Earning an online MBA degree is hard work. Time, dedication, and money all go into the decision. Being honest with yourself, business school admissions officers and your family helps to ensure that after the school work is done, the investment will be worthwhile.
Stacy Blackman has been consulting on the MBA application process since 2001. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Blackman has assisted the admissions committees at both schools, conducting alumni interviews and evaluating applicants.
Q: Any tips for asking good questions in an admissions interview to ensure that the program is a good fit for you?
Blackman: “Ask honest questions rather than trying to seem ‘smart or polished’. If you have done your research and there are still things you want to know, go ahead and ask. I always think the Q&A portion of the interview is a nice time to engage in a bit of a dialog.
“If you are speaking with a current student or an alum, ask them about their experience:
- Ask then what they liked and did not like?
- What has challenged them?
- What has disappointed them?
People love to talk about themselves, so it is a nice way to engage and really learn about the program!”
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Q: What are some good ways to find a program/business school that fits your professional needs, beyond just looking at rankings?
Blackman: “The rankings are a very preliminary starting point to gather a list of schools and then from there begin to research. They need to ask a lot of questions, visit campuses, speak with students, representatives and alums. They will start to get a feel for the personalities of different schools and know what feels like a good fit. Sitting in on a class or going out for happy hour on campus will help a lot more than just going to an information session. I also suggest that applicants with very clear career goals go straight to the source: if you know what you want to do after business school, get in contact with future recruiters and ask them what they think of various schools. The answers will be very enlightening.”
Q: What are some tools that students can use in this search?
Blackman: “In addition to the basic methods listed above (school visit and personal networking), the web has made the schools so much more transparent and there is no end to the information that can be gathered online. I think it’s great to look up blogs and Twitter feeds of interesting professors or school administrators/leaders. You can learn so much about the schools, their learning initiatives and their visions for the future.”
Q: How can students analyze business schools to find a best fit?
Blackman: “Applicants need to consider their goals on many dimensions:
- What are their career goals?
- What is their learning style?
- What type of a culture are they seeking?
- What types of classes and learning programs appeal to them?
- What teaching style will work best for them?
- How important is the size of the program, international opportunities, strength of alumni network, etc.?”
Q: What are some pitfalls students should be aware of when choosing a business school? Is there any truth to you “shouldn’t go to same place you earned an undergraduate degree”?
Blackman: “I think the biggest pitfall is going after the rankings. Just selecting a school based on ranking can lead to a poor fit and massive disappointment. Rankings change from publication to publication and from year to year. But you are stuck with that name on your resume for life. It’s so important to do your research.
“I don’t think there is a blanket rule about not going to the same place you earned your undergraduate degree. I suppose it depends on the situation, but let’s just say that having two degrees from a school like Harvard would not be the worst thing in the world!”
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets