The benefits of enrolling in business school to study an MBA are clear. Your network will grow exponentially, you’ll learn a whole suite of skills and you’ll gain exposure to a range of top employers. Not to mention the bump in salary you’re likely to enjoy.
MBA programs, however, are not all the same. Each program is sculpted and honed often over decades by academics, students and businesses. Going to a B-school is something you’re likely only going to do once, because it’s such a huge investment of both your time and money. Choosing the right program is crucial.
To help you on your way, here are some things to consider when looking for the right program.
The MBA is a vocational degree, so perhaps the most important thing is to make sure a program aligns with your career goals. Is the school known for connections to any particular industries? Where do graduates go on to work? Are you able to take an internship? Are there elective modules or even specialized tracks you take to build expertise in a particular area? Does the alumni network include contacts who could help you get where you want to go?
Curriculum and teaching style
While you’re certainly going to learn all the essentials and gain a bird’s eye view of business that will allow you to pull the strings — hopefully one day from the very top — what is taught, and how it’s taught, varies from school to school. It’s important, therefore, to scope out the curriculum and determine if it appeals to you. From case studies to simulations to real-life projects and more, schools use a number of methods to train the business leaders of the future. Some are more about collaboration, while others more about competition; you just have to work out what best suits your learning style.
Most full-time candidates will leave their hometown to study; many will leave their country. Heck, a good number even wave goodbye to entire continents. This can be a great way to see the world, meet new people and learn about how business is done elsewhere on the planet. You shouldn’t rule out packing your bags if you have the opportunity — your perfect school may well not be in the U.S. On the other hand, don’t feel obliged to go anywhere, either. An MBA is going to be hard enough work without any unnecessary distractions.
Are you being realistic?
You’re a prospective MBA candidate, you’re successful, you’re ambitious — that’s great. But before you start committing time and effort (and money) to the admissions process, take a careful look at yourself, your GMAT score, your work experience and your academic record. Compare those to the figures typically seen at your target school, and ask yourself whether you realistically belong there. Not everyone can go to Harvard, but you know what? Harvard isn’t right for everyone. You’re likely to have a much more fulfilling experience at a school aligned with your needs. Remember — you’re doing an MBA to improve, not to prove you’re already the best.