Crucial Advice For The Accepted

First round decisions are in. Congratulations! Whew! Excitement and relief are common emotions when you hear the news.

I remember the moment I received my admission decision as if it was yesterday. I was in my office at an offsite location, with a small project team for a special assignment. I was alone when the phone call came.

I was shocked and jubilant, even to shed a few tears of joy. I leapt into the air.

What I also remember, all too clearly: I gave no additional thought to my decision. I was about to embark on what was then a $150,000 investment with no incremental due diligence. Frankly, this was silly.  But, on the other hand, I got into my top choice school (and in fact, the only school I applied to), so, what more was there to do?

Well, let me tell you – there is more. I learned this during my MBA, and I talked to a few colleagues of mine who said the same.

You likely did a great deal of research about the school(s) you applied to – talking to admissions, current students, alumni, and reading resources (like Poets and Quants).  But, let me tell you, you’re far from done. Now is the time to move from a hypothetical decision to an actual decision, or really two decisions.

1)  School choice. If you’ve been admitted to more than one school, you’ll have to decide which one wins.

2) MBA choice. To go now, go later, or don’t go at all, whether you have multiple school choices or only one.

Let’s tackle the first decision first. It will also help us think about decision 2 (especially for those of you who are admitted to only one school).

Career Considerations in School Choice (Decision 1)

My focus is career management. There are, of course, many other attributes and criteria for selecting the business school which is right for you. On the career front, the bottom line is that you want to go a level deeper and benefit from the hindsight of the MBAs who have gone before you. Here are a few suggestions.

Specialization: What type of career preparation are you seeking?  Do you have a specific, specialized career focus you want to pursue?  Based on the answers to these questions, you want to get more details from the MBA program(s).

I spoke to two MBAs – Dena Zigun, who graduated from Harvard Business School in 2005, and Amika Porwal, who will get an MBA from The Wharton School in 2011. Both won admission to several schools and had opposing approaches to thinking about specialization as part of their MBA education and career preparation.

“I knew I wanted to focus on health care,” Amika told me.  “I did look at the course offerings to see what the schools would offer and Wharton was strong in this area. What I did not realize until after the fact was that I needed to go a level deeper – now I see that I needed to probe the distinctions among health care interests: pharma, medical products, payors, providers, medical services, etc.  I needed to know my interests versus the school’s focus.”

Dena on the other hand, adopted a different approach. “I wanted  a solid background in general management, with the ability to take extra classes in marketing, ” she said. “I knew most of the top MBA programs would get me the fundamentals to be successful right out of school. What I felt I really needed where those skills I would use as I moved through the ranks into senior leadership.”

About the Author...

Pam Schilling

Pam Schilling is an Executive and Career Coach, and Founder of the Career Advisory Services practice with The MBA Exchange, which serves pre-MBAs through MBA graduates, particularly those focused on career change and pursuing career passions. Formerly, as Associate Director of Career Management at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Pam guided hundreds of students and alumni on their job search. She holds an MBA from Chicago Booth and has 17 years experience in management consulting and financial management. She also serves as a faculty member at North Park University’s School of Business and Non-Profit Management in Chicago.