Monday, March 03, 2014 at 12am

Choosing an MBA Program: Is There a Right Way to do it?

Choosing an MBA Program: Is There a Right Way to do it? main image

Aled Owens - MBA Insider

One of the first and most common mistakes that I see MBA candidates make is that they think there is a methodology or a right way for choosing an MBA program. They underestimate how much the choice should in fact almost entirely be influenced by personal objectives.

What role should MBA rankings play in choosing an MBA program?

People place way too heavy an influence on MBA rankings, or on a perceived brand of school, without understanding if that school is actually right for them. In many cases, yes, an MBA ranking is a good place to start your research, but however much you think you are a ‘traditional MBA candidate’, no rankings were built with your specific situation and career objectives in mind.

How to Approach Your MBA research

A better approach to beginning your MBA research is to ask yourself some key questions that will help you to segment business schools based on your preferences:

  • Why do you want to pursue an MBA? And what is the end career goal? It could be to progress in your current job, to change industries, to change functions in your role, or to move around the world – or a combination of different motivations.
  • What resources do you need a school to offer? This can range from leading faculty in your chosen industry, international partnerships, internship opportunities or a variety of other things that will make your time at school as impactful on your career as possible.
  • What is the learning environment and does it fit with how you learn as an individual – are you looking for a small classroom where you'll know your fellow students well, or a large class where you may get a better chance to network? Are you looking for a program that will allow you to work in a collaborative team environment, or are you looking for a competitive environment where you can outshine your classmates?
  • Where is the program based? Where does the school have strong alumni networks or employer relations? Is the program based in a city, or is it a campus university based outside of town? Location and employer networks are key factors in both how you will spend your time at school, and the opportunities that will be available to you post-graduation.

None of these questions have right or wrong answers, they all need to be answered based on personal preference.  If you consider yourself currently at point A, and your dream post-MBA job as point B, all of these questions ultimately fit within a wider question that you should be asking yourself –  what needs to happen over the next one of two years to help me get from point A to point B, and which program is going to best help me do that.

Using an MBA Event to Research Business Schools

Once you have an idea on your preferences and how to answer all of these questions, then you'll be at a better point to start your business school research.  Once you feel comfortable in starting your research, you'll have a variety of ways that you can go about that; with one of the most effective being to visit an MBA event like the QS World MBA Tour.

The World MBA Tour runs in over 75 cities around the world, often multiple times each year, and is an opportunity to meet not only with business school admissions representatives, but with test preparation advisors, admissions consultants and MBA employers.

It is also a chance to meet with the people who will be able to give you first hand advice: current MBA students and alumni. These are often the best people to speak to when trying to assess whether a program is the right fit for you. I've met many people over the years whose choice of school absolutely came down to key benefits in the program, location, duration, class size, specialization, employment opportunities etc. – but, also came down to the fact that they wanted to spend their time at school with the like-minded individuals who were currently studying or had recently graduated from the program.

About Aled Owens

Aled Owens is a business education expert who has spent the past eight years traveling the world helping business schools connect with prospective students. Through his extensive experience working with business schools admissions staff, he is able to give a unique perspective on approaching MBA admission and advising aspiring candidates on how to make the right decisions when it comes to their MBA or master's. Originally from Wales in the UK, Aled is now based just outside of Washington DC, and is most often seen on business school campuses working with MBA admissions teams or running admissions panels at the QS World MBA Tour. You can follow him at @aledowensqs.

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