When Is An MBA Worth It—When Is It Not?

THE GENERAL RULE: AN MBA IS A LONG-TERM INVESTMENT

Of course, there are always exceptions to this general rule—such as students who will be entering a family business (and whose lifetime earnings are therefore less tied to a school’s brand), students whose company will pay for a substantial portion of their tuition costs, and students trying to undertake a career change (to a new industry or function) which may be impossible without an MBA. If students in these categories are unable to win acceptance to a top 25 school, they may still want to pursue a MBA. Finally, students who have a clearly defined career path may want to consider schools that are particularly renowned in their fields even if they rank outside the top 25. For example, future CTO’s would be well-served by attending Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business; future leaders in international business would find a Thunderbird MBA especially valuable.

In general: Attending business school must be viewed as a long-term investment. Do everything you can to get into a top-ranked school. The qualitative nature of the MBA application process makes it possible for almost anyone to have a shot at a top ten school; but, also be sure not to immediately disregard those schools outside the top ten. Weigh your individual financial and professional situation when making this decision, and consider advice from experts in the field.

Shawn P. O’Connor is the Founder and CEO of Stratus Admissions Counseling, a New York-based MBA admissions counseling and test preparation firm serving a global clientele of applicants to the world’s premier business schools. O’Connor is a graduate of Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.

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