Step-by-Step Guide to an MBA (Part 1)

Getting into business school and achieving your post-grad goals is a multi-step process. This process involves not only a conscious self-assessment, but also the ability to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a particular school. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to best approach business school and your MBA future.

Step 1: Cost Assessment

Cost assessment should be based not only on the cost of tuition, but also on the cost of not receiving a salary for two years (or one year depending on the program), as well as the increased earnings gained from having an MBA. This formula varies from person to person and from program to program, so an individual self-assessment is necessary.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Schools

Deciding which schools to apply to is again an individualized question, but each applicant will want to take into account at least some of the following factors.

· Reputation. To many candidates, reputation or prestige is at the top of their list. Often times it is given too much weight.

· Expertise. How does the school’s area of expertise fit with your professional goals and aspirations?

· Location. Certain locations can open up professional opportunities, beyond the obvious advantages of global finance centers like New York or London. Some applicants chose schools because particular companies are headquartered in the vicinity of the school. Location should also be considered in terms of personal preferences such as livability.

· Teaching Styles and Curriculum. This requires inquiries into the various teaching styles and curriculum and how they match your own style, goals, interests, and needs.

· GMAT and GPA statistics. When assessing how likely you are to get into a given school, you will want to look at the statistics of the incoming class in terms of GMAT score, GPA, and professional experience. Be sure to factor in the strength of your undergraduate institution as well as the technical/quantitative difficulty of your degree and increase your GPA accordingly. Determine whether your scores and experiences combined make you above average, average, or below average and thus likely, possibly likely, or unlikely to get in. This shouldn’t be the ultimate determinant of whether or not to apply, but rather a good indicator of how a given school will be categorized. MBA admissions consultants are quite helpful in this process.

· Consider attending an MBA fair. It will give you exposure to a variety of programs. The applicants who find MBA fairs the most beneficial are at least somewhat informed about the application process and are prepared to ask the admissions committee members specific questions.

Step 3: Determining How Many Schools to Apply to

It is recommended that you apply to 3-10 schools. Some schools, including top programs like Cornell, have fairly easy applications, so it may not take much extra effort to apply to them. Other schools have more peculiar applications with lots of distinct essay questions, like Stanford. Overall, it is recommended that you apply to at least one school that you will easily get into. Then, based on cost and time add additional schools you are interested in.