I really wish I had spent more time thinking through these questions last year. The journey of an MBA applicant is a tough, but answering these 8 key questions will definitely jump start the process!
1. Why do I need an MBA?
This is the most important question. Are you planning on switching functions or industries? Do you need one to move up in your company? Are you looking to start your own business? Why is it so critical for you to get an MBA NOW, instead of later? If you can form a clear, coherent vision of why you need an MBA, half the application battle is already won.
2. What type of MBA do I want/need?
Full-Time, Part-Time, Executive MBA….which one is for you? What program fits your profile, lifestyle and future plans?
Full-time MBA programs (and the major focus of this blog) usually take 2 years and cater to individuals that average 4-5 years of experience (individuals with over 8 years typically get an executive MBA, however MBA Over 30 proves that is not an absolute rule). Part-time MBA programs cater to those working full-time and take about 3 years to complete, while executive MBA programs cater to those individuals with around 8 years of experience.
3. Should I apply this year or next?
In my experience, many people start their MBA journey later than they should. They often do not have their GMAT or the necessary research completed before they start their journey in June/July. For those individuals, they should really contemplate what is stopping them from applying next year.
My perfect scenario would be to take the GMAT in the fall before, research in the winter, visits in the spring, and take the GMAT again if needed in the summer. If you don’t have your BEST profile when you apply, then you should really consider waiting a year, and invest in making yourself a more competitive candidate.
4. Where should I apply to?
Reflecting on the answers to your previous questions, decide where you want to go. Do you want a top 20 MBA? What school has connections to the companies or industries in which you want to work? What kind of culture would you like to be part of?
For those who are looking for a general snapshot of schools and class profiles, check out my Class Profiles resource that details each top 20 b-school class profile and also links their websites.
5. Do I need help with the GMAT?
After you get a good list of schools together, understand what type of score you need for the GMAT. Get an early start on their GMAT prep and to take a CAT as soon as possible to see where they stand.
There are MANY amazing programs out there that will help you get the GMAT score you need. Check out how I got a 710 on my first try, and also check out gmatclub and BeatTheGMAT websites for great resources.
6. Do I have enough money saved for applications?
At $250 an application on average, applying to business school is not cheap. That’s just the beginning though. Add school visit expenses (airline tickets and hotels), last-minute interviews (last-minute airline tickets and hotels), any GMAT expenses ($250 for the test + any prep material and tutors), and if you decide to use one, an MBA application consultant ($1K – $10K). It adds up quickly.
7. Should I use a consultant?
Speaking of saving money for application expenses, the biggest expense will probably be a consultant if you choose to use one. A 2013 study noted that 57% of applicants used consultants in the application process. Gmatclub offers a great Admissions Consultants Reviews section so you can get a sense individual track records.
8. How will I pay for school?
This is definitely a hard question. Hopefully your amazing profile will land you a great scholarship or fellowship, but in case it doesn’t, how do you plan on paying for your MBA? I plan on doing a more detailed post on this, but there are many options out there from Toigo Fellowship, the Consortium, and, of course loans.
I do plan on spending some time in future posts examining several of these topics, but as you start your journey, take some time to answer these questions for your own profile. If their is a particular topic you would like covered, feel free to comment below.