and did admissions counseling. She is a contributing blogger at Beat the GMAT, and currently blogs, tutors, and writes content for the online test prep company Grockit, which focuses on making standardized test preparation affordable and accessible for students around the world. She loves to see her former students succeed in grad school!

You can find Vivian's profile on Grockit or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog


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