How do you “fit” into an MBA program? Whether it is about you liking a school or a school liking you (to the point that it accepts you), the question of fit is one that should always be top of mind for any applicant. Do you like a school’s teaching style? The focus of the curriculum? The location? Are these “your people”?
For most applicants, creating a list of “reaches” that meet your fit criteria is easy. What is frequently more difficult is generating a list of “target” and “likely” schools that give you that same warm, fuzzy feeling when you visit.
To help you find these schools, here are some examples of “doppelgänger” MBA programs—two programs that are alike in so many ways with the exception of one being easier to get into than the other.
Harvard Business School and UVA Darden
If you believe that the case method style of teaching is right for you, then consider UVA Darden, which is the only school other than HBS that uses the case method exclusively. Also, it works if your uniform of choice is khakis and oxfords.
Stanford GSB and UW Foster
Looking for a West Coast school with great ties to the tech industry and a long history of entrepreneurship? Although Stanford GSB is the obvious choice, UW Foster in Seattle is a natural alternative. With ties to Amazon, Microsoft, and dozens of start-ups, UW has the same Silicon Valley buzz with less traffic and lower cost of living.
Wharton and Cornell Johnson
These are two great Ivy League schools with strong banking and marketing programs. At both schools, future portfolio managers can help run a student investment fund, racking up real returns and industry connections. The big choice between these two schools is, do you want gritty Philadelphia or bucolic Ithaca?
MIT Sloan and CMU Tepper
Ready to geek out in a great city at a school that produces more start-ups than almost anyone else? Make it Sloan or Tepper. With the addition of Amazon, Google, Uber, Apple, and Facebook, Pittsburgh is starting to feel a heck of a lot like Cambridge, only with better food and shorter lines.
Yale SOM and Georgetown McDonough
These are two business schools that historically have had a wider purview than just business. Yale has a long history in nonprofit management, while the location of Georgetown in Washington, DC, naturally brings a public policy and international component to it. They even look alike in their Gothic architecture.
Northwestern Kellogg and Wisconsin
When it comes to marketing, these two big Midwest schools are the kings. A couple of dirty little secrets: Wisconsin sends nearly three times as many graduates into consumer products than Kellogg. And Kellogg isn’t in Chicago; it’s really in Evanston—not quite the little college town that Madison is.
By no means is this the end of this game of twins or even triplets. Consider Duke Fuqua, WashU Olin, and Vanderbilt Owen for health care; Columbia Business School and NYU Stern for finance; UCLA Anderson and NYU Stern for media; and Dartmouth Tuck and Minnesota Carlson for being happy, far away, and cold.
So, as you make a school list that ideally includes some reaches, targets, and likelies, try to get a handle on why you like each. You may just make it into one of your perfect schools—or maybe its twin!