Applying to business school is a major decision. MBA Admissions is not just about buying a stairway to heaven nor is it this seasons IT bag. It is an exercise and commitment to career development. To make the grade to step up your career is an intense exercise in personal branding, obtaining strong GMAT scores, getting great recommendations, and the ability to sell your achievements. Add a healthy dose of strategic marketing and you can get accepted just about anywhere.
Here are 12 key career counseling tips to get you started:
Tip No.1: Get A Strategy
MBA Admissions requires an actionable career management and application strategy. Career planning is your first step. Target and evaluate the business schools to which you would like to apply. Visit the institutions when possible. Discuss your objectives with alumni. Make a check list to see that your career aspirations and qualifications match the MBA Admissions criteria.
Tip No.2: MBA Admissions is not a cake walk. It is a snake pit. It is advisable to get professional help from someone who can give you the tools to succeed. Getting To Yes should be your career call to action. Tackle the challenges with a sound methodology.
Tip No.3: Exploit Your Personal Brand
Start by building a personal SWOT analysis. This is a cornerstone to personal branding. There is a universal principle at play here: MBA Admissions results are created twice. First, the result is created in your mind. Then, it is generated through systematic work. As in all career management initiatives, persistence pays dividends.
Tip No.4: Success starts with commitment. You must give the MBA Admissions process 100% commitment. Do not worry about who else is applying. You can only sell your own achievements. At the end of the day, it comes down to fostering a positive attitude.
Tip No.5: Make the right choice. The leading business schools recruit from a global elite. Hence, the MBA Admissions Committees are spoiled for choice. Make sure that you apply to those business schools best suited to your professional goals. Forget the business school rankings. They are no more than a glorified beauty contest. Any top MBA will deliver an outstanding education.
Tip No.6: Do not apply just to the usual suspects. Consider other programs. Most candidates apply to a minimum of four programs. There is no magical number.
Tip No.7: Examine Business School Attributes
Examine the language a school uses to “sell” its attributes. Harvard Business School is a case and point: “We encourage candidates who can benefit from — and contribute to — a transformative education in which students challenge and learn from each other as they test their growing leadership abilities.
To create a dynamic environment that mirrors the breadth and depth of our world economy, we seek diversity. Each fall, we welcome 900 students representing more than seventy countries and a wide range of interests and backgrounds. While our students’ lives and experiences vary greatly, they all share a demonstrated capacity for leadership and a desire to effect positive change. For the right person, now is the right time to apply.”
Tip No.8: Notice the stress on leadership. Most MBA candidates simply do not have this focus. If you do, make sure that you can justify genuine leadership roles. MBA Admissions Committees know that the emergence of an individual’s leadership talent does not follow a pre-determined schedule.
Tip No.9: Take Note: age, social, gender, ethnic profiling matter
All schools look for diversity. According to this logic, the more different you are, the better your candidacy looks on paper. Although there are no official quotas, political correctness plays a role in the admissions process.
Top MBAs are constantly recalibrating age profiles for class intakes. Some schools desire +3 years of work experience. Others do not. Which program are you better suited to: MBA or EMBA? Traditionally, MBA programs recruited candidates 25-28 years old. Today, the age has dropped. If you are +30, does this matter to you? If it does, perhaps European MBAs are a better fit. EMBA candidates are typically +35.
Tip No. 10: The Financials Influence Choice
Another key point: Carefully review the MBA Admissions and Financial Aid sections before you apply. Begin with their Admission Criteria pages. Take advantage of any MBA Admissions events in your area and network with alumni.
Tip No.11: Which MBA is best for me
Choosing the appropriate school is like a marriage. I recommend the following schools for serious consideration. They are not listed in any particular order. Please note that European MBA programs are more transparent when it comes to counseling potential MBAs.
They also recruit more mature and seasoned candidates. If you have deep experience, you will find these programs better value for money. They provide excellent networks. If you plan to live and work in Europe, they can serve your career aspirations with more intimacy.
Tip No.12: European v. American MBAs
In our opinion, the leading programs are: INSEAD, London Business School, IMD, IE Business School, IESE Business School, HEC-Paris, Said Business School at Oxford, and Judge School of Business at Cambridge. Are there others? You bet there are! As George Orwell might have stated, “Some MBAs are more equal than others”. My only counsel is to choose wisely. It is not necessary to go to the USA as it once was.
In addition, please note that there are outstanding MBA programs all over the world. It depends on you, what you really want, and how much this degree really is worth to you. An MBA is a major investment in time, money, and sweat equity.
In the USA, American business schools market their programs like tupperwear parties. The usual suspects in this category are for the most part household names. Depending on the source, ranking criteria bring up similar names but not necessary in the same order.
The MBA top 10 wish list include: Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton Business School, Columbia Business School, Tuck at Dartmouth, Yale School of Management, Stern at NYU, Anderson at UCLA, Haas at UC-Berkely, University of Chicago-Booth, and Kellogg at Northwestern. Are there others?
Of course there are. MIT-Sloan comes immediately to mind. US News publishes a comprehensive catalog worth consulting. In the States, there are literally thousands of schools from which to choose. Americans do not choose their MBAs with the same criteria as non-American MBA applicants.
Although top MBAs are more international in their outlook, many others are still very provincial. If you are not an American and you want to do an MBA in the States, think the process carefully through. For example, do you really want to be in Ann Arbor, Michigan?
Ross might offer an excellent education, but if you are from a cosmopolitan city, you might find yourself out of place. We had one client the other year, who did and regretted her choice. Don’t make the same mistake.
An MBA has the potential to dramatically alter the course of your career. Despite criticism in the media on MBAs, this form of education has the power to act as a career catalyst. Although an MBA is not for everyone, it can be a transformational experience if properly exploited. To give yourself the best chance to get accepted, your application merits feedback from an objective and knowledgeable source.
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About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at CAREO, a career management consultancy under the WCW Group brand, building one success story at a time.
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