From Seeking an MBA to Seeking Success (Part I)
Going to business school and getting the position you want afterwards is a multi-step process, involving a conscious self-assessment as well as the development of an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of particular programs. Below is a step-by-step outline as to how to approach the MBA decision at each of its stages.
Step 1: Costs
Cost assessment should be based not only on the cost of tuition, but also on the cost of not receiving a salary for two years (or one year depending on the program), as well as the increased earnings gained from the MBA over the first few years. This formula varies from person to person and from program to program, so an individual assessment is necessary. You may want to consult the Forbes ROI calculator and the school statistics on post-graduate earnings.
Step 2: Schools
Deciding which schools to apply to is again an individualized question, but each applicant will want to take into account at least some of the following.
- Reputation. To many candidates, reputation or prestige is at the top of their list. Often times it is given too much weight.
- Expertise. How does the school’s area of expertise fit with your professional goals and aspirations?
- Location. Certain locations can open up professional opportunities, beyond the obvious advantages of global finance centers like New York or London. Some applicants chose schools because particular companies are headquartered in the vicinity of the school. Location should also be considered in terms of personal preferences, like livability.
- Teaching Styles and Curriculum. This requires inquiries into the various teaching styles and curriculum in practice and how they match your own style, goals, interests, and needs.
- GMAT and GPA statistics. When assessing how likely you are to get into a given school, you will want to look at the statistics of the incoming class in terms of GMAT, GPA, and professional experience. Increase your GPA according to the strength of your undergraduate institution as well as the technical/quantitative difficulty of your degree. Determine whether your scores and experiences combine to make you above average, average, or below average and thus likely, possibly likely, or unlikely to get in. This shouldn’t be the ultimate determinant of whether or not to apply, but rather indicative of how a given school will be categorized. MBA admissions consultants are quite helpful in this process.
- Consider attending an MBA fair. It will give you exposure to a range of programs. The applicants who find fairs most helpful are already at least somewhat informed about the application process and are prepared to ask admission committee members specific questions.
Step 3: Number of Schools
It is recommended that you apply to 3-10 schools. It all depends on you and the particular schools you apply to. Some schools, including top programs like Cornell, have fairly easy applications, so it may not take much extra effort to apply to them. Other schools have more peculiar applications with lots of distinct essay questions, like Stanford. Overall, it is recommended that you apply to at least one school that you will easily get into. Then, based on cost and time add additional schools you are interested in.
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