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Five Ways to Pick the Right MBA


MBAs come in different shapes and sizes

For those considering admission to an MBA program, your choice of school is a critical career decision. Over the past few months, I have spoken with admissions officers, marketing directors, students, professors, alumni, and headhunters from the world’s top-20 business schools. The advice below came up again and again during these conversations, and it will help guide you towards a decision.

1) ROI is just a number

Return on investment (ROI) has become a major buzzword in the MBA world, but this number can be misleading. The data used to determine alumni salaries at such prestigious schools as Yale and Harvard is always stacked in the school’s favor. Being creative with the numbers can raise the average ROI by thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Take ROI into account, but always remember that in the end it’s how you use your MBA that matters.

2) Look to your goals for answers

Questions immediately arise as MBA hopefuls consider their options: Should I specialize or not? Should I stay close to home or go abroad? Should my program be one year or two? Answering these requires that you already know your goals. Where do you see yourself five, 10 and 20 years down the road? Understanding this will help you eliminate some options and hone in on others.

3) Fit

Checking off a laundry list of items on your MBA admission application doesn’t guarantee success. When I spoke with an admissions director from one of the top-five MBA programs in the US, he said that there was no magic bullet in an application. While a perfect application is a myth, a successful one matches the student’s personal brand with that of the school’s – this takes time, research, and good counsel.

4) The highest-ranked schools ≠ the best schools

Going to business school is a serious investment, and it is natural to set your eyes on the Ivy League academies. But this measurement is misleading. The most successful MBA graduates pick schools that match their goals and personality. For example, choosing an MBA program that focuses on public speaking and constant class participation may jeopardize the education of an introvert, even if it’s the best school money can buy.

5) Develop a real-life social network

With the advent of online MBA courses, a traditional classroom approach may seem archaic. But the benefits of this setting are obvious. An MBA is all about expanding cultural horizons and developing relationships that will define your future business career. It is not just about books and study; it is an experience that will last a lifetime.

It all comes down to your goals and what you want from life. This is the question that every admissions officer has in mind when evaluating an MBA application. Above all else, schools want to find graduates that match their culture, and at the end of the day, this is as crucial to their future as it is to your own.

Hong Kong-based Vince Chan is the founder and CEO of AlphaPowerMBA.com. A Yale MBA alumna and former MBA admissions interviewer, she works with candidates across Greater China, helping them to pursue their goals in education and career development.