After many years spent in MBA admissions consulting and on MBA admissions boards, I cannot count the number of times prospective MBA applicants have come to me for MBA help, first asking this question- “Do I really need an MBA?”
In an uncertain and constantly changing global economy, it is tempting, certainly, to question leaving a full-time job for the expensive two years of education most top MBA programs offer.
In my opinion, however, there are two majors reasons for seeking an MBA from a top business school- skills and network. Both of these take-aways offer long-term potential for growing your credentials and credibility, earning more, and deriving greater satisfaction and fulfillment from your work.
So, how do you know which top MBA programs will be best designed to suit your particular needs and help you achieve these goals? You have to invest in significant research, beginning with a shortlisted set of MBA programs that you are most interested in.
Like most aspiring MBA applicants, you are smart. And, since you are smart, you likely know that your current skills and talents will only get you so far in your chosen industry.
You want to build more skills, beyond the usual suspects of accounting, finance and statistics. You want to improve your leadership ability, and develop strategies for inspiring and motivating others.
You recognize that, as you advance in your career, you will have greater responsibilities and face more complex challenges. Solving those will require more extensive collaboration and more effective leveraging of others’ talents.
These are some of the reasons that you have begun to develop an MBA admissions strategy and seek out top MBA programs.
Before deciding which MBA program will give you the most effective skill set, you need to consider the following questions:
- What classes are taught in the subject(s) that you want more exposure to?
- Are there only a handful of courses in these subjects, or will you have a robust selection?
- Who are the faculty teaching these courses? What are their research credentials or industry experiences?
- Which top MBA programs have the best track record for training students in the area of study that you are seeking?
No matter the MBA rankings, there is scarcely any point in attending an MBA program that does little to nothing in healthcare, if that is your career interest.
You should build your MBA admissions strategy around the skills that you are seeking to fill, and begin your research with careful focus on these skills.
After narrowing MBA programs based on the skills they will fill, you can begin a deeper investigation into each MBA program’s network. Use the following questions to guide your research, as you participate in MBA campus visits, talk to MBA alumni, and research top MBA programs online.
- Who are the students? What are they like?
- Do you see yourself working with students like those that you have met or spoken with? What do you admire about them?
- What are the alumni like? In what industries do many of the alumni work?
- Could you see yourself fitting into the campus community?
As you answer these questions and begin your MBA applications, you must also answer one very crucial question: What is important to you?
Every school differs, so the more clarity you have in answering this question, the more capable you will be of narrowing down your school choice. If, in a particular MBA program, you see students, faculty and alumni who reflect your own values, you might have a good fit.
If you tend to value depth, you might want to look at smaller MBA programs that have fewer students but invest heavily in them, such as Stanford GSB, Yale School of Management or Oxford’s Saïd Business School. These MBA programs might offer smaller networks, but they tend to be very high-quality.
Answering these questions should give you some idea of why you really need an MBA and which MBA programs might be the best fit for you, personally and professionally. With those answers in mind, you can move forward with developing an MBA admissions strategy to build a great business school application that could open doors around the world.