An MBA is a life changing opportunity – or it should be. The financial investment required and the intensive learning opportunities on offer make this a pivotal point in your career.
It’s vital you make the right decision on where to spend your money and time. But how do you arrive at a decision? How different are business schools’ cultures? Will you craft a different skill-set at each, or are MBA curricula generally the same across the board?
Conrad Chua, Director of MBA Admissions at Cambridge Judge Business School, gives us his views on the pitfalls to avoid when choosing the right MBA for you:
1. Look underneath the stats
It’s easy to rely on rankings and published employment statistics when comparing business schools. But make sure you understand the detail of how the stats are compiled, and make careful assessment of whether they are important to your own needs. Subcategories such as ‘value for money’ or ‘student satisfaction’ may be more important to you than an overall rank.
2. Talk to students and alumni
It’s easy to find graduates of business schools now on social media. Try and make contact to discuss their experiences. But remember, every individual has different expectations and requirements, so try to be objective.
3. Be realistic
If you’re struggling to make your resume fit the requirements of the school, then chances are you won’t be happy there. Represent yourself honestly, but remember that certain elements of your application can outweigh others. If your undergrad score is not good, then work hard for a high GMAT score.
4. Be open-minded
Don’t let your pre-conceived ideas of a business school’s reputation be your top priority when choosing a school. Look at the detail. Perhaps a school you’re not so familiar with has a proven specialism in your field, or established links in your sector.
5. Visit the School
There’s only so much you can tell from a website, and even if it’s hard to find the opportunity to visit, it’s worth making the effort. The vibe and community in a school will be an important factor during your time there, and it’s important that you feel comfortable in the environment to succeed.
From the MBA student
Tatiana Goncharova, former Manager at American Express and current Cambridge MBA:
There were several factors I considered carefully when picking the perfect school for the MBA.
Firstly, I was looking for a diverse academic community and well-rounded business school experience. Given this is probably my last chance to be a student, I wanted to be a part of a business school that also benefits from being embedded within a wider university. I hoped to meet people from different departments, share ideas and identify potential synergies for doing business together in the future.
Secondly, I wanted hands-on experience and real life projects, with local and global companies. In my opinion, business is not something you can learn purely through lectures and textbooks.
And last but not least, I wanted to really know all my classmates in order to facilitate more meaningful collaborations. I knew this would be less likely at a school with a much larger year group. While I’ve also gained from the closer contact with faculty and one-to-one career support which results from a smaller MBA cohort.