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Choosing An MBA Program Is Easier Than Choosing A Latte

Linda El Awar

Imagine you’re sitting across the table from an admissions officer and he/she asks you the following question:

“What are your specific future plans?”

If your stomach just dropped to your feet and your upper lip is beaded in sweat, you’re not alone. Many of applicants get panicky when we ask them direct questions about their aspirations and goals. 

We know what you’re thinking…

“Future plans? It took me 10 minutes to order a latte. I can’t even decide if I want Chipotle or Panera for lunch today… but you want me to tell you where I see myself in 5-10 years?!”  

Okay, before you run out of oxygen — BREATHE. We promise it’s not that bad! Inhale, exhale, and think about the big picture, not the tiny details that overwhelm you. 

First, think about something you love.


Got it? Okay.... Now how can you translate that into a career? 

By answering this single question you will be able to develop a clear plan for your future. Then, once you know exactly which career suits your passions and interests, you’ll be able to identify not only which schools are the best fit, but which MBA program you should attend.

For example, some of our clients say that they love coaching and after chatting we discover that team management is where they want to be in the future. Others have said they love creating new things and we find entrepreneurship to be their best future goal. When you take a step back and think about your passion, it suddenly becomes much easier to see where you want to go. 

A word of warning for those who think the answer is already clear: Be sure to give your decision some serious thought and only do what’s best for YOU. You will only be hurting yourself if you blindly follow the road most traveled or take the route that seems the easiest. Before you choose which MBA program you want to attend it’s essential that you fully understand your goals.

How To Decide Where to Apply

Once you’ve determined which career you’d like to work toward, it’s time to decide which schools are the best fit. Here are a few things to consider as your narrow down where you should apply:

→ Your Learning Style

Do you learn best on a team in an interactive environment? Or do you prefer to work alone? By evaluating your personal learning style, you will be able to more easily identify which programs foster the environment you need to succeed. You may be able to find information on each school’s teaching style online, but we strongly recommend making campus visits and dropping in a couple classes to get a clear idea of what each environment is like.

→ Your Skills

While determining your perfect MBA program, it’s important to evaluate your skills honestly. Which skills are your strongest? Which areas need work? Consider your future career and understand which qualities your future employers will be looking for. Select a program that will sharpen your existing skills and bring the skills you don’t have up to speed.

→ Course Offerings

Take a close look at the courses offered at each school. Pay attention to which types of classes are introductory and which are advanced to make sure the curriculum aligns with your future goals. It’s also important to pay attention to the courses that set each program apart. Every business school will have unique offerings so be sure to choose a program that will complement your skills and interests.

How To Find Your Perfect Program

Another major decision you need to make is which type of program best suits your lifestyle and future goals. Does a full-time, part-time, executive, or international program make the most sense for you? You can find more information on that here, but here are a few different scenarios on the different types of programs to get you started:

If you love your current job and company so much that you want to spend your entire career there, part-time is a great option. 

If you’re looking to jump into a completely new industry or function and need to build a strong new network and skill set, full-time would be more appropriate.

If you want to become a global leader but don’t have much experience (or any) outside your own country, an international program could help you build connections and offer a more in-depth experience with adapting to new cultures.  

If you are planning to continue working for your current employer, have several years of management experience, and your company is planning to pay for your MBA, an EMBA may be your perfect program.

Expert Advice

Above all, it’s crucial that you keep an open mind during this process. Make sure you weigh all your options before you get too attached to any one route to an MBA. Take it from an Admit.me admissions expert, Linda El Awar:

“I was lucky enough to earn my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and had goals of returning to campus soon after to complete a part-time MBA. I am a die hard Michigan Wolverine fan. As a child, I watched the football games on TV and dreamed of living in Ann Arbor. But after thinking about my own future plans, I realized gaining a strong network from a full time experience at a university I hadn't already attended would be best for what I wanted to do later. In this case, what I thought would make me happy in the short term, wouldn't have been best for my future career. Now I have the benefits of being a Michigan and HBS alum. Try to embrace it with positivity and understand that this is personal process, not one-size fits all!

Trust us on this: Understanding where you want to be in the future is the only way to take the right steps to get there. We guarantee there are program options that can help you meet your objectives, but it’s up to you to identify what you love so you can make decisions that will bring you success and happiness in five years, ten years, and beyond.

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