By Dr. Don Martin, Former Dean of Admissions at Chicago Booth
Welcome aboard! This is the first of a series of blogs I will be writing for The MBA Tour. I hope to see you at one of The MBA Tour events at which I will be speaking this month: San Francisco (July 11), Los Angeles (July 13), Chicago (July 17), New York (July 20), Boston (July 22), and Washington, D.C. (July 25).
This first blog focuses on a really important topic: Some major myths that hold individuals back from pursuing their business/graduate school goals. As we all know, many employers now require a graduate degree, not just an undergrad degree. While many consider going to business/graduate school so they can land a stable, fulfilling job, some do not move forward because they believe one or more of the following four myths.
Myth #1 – “It’s too expensive and I cannot afford it.”
Yes, the cost of education has increased along with everything else in our world. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to get help in paying for your MBA studies so you can earn your degree with less personal expense or debt. Here are some suggestions:
- Check with your current employer. Many offer educational benefits. However, be sure you fully understand the expectations associated with those benefits.
- Work for the college or university at which you enroll. Get a job in admissions, developments, human resources or other institutional offices and you can earn a salary and benefits that almost always include full or partial tuition coverage.
- Apply for outside scholarships and fellowship funding. In some instances there is more available for grad students than undergrads and it isn’t just the educational institutions that offer them. Be sure to check out the following:
- The U.S. Department of Education
- Civic organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce, Lion’s Club, Elk’s Club, Masons, etc.
- Religious organizations
As tuition costs rise, so usually does funding for scholarships. By combining the resources above, you can end up with a very large amount of “free” money.
Myth #2 – “I’m too old to go back to school.”
Statistics show that at many institutions, the average graduate student is in his or her mid to late thirties. At many business schools the average age is between 27 and 29 years old. There is no disadvantage or stigma to going back as an older student. In fact, institutions welcome older students with work and life experience because of the value they add to the discipline being studied and to discussions in the classroom. Online, part-time, evening and weekend programs are proliferating in response to the growing number of older students returning to school.
Myth #3 – “My undergraduate academic record isn’t good enough and I won’t get accepted.”
Admissions committees do not just look at grades. They look at everything in your application, including letters of recommendation, essays, the type of courses you took, internships, research projects and publications, and work/life experience. Admissions directors are looking for reasons to get you in, not reasons to keep you out. In addition, the further out you are from receiving your undergraduate degree, the less important your GPA will be.
If you still feel your academic record is lacking, take one or two graduate-level courses and earn an A. Dong so shows you are serious about your education and also about demonstrating what you are capable of doing academically. Then you can say in your application essay, ‘While my undergrad record is not as competitive as some other applicants, I hope you will consider the more recent graduate level work I have completed.” It doesn’t matter if your recent courses are taken at a lesser-known university; it’s the initiative that shines.
Myth #4 – “It isn’t worth going unless I get into a top-ranked school or program.”
There are thousands of examples of individuals who attended top business/graduate schools, yet who have failed dismally. Employers know this and when it comes right down to it, they value who you are, what you can bring to the table and the degree itself, not where you attended graduate school. Earning your MBA or masters degree from any institution demonstrates to employers that you have what it really takes to succeed – persistence and determination.
One last point to consider: There is absolutely no statistically reliable information that correlates your job/career success with the prestige of the business/graduate school you attended.
Stay tuned for my next MBA Tour blog in August: “Questions Prospective MBA Students Often Ask”
Dr. Don Martin is an expert on the business/graduate school research and application process. He spent 28 years as a Dean of Admissions/Dean of Students at three top U.S. universities – University of Chicago, Columbia and Northwestern. In 2008 he founded Grad School Road Map, and has coached over 350 business/graduate school applicants, with a 97% acceptance rate. The second edition of his book was released in July 2018. Please check out www.gradschoolroadmap.com for further information and follow him on Twitter @GradSchoolGuide.