The first step in selecting the right MBA program for you is looking inward: you need to assess your profile and think seriously about what characterizes your candidacy. No matter how much you want to go to a particular program, if that school’s admissions committee sees you as a mismatch (in terms of your academics, work experience, etc), you’re not likely to get in. That’s why it’s so important to take a step back and evaluate your profile, seriously and thoughtfully. Where are your strengths? And where are your weaknesses?
6 Key areas to consider:
Your work experience. This includes your industry and company, what your role has been within your organization, how significant an impact you’ve had, and your leadership experience. Consider both the quantity and quality of your work experience. And be honest with yourself as you analyze both your strengths (speedy advancement? Impressive impact and leadership?) and your weaknesses (few promotions? Gaps in one side of your skillset?).
Your academics. This includes your undergrad GPA and transcript (as well as any additional degrees), and GMAT or GRE scores. Again, take into account both strengths and weaknesses, and consider how they add up. Is your GPA low while your GMAT is solid? Or the reverse? You can retake the exam, but your GPA is set. (Although if you can take additional courses and earn A’s in them, the recent A’s can help you.) Did your undergrad GPA trend up, or down? (Much better to trend up!)
Your goals. Define your post-MBA goals in terms of function and industry: What do you want to do and in what industry to you intend to do it? If important to you, also consider where geographically you want to live and work. Are you planning to change careers? If so, how major is the shift? What is the relevance of your career to-date to your future, dream career?
Your extracurriculars. These help you stand out and provide opportunities for you to demonstrate leadership and organizational skills. What experiences are most meaningful to you? What are you proud of? They also show you as a giver and contributor.
Unique personal factors that set you apart: obstacles you’ve overcome, extraordinary achievement in a field outside work, military experience, etc.
And factors that may have a negative impact: such as honor code infractions, DUI, DWI, misdemeanors, or academic probation.
It’s best to start the MBA application process clear-eyed, and that means knowing exactly what makes your profile competitive (and where you may have weaknesses). This honest assessment will enable you to identify the right schools for you to apply to – schools that are a perfect match for your goals, and where your skills and experience make you a great fit.
An MBA is one of the most significant investments you can make in your future – and choosing the right schools to apply to is crucial to a successful application. If you miscalculate, you could get dinged, or end up stagnating at a program that’s a bad fit for you. To help you avoid these mistakes we’ve created Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One a clear, concise guide. Grab your copy today
By Linda Abraham. Linda is the founder of Accepted, the premier admissions consultancy. She has coached MBA applicants to acceptance for over 20 years. The Wall Street Journal, US News and Poets&Quants are among the media outlets that seek her admissions expertise.