8 Questions to Ask
Before You Apply

You only have one chance to earn your MBA degree, so you should choose the program that offers the best fit for you personally and academically while maximizing the return on investment in your professional career. We do hope that Vanderbilt is the right choice for you. We’d like to offer up the following considerations to help you with your decision-making process.

1. MBA vs. Executive MBA?

When considering this option, ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to change the industry and/or function in which I work or do I see myself continuing up the ranks in my current organization? What are the advantages of continuing to work versus attending class full-time? Do I want to, or have to, continue working while pursuing my MBA degree?

The Executive MBA option allows you the flexibility, not to mention cost advantage, of continuing to work. However, the full-time option allows you to meet, interact with, learn from and develop networking relationships with faculty and classmates. The full-time option also allows you to devote more time toward your career search and learning experiences outside the classroom.

For candidates who want to change careers or industries, the internship between the first and second year of the full-time MBA is critical in making the switch.

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management offers both full-time and Executive MBA programs.

2. National vs. Regional Reputation?

How important are various rankings in your interest criteria? Published rankings may offer a good place to start your research into various programs but in the end, your personal fit and match with a program, depending on your career goals, should guide your decision.

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management is perennially ranked as a top national B-school. The Vanderbilt name commands national and international respect and we have alumni and business relationships from the West to the East Coast and around the globe. At the same time, we have an exceptional reputation in the bustling southeastern region.

3. Smaller School vs. Large Student Body?

What type of learning environment do you prefer? How do you learn best in the classroom? How large was your undergraduate institution? Did you like the learning environment there? Do you prefer large or small classes?

While larger MBA programs can offer the opportunity to interact with a large number of people, smaller programs offer smaller classes, a more interactive and intimate learning environment and an opportunity to interact with faculty on a personal level.

With just over 180 students per class, Vanderbilt offers the critical mass to be “known” in the marketplace and the right size to foster an intimate and tightly knit community of students, faculty and staff, alumni, and business partners. And Owen offers as many electives as most larger programs.

4. Teaching Methodology and Curriculum?

Similar to size of student body, the type of teaching methodology can also impact the number and variety of courses that are offered at a particular institution. For instance, are the classes taught more as case studies, lectures or some other format? Which do you prefer?

Case study curricula provide a certain degree of hands-on experiential learning. Curricula based on lecture teach the fundamentals of a particular field. Each curriculum offers its own advantages.

The format of the curriculum also impacts the number and variety of courses that are offered. Is the program on a semester schedule, a quarter system or another format? What is the total number of electives offered? How many courses are offered or required in the core curriculum? How much of the total program does the core curriculum take up? If you have a particular area of interest, does the curriculum offer courses that allow you to specialize or concentrate in this field?

Vanderbilt offers a variety of methodology. Some courses focus on case studies, others on a combination of lecture and other interactive methods. The professors select the best method to suit the topic at hand.

In addition, Vanderbilt is on a mod system with “front-loaded” core courses that ensures an immediate and intense immersion in the fundamentals of leadership and business management. Even before the end of the first year, students are able to take electives and courses in their area of discipline, preparing them to outperform others in their MBA internships.

5. Public vs. Private Institution?

While it is sometimes hard to determine, there is a subtle distinction between public and private institutions.

Public institutions are generally less expensive for students living in state and have access to resources from the state in which the institution is located. Their mission can generally be stated as "all things to all people," especially those living within the state. As a result, they are often very large schools, with lots of undergraduate students, numerous graduate and doctoral programs, a large bureaucracy and limited resources.

Private institutions tend to be smaller, more specialized in their offerings, less bureaucratic and more flexible and responsive to the demands of the outside world.

Vanderbilt is a highly selective, well-endowed private university comprised of 10 schools including world-class professional schools of Management, Law, Medicine and Divinity.

6. Competitive vs. Collaborative Culture?

What type of learning or work environment do you enjoy? Do you enjoy working in teams or independently?

Most top MBA programs will provide a common degree of rigor inside the classroom. However, the only way to truly evaluate the student culture of a program is through a campus visit. By being on campus, you can interact with current students and get a feel for the student culture.

In a more competitive student culture, in addition to challenging yourself, you will be pushed and challenged by others in and out of the classroom. In a more collaborative student culture, students will challenge themselves but will support one another in and out of the classroom.

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management is known for its exceptionally collaborative and supportive environment. It is not uncommon for students to help each other in all that they do—even to the point of giving interviewing tips to those who are competing for the same job.

7. Graduate School vs. School of Business?

What is the difference between a graduate school of management and a school of business? At a school of business, the institution offers both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Graduate students may have the opportunity for teaching fellowships or assistantships to teach undergraduate classes.

At a graduate school of management, there are no undergraduate programs, which allows the faculty and staff to teach and interact with graduate students only. Students don't have to compete for the time and attention of faculty or staff, or for the facilities and resources critical to their success in the program.

Because a certain level of job experience is required to attend the Vanderbilt Graduate School of Management, you can have confidence that the focus is on producing the next generation of business leaders.

8. Urban Center vs. Remote Locale?

Regardless of the rigor of a program, you will have some free time while pursuing your MBA. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? How do you like spending time outside the classroom? If you prefer lots of activity and the "hustle and bustle" of city life, then a more urban environment may be a better fit for you. If you like exploring the outdoors and wide-open spaces, then a rural environment may be a more suitable match.

The location of the school can be an important consideration not only for leisure activities, but also for your career search. Among many other things, an urban environment can provide greater access to the business community, corporate recruiters, jobs for spouses, entertainment, restaurants, cultural events and recreational activities.

Nashville, Tennessee, offers the best of both worlds. A metropolitian area of more than 1 million residents, it offers professional sports, world-class art museums and great restaurants and nightlife. At the same time, Nashville rates high in terms of affordability and livability—for example, it was named America’s Friendliest City by Travel + Leisure.