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Choosing the Right MBA Program for You

Linda El Awar

As an admissions consultant, I notice that many people struggle to decide which MBA program is right for them. Getting an MBA is an amazing opportunity to enhance your education, professional skills, and even explore a new geographical region. The possibilities are endless! But rather than choosing from a generic list of “top MBA programs,” use these tips to tailor your school selection.

Think about after graduation.

Obviously you should be open to new career opportunities, but you should also have a firm understanding of things you enjoy and are passionate about now, that you would want to explore after you graduate.

Which skills/function do you want to perform as an area of expertise after you graduate? Are you passionate about a particular industry?

If you have a clear set of skill sets that you are hoping to pursue through an MBA program, this should guide your school selection, i.e. Wharton is known for an exceptionally strong finance program and Northwestern boasts their marketing program.

Write down a list of potential areas of expertise you want to further explore. Do research on schools that have strong programs in these areas, and start filtering your options that way. Taking a look at each school’s alumni career track record could also be helpful.

Are you looking to stay or move to in a certain part of the country? Are you open to international experiences?

When I was applying, there was an MBA program in California I was interested in. After doing some research I found that its students were heavily reliant upon alumni during their job search, therefore, they mostly remained in California after graduation. I disregarded that program option—it wasn’t right for me.

Think about how you want your career experience to be after graduation and apply that to your school selection strategy.

Talk to alumni.

Suppose you are considering applying to Stanford’s MBA program, but you live in Boston. Conduct an online search for something along the lines of “Stanford MBA Boston Alumni” and look for details for a local alumni club. Most alumni love to talk about their school experiences. Reach out to them and they will be sure to share their experiences.

Visit the campus.

My work schedule was extremely demanding when I was applying to MBA programs so I did not have an opportunity to visit each school on my list before applying. I did, however, visit all of my accepted schools before making my final decision. I sat in on classes and spent a lot of time engaging with current students.

You can get a real feel for the campus culture even in a short time period. I instantly felt comfortable on one campus, whereas another program made me anxious to get on a plane and fly far, far away!

Enjoy the process!

This is your chance to explore something new and grow as an individual. The process is just as important as the end result. Don’t let the stress of the application process consume you. Approach the process with a positive attitude—the prospects of meeting new people, exploring different programs that match your interests, and learning about yourself and your career goals along the way. Your attitude and expectations can really change your experience of choosing the right MBA program, so make sure they’re positive!

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