Choosing the right MBA program for you depends on two main factors -- the school's ranking and location. If you're after a degree from a top-tier school and meet the stringent requirements, you should concentrate on the top five schools and then factor in where the school is located and where you might want to end up in your career. Having a degree from a top five school makes you an attractive job candidate pretty much anywhere, but sometimes getting a job in the same town as the university can prove even easier. Add to this the fact that there isn't a drastic difference in the reputations of the top five schools, and in the end, you'll want to live in a town that gives you the quality of life you desire.
The top five business schools in 2009, in order, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report are Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). If you're serious about any of these schools, you need to consider the financials, because they aren't cheap. The good news is each program offers abundant scholarships, grants and loans. The general thinking is that if you can get into a top five school, you can find a way to get it paid for. The tuitions of each of the top five schools are in the same ballpark, with No. 1 Harvard coming in at the least expensive at $43,800. Stanford is the most expensive, with an annual tuition of $48,921 [source: USNews].
As far as location, Stanford is the only top five school out west, so if you like avocado on your eggs or want to give surfing a try, Stanford is a good bet. MIT is a good school if you're interested in the business side of the tech industry. It's one of the leading tech universities in the nation, and its sterling reputation can be a big boost to a graduate looking for a job in Silicon Valley. Stanford and MIT also have the smallest programs, so expect more competition for admission.
If you want to go the more Ivy League route, then Harvard and Penn are the way to go. Penn's Wharton School of business is one of the most prestigious in the United States and will open many doors for you in a career search. Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management is located in Evanston, Ill., and also has a great reputation as the No. 3 ranked school. But if you have the means and the grades, there's no beating Harvard Business School. With a degree from this prestigious Cambridge, Mass., university, you can pretty much write your own ticket to the career of your dreams.