Tag Archives: School Selection

Consider the 3 C’s of Fit When Choosing a Business School

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News. One piece of advice you’ll hear often as an MBA applicant is to consider fit when deciding which business schools to target. Many …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.

One piece of advice you’ll hear often as an MBA applicant is to consider fit when deciding which business schools to target. Many factors go into determining fit, and many candidates focus too heavily on rankings and brand over finding the business school where they will truly thrive.

But what exactly is this elusive fit? Basically, fit means feeling like you belong as soon as you set foot on campus, feeling comfortable in the learning environment when you sit in on a class, and knowing this is the program that is going to help you reach your career goals.

Whether you’re a prospective applicant starting to pull together a list of programs or you’re in the enviable position of choosing between two or more admissions offers, start determining the best fit for you by considering the three C’s – curriculum, communication and culture.

Curriculum: Business schools periodically revamp their course offerings to keep up with trends in management education, leadership research and innovations in the business world at large. Lately, common additions or changes include more required and elective experiential courses, as well as new opportunities for students to customize their learning experience.

All general management MBA programs will provide you with the fundamentals of core management skills. The next step to determining fit requires you to find out just how well the programs align with your post-MBA career goals.

Top business schools are often known for their strengths in specific fields – finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, health care, real estate development, etc. – so start by narrowing your list based on how well the program meets your needs and can prepare you for that industry.

If you have laser-focused career goals, you may want to consider business schools that offer a concentration in your area of interest. Also, you might prefer a school with a more versatile curriculum from the beginning that you can really tailor to your needs.

For example, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business offers a flexible curriculum that allows students to choose which courses to take and when based on their experience and career goals.

Students at Harvard Business School meanwhile spend the entire first year in core classes and have the second year to customize their learning focus. Choose a program with a curriculum that suits you and your learning style best.

Communication: MBA hopefuls spend a lot of time creating an application that allows the admissions committee to get a feel for who they are beyond test scores, a resume and transcripts.

You may also want to consider whether the admissions team seems genuinely interested in getting to know applicants, too. A great way to gauge this – in addition to evaluating your own communications with the school – is by seeing how often and how much engagement the admissions committee offers you.

Take, for example, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor’s Ross School of Business, where the director of MBA admissions and financial aid Soojin Kwon updates her blog every few weeks, offering application tips, deadline and interview news, school events and other thoughts. She or someone in her department also answer each post’s comments. It may just be that famous Midwestern hospitality, but Ross candidates seem to feel a genuine connection that starts during their admissions experience.

Another excellent source of communication comes from the school-sponsored student blogs. You can read first- or second-year students’ blogs that cover everything from their social environment and career musings to travel highlights and student life for international MBA students. These blogs a great way to connect with current students and learn more about the daily experience at your target schools.

Culture: Getting a feel for the prevailing culture at a school is an important part of deciding whether the program is a good fit for your personality. You can begin your assessment by determining whether the culture is predominantly competitive or collaborative.

Size and location often play an important role in this regard – larger programs in urban centers, such as Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Chicago Booth typically feel much more competitive and intense.

Smaller business schools and those located in rural settings usually foster a close-knit community feeling, with many students living on campus and socializing with fellow students and faculty on a regular basis. MBA programs with smaller cohorts, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Yale School of Management take pride in their down-to-earth, collaborative cultures.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to a school’s culture – it’s simply a matter of choosing the environment where you think you’ll thrive.

Choosing where to pursue an MBA is a huge decision, so do your homework and understand the strengths and potential drawbacks of each option. Knowing yourself and how a particular school suits your professional goals and needs is the essence of making the right choice about fit.

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Applicants Should Connect with Alumni, Says UCLA Anderson Dean

One of the most valuable aspects of attending a top-ranked MBA program is the amazing network you cultivate during those two years. The MBA Insiders Blog at UCLA Anderson School of Management has just published a …

UCLA Anderson application tips

One of the most valuable aspects of attending a top-ranked MBA program is the amazing network you cultivate during those two years. The MBA Insiders Blog at UCLA Anderson School of Management has just published a helpful article noting how your interactions with the alumni of your target MBA programs can help you determine whether the school is a good fit for your personality and career goals.

Alumni can usually provide the most honest opinion on which courses will translate into future job opportunities, and point out which social opportunities allow you to really connect with other students outside of the classroom to help build that network foundation.

Alex Lawrence, Assistant Dean & Director of Admissions for the Full-Time MBA Program, writes this latest post in Anderson’s From the Dean’s Desk series, and below are his top 5 reasons why you should connect with alumni during your application process.

  1. Experience the school culture. Each school has its own culture and climate. Speaking with alumni allows you to experience that culture first hand. You can also ask what type of people attend the school (bankers, consultants, marketers, teachers). Ask if it is a competitive environment, do people support each other, is diversity and inclusion valued at the school, etc.
  2. Get advice on best way to visit campus /see program in full action. Alumni can provide great advice on how to structure your visit, how to contact
    faculty, meet with students, possibly sit in on a class, etc.
  3. Gain insights into career options and opportunities. One of the top reasons you are going to business school is to advance your career. Alumni are great resources to understand the impact of the school’s career management center on his/her career, what companies recruit/hire students at that school, learn about the career outcomes of other alumni.
  4. Provide a window into specific experiences. Business school is not just about taking classes. It is a wonderful way to test your limits and get out of your comfort zone. Alumni can provide a “window” into specific experiences for consideration – favorite courses, school faculty, classmates, global experiences, signature conferences, academic internships, community service, etc.
  5. Get answers to the “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” questions. Alumni can provide information that’s otherwise hard to find, such as answers to questions about financing your MBA and learning about pre-MBA internship opportunities.

The best way to reach out to alumni is through friends, family and colleagues, since that connection will incentivize them to give you a really honest insider’s perspective. If you can’t get in touch with anyone directly, reach out to the schools themselves and they’ll be able to put you in touch with someone willing to talk to you.

Nothing compares with hearing firsthand accounts that offer a realistic view of the business school experience that go beyond the brand messages of school websites and admissions events. Have conversations about why they decided to go to business school, why they chose the program they did, what were the highlights or surprises of their experience, and what they wish they had known when starting this process.

It truly is the people, not the brochure bullet points, that bring a school to life, so the more person-to-person contact you have, the more informed you will be when it comes time to apply – and when you finally set foot on campus.


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Evaluate MBA Career Services When Selecting Possible B-Schools

Guest post provided by our friends at Prep Adviser MBA career services have not generally been considered pivotal to your choice of the right business school for your management studies. However, some career centers cater …

MBA career services

Guest post provided by our friends at Prep Adviser

MBA career services have not generally been considered pivotal to your choice of the right business school for your management studies. However, some career centers cater so well to MBA students’ future vocations that they have become an indispensable asset to MBA programs.

Why business schools care about post-MBA careers

There are two major reasons for the growth of MBA career services. The first is that business schools now realize that the career success of their alumni is a major selling point in MBA programs. Ultimately, the return on investment (ROI) and the return in happiness (RIH) determine the value of the overall MBA experience in the short and long-term.

Along these lines, the recession of 2008 – 2009 also encouraged business schools to improve their career services. MBA recruitment was hit by difficult times in the corporate world. So business schools compensated by helping their students land attractive jobs despite the crisis.

The second factor boosting the growth of MBA career services is the MBA’s increased cachet beyond the corporate world. Traditionally, the MBA was a highly valued qualification to climb the corporate career ladder in the Western world. Nowadays, it is valued worldwide in almost any sector and industry. Entrepreneurship and the start-up industry additionally turned out to be fertile soil for the growth of MBA talent. This diversity of career paths and industries has led to MBA career services expanding beyond traditional corporate recruitment.

How to evaluate MBA career services

The MBA is always about change. Contemplating an MBA means that you want to make a career change – move to a new company, take a managerial role, work at an international level, make a career in new country or region, apply your skills in a new industry, or start your own company. You should approach your MBA application with a specific career goal or at least up to three scenarios for your post-MBA path. Your career goal is essential in selecting the right MBA programs.

When selecting business schools always inquire about the scope of MBA career services and evaluate them against your needs. It’s vital to consider the sectors and industries in which the career centre specialises. Some centers have dedicated consultants per industry. SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) aims to help students fully understand the industry sectors they are most interested in and evaluate their options based on their profile and aspirations.

MBA participants at Oxford Said Business School (UK) benefit from insights and pragmatic advice of a select group of sector consultants who have experience of working for leading firms across a broad range of sectors across a range of industries including management consulting, finance, high-tech, new ventures, media and communications, and diversified industry in general.

The scope of the services varies greatly. The MBA Career Development Programme at INSEAD (France) spans the whole process – “Know Yourself. Know the Market. Strategise and Execute”. The programs takes MBA students through 5 stages of developing a career plan – self-assessment, career vision, career design, job search, job application, and salary negotiations. B-schools often provide personal and leadership coaching as part of their MBA career development programs.

From job placement to career strategy

Career services have also shifted strategy greatly. Immediate post-MBA jobs are still an important selling point for MBA programs, but they now look to long-term career success. This is also because current and future professionals are likely to change jobs much more frequently than they did 20 years ago. New professions crop up every day, requiring lifelong learning and acquiring transferable skills, as well as a vision of how to navigate your career.

ESADE Business School (Spain) is among the leading business schools aiming to help MBA participants “develop the lifelong skills for successfully managing their careers.

IMD Business School (Switzerland) has developed an MBA career methodology focused on “Building Your Future” that takes MBA participants through two stages: During the first part of the program, a unique career audit methodology provides a clear-cut view on individual skill profiles and gaps and the potential for capturing value from transferable skills. The second half of the program allows you to individualize your curriculum in view of personal post-MBA ambitions.

Significantly, IMD involves its career experts in the MBA admissions process. This helps the admissions committee evaluate the relevance of applicants’ career goals against the resources of the business school to ensure post-MBA career growth.

Who is the driver of career success?

Business schools have developed comprehensive career services but it is essentially MBA participants themselves who should propel their own success. To achieve in the long-run, you should take time and effort to set clear career goals before applying for an MBA. Based on these you should select the most appropriate business schools considering all that they can offer – curriculum, network, learning environment, business exposure, and career services, among others. Finally, start working with the MBA career center as soon as you begin your studies and always be proactive. Business schools care more and more about your success, but ultimately your career and lifestyle are your own responsibility.

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