6) Focus on Benefits Beyond Pay: “In your first foray into the world of MBA programs, you will find a lot of articles decrying the MBA as a useless degree for which the opportunity cost alone is so large it could never be worth the time. I read those articles. I did the math. Then I realized that what I was looking for was not an amount of money, but the opportunity to accelerate my career path, create an amazing network, and learn from some of the brightest business minds in the country. It is then that you realize that you can’t put a price on your MBA. If it is just a question of money, then think about this: How much harder can you work at a job you like? How much more likely are you to get that bonus or promotion when you love your role and company? Now think about lost career-long opportunity costs because of those factors and the MBA is a sound investment.”
Maya Anderson, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
7) Look For Dream Job Qualifications: “Once I figured out that my career goal was to become a senior leader in a global organization, I checked out the resumes and LinkedIn profiles of my role models and found that they all had MBAs. I also saw that at my current firm, getting an MBA was a prerequisite to being promoted to a certain level. For me, an MBA is worth the investment to jump-start my growth as a manager, develop a lifelong network, and be considered for leadership roles.”
Alice Schnurman, New York University, Stern School of Business
“I looked at a 20 year trajectory of my career with and without an MBA. I did this by speaking to people who have the job that I want – Chiefs of Product at VC funded startups. I basically pursued them on LinkedIn and pleaded for a 15 minute skype call. It was pretty clear that decades on, those that had the MBA had really benefitted from it in terms of career progression and being able to tap into a powerful network of alums. I knew I did not need one to get my next job, but it became clear that 10 years down the line I would have more opportunities if I did have an MBA.”
Nikki Gupta, London Business School
8) Get Around People Different Than You: “I did campus immersion days at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale and I paid close attention to the industries and sectors applicants were coming from and going to. I feel a lot of top business schools are marketing social impact components of their programs, but you rarely see that their cohort reflects that. Since business school is my time to step away from consulting and gain new perspectives, I felt surrounding myself with other consultants wouldn’t make the experience as valuable.”
Cassandra Sullivan Rydalch, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
9) Trust Your Gut: “I’m a pretty practical, measured person. I like pro-con lists, and I like explanations. But the truth is that for me, choosing an MBA program came down to a gut feeling. Of course, I considered all the big questions: location, strength of specific programs, class size, culture, curriculum, etc. Most of all, I was looking for a program that would see me as an individual and help me shape a career path based on my strengths. A lot of the programs had very similar selling points on paper, but I found that taking a step back from the B-school jargon and just paying attention to the people I met and talked to during the application process and on visits was far more helpful than comparing pros and cons on a list. I was lucky to have a bunch of great options, but in the end, I picked Owen because it just felt like the place I couldn’t live without.”
Mackenzie Craig, Vanderbilt University (Owen)
10) Interview MBAs On Their Motivations: “I decide by talking to people in my network to find out what motivated them to pursue an MBA and what they ultimately took away from their experiences. Pursuing an MBA is a significant investment in terms of time, money, and even personal life. I think it’s also important to hear from both sides of the spectrum – so while I spoke to many people who pursued the MBA route, I also reached out to those who decided against it to learn their side. This approach helped me decide what made the most sense in terms of fulfilling my career goals.”
Grace Ko, Cornell University (Johnson)
11) Figure Out Fit: “Location, class size and culture were the most important in determining fit.
1.) Location: I wanted to go to a program that was located in a city that I could see myself enjoying living in. Going to as many campus visits was one of the best decisions I made because it gave me a real, physical sense of the university and the communities around it. Having grown up a city kid, I knew I wanted to be in a city and this was more important to me than rankings or prestige. You go to b-school to learn, but also to network and have fun! I couldn’t see myself doing that in some of the smaller university towns I visited.
2) Class size: My undergraduate class size at UCSD was in the thousands. For graduate school, I wanted to be somewhere where I could get to know my classmates more intimately so I prioritized programs that were around 100-400 total students in size.
3.) Culture: The third and most important factor in assessing fit for me was culture. My process of determining this was a) talking to admissions staff b) talking to alumni and c) visiting campus.
A) Talking to admissions staff was eye-opening because it gave me an idea of how helpful, accessible and available the staff were. It seems obvious that admissions directors or associates would be all of that and above, but from my research they were not. These conversations gave me a great window into how involved the staff were in supporting students, but also insight into the uniqueness of each program that I later used for my application essays for each school. The more positive interactions I had with the program and staff, the easier it was to complete my application for the school.
B) I talked to both current students and alumni, but found my conversations with alumni to be more insightful. They had more distance from their MBA experience, so were more frank about the pros and cons and offered great advice on what really mattered during and after the program. I had a great conversation with one particular alumna who was working in the industry I was interested in going into post-MBA and she even offered to put in a good word to the admissions office on my behalf!
C) Visiting campus was very helpful in determining cultural fit because physically being in the environment you may move into gives you an idea of whether you can truly see yourself there. Even if there weren’t many students around because I visited during the summer, I was able to read all the flyers, notices and event postings throughout campus. Little things like what the food offerings in the cafeteria were like, or what students considered fun or social based on event posters were hugely influential in determining whether I could gel with the existing culture and people there.”
Barbara Sujin Lee, University of Washington, Foster School of Business
12) Imagine the Possibilities: “Working in corporate commercial finance, numbers are always a big part of my day-to-day, so I started off with a tried and true cash flow forecast, and researched ROI’s that related program cost to post MBA average salary expectations. However, although the hard numbers checked out for themselves, I felt the exposure to new ideas, people, and career opportunities that LBS offers was certainly not something I was going to be exposed to in any other environment, and that was a critical factor in my decision. To me, my MBA is an investment in all the possibilities I can come across during these two years, more than just a tradeoff between program cost and expected future income. Some of the most transformative things we can experience can’t be measured in currency; their outcome is equally, if not more, valuable to our lives.”
Gabriela M. Kestler, London Business School
DON’T MISS: MEET THE CLASS OF 2020: THE COMPLETE SERIES
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.