So, you’ve decided to get an MBA. But maybe you’re not familiar with the top 20 business schools by category. Maybe you don’t know Wharton from Wheaties, or Kenan-Flagler from Betty Crocker. And that’s OK. You don’t have to know anything to make the leap, but now that you’re committed — do your homework.
Think of it as practice for your classes. Once I decided to get an MBA, I was able to narrow down my school choices quite simply. My selection criteria was simple, and easily whittled the number of possible schools to which I’ll apply to five.
Here’s how to choose where you’ll apply:
Identify the most important aspect of your ideal program. Is it reputation? Rank? Flexibility? Price? Course offerings? Job placement? It could be any number of things. Know what matters most; proper front end research is the name of the game.
For me, the choice went like this: I want to attend the highest ranked online MBA program possible. And while I considered for-profit schools, I ultimately opted for schools with an accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which accredits the most prestigious business schools.
I found several ranking systems, read about them, and researched what schools in the top two tiers (in U.S., U.K., and Western Europe) had online MBA programs. Lucky for me, there were plenty.
Research, research, research.
- Identify between 5 and 10 possible schools: These are arbitrary numbers, but worked well as a guideline for me. Read about the schools that you’ve chosen. Make sure the programs you’re considering speak to you as a professional, as well as have a potential for augmenting your daily life during you tenure as a business school student.
- Eliminate a few choices. Separate the wheat from the chaff.
- Identify two “target” schools and two “safety” schools.
- Relieve yourself of the pressure of a degree from Harvard. It’s not going to happen. Be realistic. Pick schools that have great programs, great reputations, and great job placement services. An active alumni network could also be a key indicator.
Have two “in between” schools. These should be your “par” choices.
- Look at the application process. Know what you’ll need, how many copies, and when. Write it down. Seriously.
- Identify a target week (or month) in which to take the GMAT. I took mine about 5 weeks after deciding to get an MBA. Give yourself several months for stress-free studying, if at all possible.
- Begin thinking about what kind of applicant you want to be. Access online applications, if possible. Write down essay prompts, pertinent dates and details, and prepare your recommenders that you’ll be asking them for a business school recommendation. Know what kind of applicant you want to be.
- If you’re ready, contact an admissions representative.
If you’re choosing an online MBA, there will be informational videos, online meetings sessions, and platform walk-throughs aplenty. Make sure you schedule in time to familiarize yourself with your chosen schools, their platforms, and their admissions committees.
If you haven’t narrowed it down by now, roll some dice. Pick straws. Whatever works best for you. You’re one step closer to having your MBA!
Bethany Perryman is a contributor to OnlineMBA.com, who is pursuing her online MBA.