Finding the Right Business School for You

Finding the Perfect Match – a well researched approach to MBA options

One of the main objectives of The MBA Tour is to increase awareness of the wide range of options available to MBA applicants.  The below list include some of the factors which prospective candidates consider when finding the right MBA program for them.  Additionally, we offer suggestions as to additional points to think about and steps to take when deciding upon which programs you will apply to.

Program Types
• Two-Year MBA
• One-Year MBA
• Executive MBA

Explore your MBA Options
• United State of America & Canada
• Europe
• Latin America
• Asia

The Rankings – understand what they are telling you
• US News & World Report
• BusinessWeek
• The Wall Street Journal
• The Financial Times

Formal Channels
• The Internet
• Admissions Offices
• Literature

Informal Channels
• Alumni
• Corporate Recruiters
• Faculty

Research, Planning & Preparation are Key

Business schools offer international students a unique learning experience, quality education that spans all management disciplines including the latest research, theories, practices—and, ultimately, a highly regarded degree recognized around the world. Likewise, business schools recognize the valuable dimension, depth and diversity that international students add to their MBA programs. In fact, the insights and perspectives international students bring to the classroom have become integral to the MBA experience. The result is a mutually beneficial experience that enhances all students’ perspectives of the global business community. And the key to realizing the quality education and door-opening opportunities of an MBA program lies in an intensive research, preparation, and planning process on the part of prospective international students.

Matching Qualities and Goals

One of your initial steps in pursuing an MBA should be exploring business schools for program types that match your personal style, educational objectives and career goals. Fortunately, there’s a world of information right at your fingertips, courtesy of the Internet. You’ll want to examine the curriculum and various areas of specialization offered at different business schools, along with each school’s unique culture. Equally important is finding out what kinds of services are available specifically for international students. By exploring Web sites for business schools, you can get a good feel for curriculum and campus life. At the same time, you’ll find a wealth of resources specifically to assist international applicants, ranging from admissions requirements, visa information and immigration issues, to English language classes, support networks, scholarships and loan information. In addition, you’ll want to look at the schools’ event calendars for key dates including the admissions information sessions many business schools host around the world. Such sessions provide excellent opportunities to network and learn more about what the schools have to offer.

The Earlier You Start the Better

Business school admission is extremely competitive and the earlier you start preparing the better. In addition to practicing your English language skills, you should also be thinking about your application—and interview—long before you actually apply. For starters, you’ll want to make sure your credentials, academic ability and achievement-oriented experiences align with the requirements of the MBA programs you’re considering.  Admissions directors will expect you to effectively position, differentiate and sell yourself in terms of your leadership potential, interpersonal skills and the overall value you will bring to the program.

You should plan to make contact with those business schools you’re interested in about one year before you intend to apply. This gives you plenty of time to find out each school’s requirements and ensure all required exams  (including TOEFL and the Graduate Management Admission Test [GMAT]) are completed well ahead of their deadlines. With that said, ample preparation for the GMAT is essential. While the GMAT addresses skills that have theoretically been developed over years of schooling and work experience, you can still sharpen your skills by strengthening your foundations and taking practice tests to highlight those areas requiring additional focus.

Still another issue you should be prepared for is the probability of differences in the examination standards and grading systems between your country and the U.S. You may be asked to have your school send an explanation of their grading system or to send your transcript through an evaluation service that converts international educational credentials to their U.S. equivalency. In addition, you will be responsible for providing the school with a certified English translation of your transcripts if they are in another language.

Finally, with all your “homework” behind you should be ready to apply to the schools of your choice, offering you the most time to secure all the necessary paperwork for your student visa as well as the financing for your education and living expenses in the U.S.

When Finances Are a Concern

Clearly, business school isn’t cheap, but the good news is that the financing landscape is looking up for international students. While in the past, access to loan programs was typically limited to citizens and permanent residents of the U.S., many business schools are now about to offer loans to international students without a cosigner.  If you worry that financial concerns may inhibit your ability to study broad, then you may want to look for programs that offer these sorts of opportunities.

In the End

The payoff to your comprehensive research, program consideration and preparation, financial aid assessment, and application submission, however, is a comprehensive global experience that will embrace you in a collaborative community, challenge you to reach new heights, forever widen your scope of the world and provide insights that will guide you throughout your business career.

“Geographic location and career goals are two important considerations for candidates looking towards MBAs.  Although many programs have a global focus, regional knowledge may certainly be enhanced through the location of a Business School and will influence availability of opportunities including field trips, industry speakers, management projects and internships.  International exchange is one avenue students might look at to gain exposure to a new geographic region and to strengthen international networks.  When choosing a School, candidates should also assess fit between the School and their career goals.  Looking at diversity amongst the student body, on-campus recruiters and placement data can help candidates do this, in addition to talking with current students and alumni about their experiences.  Lastly, exploring where future opportunities are likely to lie can be extremely important.”

Cate Wellington
Senior Manager, AGSM MBA Programs
Australian School of Business

“An MBA program is your opportunity to push outside of your comfort zone, to learn new skills, develop strong relationships, to grow into a leader.  You will grow the most in an environment that facilitates the way that you learn.  This is very personal, and cannot be captured in a number or ranking driven by statistics and weightings that have been deemed important to others as they may not be important - or as important - to you.   Do your own homework.  Start with yourself and what you hope to gain from an MBA program as well as what factors challenge you to push yourself.  Then gather as much information as you can - online, in person, in print, from the schools themselves, independent sources, alumni, and the like.  Develop your own criteria, and then make a point to visit the programs that rank highest on your list.  Experiencing first-hand the culture of a program through interactions with students, faculty, and staff will solidify to you where you will best "fit" and will challenge yourself to grow the most.”

Megan Lynam
Associate Director of Admissions, Fuqua School of Business
Duke University

The MBA Tour - Boston, MA 01890