Business schools vary in many ways: location, cohort size, program culture, degree customization offerings, and employer relationships, to name a few. What factors matter most to you? To ensure that you have an optimal b-school experience, you should explore different program types and compile a list of schools that interest you.
Start with the websites.
Yes, the various MBA programs can sometimes seem very similar, but to start identifying their differences, you need to go deeper than the “About us” page on the schools’ sites. Most importantly, look for student admissions reps, who are often referred to as “MBA ambassadors.” You should be able to find contact information for these students, who have volunteered to respond to questions from applicants. You can get a lot of insider information from them and learn interesting things about the school that you won’t see on its website.
Look at the reports.
Look at your target programs’ employment reports to see where students go geographically after graduation, what industries and functional areas they enter, their salary ranges, and which companies recruit there to be sure the area you are interested in is represented. Go deeper into the curriculum and explore concentrations or majors the school offers, plus electives.
Explore extracurricular offerings.
Don’t forget to check out what student clubs are available at your target programs, because they will be a major part of your daily experience in b-school. Student organizations range from functional clubs (e.g., the Consulting Club, the Finance Club) to affinity clubs (e.g., the African American Business Association, the Hispanic Business Association, the LGBTQ Association, Women in Business, the Armed Forces Club). Then there are extracurricular clubs (e.g., Outdoors Club, Culinary Club, Soccer Club). You will most likely find something in your area of interest, but if you don’t, be sure to ask how you can start your own club. That is a good way to become engaged with the school and its students and is also something you should mention in your essays and interviews to show that you have indeed done your research on the school and are interested in being involved.
Business schools generally offer a variety of programs, most of which will have different application requirements. Make sure to research all relevant and intriguing programs to identify your best fit. If you do not have work experience, check out the specialized master’s programs in finance, marketing, business analytics, operations, and other such areas. These are ideal if you want to break into the business world with a solid background. Many schools also offer you credit for those programs if you later return in a few years to complete the MBA program, allowing you to finish it in less time.
Each program will have a different application process and deadlines. Almost all offer virtual admission sessions and scheduled on-campus events at which you can chat with staff, students, and faculty.
Executive MBA Programs
An executive MBA (EMBA) program is a great option for professionals with approximately 8 to 15 years of experience who want to advance within their organization. If you are in a position of influence at your firm, you could be a strong EMBA candidate. These programs generally form “C-suite teams” that represent the business functions of an organization so that everyone on the team provides a different point of view. Most EMBA programs assume that your company will be sponsoring you either financially or by giving you time off to participate in coursework. EMBA programs offer virtual information sessions as well as on-campus events at which you can meet alumni and students and perhaps even sit in on a class (or mock class) to see how being an active student feels.
Don’t select schools based solely on rankings. A program’s rank will tell you very little about the school and its personality. Actually visit the schools you are applying to, if at all possible. No online presentation can give you the same experience as a personal visit; you need to see and interact with the community firsthand to best judge your fit with a program. But if you can’t travel to campus, at least sign up for a few virtual sessions with admissions representatives and students. And don’t be afraid to ask questions – that is what these sessions are for!
Are you applying to an MBA program? Schedule a free consultation with an Accepted consultant to learn more about the process and how we can help you get ACCEPTED.
Dr. Christie St-John has over 25 years of experience as MBA admissions director, career coach and Chief Military Recruiter at Vanderbilt University and Tuck School of Business, consultant at Université de Nice, and adjunct faculty at Vanderbilt. Christie has a deep knowledge of MBA and graduate admissions. Want Christie to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!