25th Aug, 2009 | Source : Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
The MBA may well be the most versatile of graduate degrees, opening doors in a wide range of sectors. But having a clear idea of where you want your MBA to take you before you apply will help you figure out which program offers the best route.
Start with a self-assessment. Understanding your strengths, needs, and goals will help you define what you’re looking for in an MBA program. And when it comes time to apply, being able to articulate your career goals to explain why a school is a good fit for you will go a long way toward helping you get in.
There are numerous factors to consider. Common criteria include school quality and reputation; specific program aspects like length, type, and location; career services and job placement statistics; curriculum; student population; and of course, cost and financing. Knowing up front how important different criteria are to you will help you search efficiently.
Common sources of school and program information include:
- Networking. People in professional organizations and those who are doing the type of work you want to do can be great sources of advice. Educators, too, can help you navigate the process. Talk to numerous people to get a wide sampling of ideas.
- Online sources. A good place to start is mba.com, the Graduate Management Admission Council’s web portal for students. The site offers information and advice on the entire process as well as the GMAT® exam, the standardized admission test for MBA programs. Registering at the site also allows you to opt in if you want to make your information available to school recruiters who want to contact you.
- Guides. Various publications offer school directories and rankings. When looking at rankings, however, be aware that each ranking organization uses different criteria─and so does each individual student.
- Schools. Perhaps the best source of information about a school’s business programs is the school itself. School websites, admissions officers, students, faculty, and alumni are all worth checking out, and visiting a school can give you a feel for a program that you may not be able to get anywhere else. Also, many schools offer multiple MBA programs─full-time, part-time, online, executive─and have experts on staff who can explain the differences in and benefits of each one.
A 2009 follow-up survey of mba.com registrants found the average student applied to three schools and four programs. With application fees reaching up to $250 for some programs, you may want to narrow down your choices before you apply.
Experts typically recommend that you apply to one “dream” program, one you feel fairly certain you will get in to, and one to three others you think are a good match for your credentials.
Though there are no guarantees, you can get a pretty good idea of how your credentials will stack up against other applicants by looking at a program’s most recent class profile. The statistical profile includes academic and demographic information, as well as how many applicants the school turns away.
An MBA is a big investment─both of yourself, and in yourself. It’s worth the effort to make sure you’re choosing wisely.
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