Career Crossroads: How to Select the Right MBA School

Written by . Posted in MBA Admission

courseguidemanThink you're ready to advance your education and only have to choose the right Business School for your MBA? Well, choosing is exciting but daunting. You are taking a giant step toward your future. For many people this step is also the transition from a career of mediocrity to one where they accelerate their rise to the top of their abilities.

So how do you know what B-school to choose? The closest? The most convenient? The most or least expensive? The trendiest? The most high tech? The answer is very similar to why you choose your MBA concentration: because you are you, so let's start there...

Who Are You?

Not many people pursue an MBA just to have one. Still, some people get their MBAs because they think it's next on the "How to Do Life" list. If you haven't chosen a career path, it is wise to do that before you start enrolling and paying tuition. Otherwise you spend time and money to train yourself for some vague idea instead of a likely reward.

Most mid-sized community colleges, universities, departments of education have career centers. Many have private guidance or career counselors. It's not far to find career direction critical to your eventual success. Do everything you can to focus your professional goals on a specific line of work. Not the exact job title, or level; these things change over time. But select your function first, to help you get ahead.

Start with the basic work tasks that span all occupations and decide which you are naturally good at doing (you just can't help yourself)!

Data: facts, records, numbers, business procedures

Ideas: abstractions, theories, insights, new ways of doing things

People: care, services, leadership, sales

Things: machines, materials, crops and animals

Your natural talents should never be ignored. If you are the technical or mechanical type who enjoys working with things or being creative don't choose a career that's not hands-on. Are you better with numbers than ideas? Do you easily relate to people or do they simply baffle you?

Your personality is crucial. Do you like being around people or working alone? If you dislike having a boss or reporting to anyone, you might be better suited to choosing entrepreneurial B-School programs. Do you take risks or follow traditions? Are you a front and center leader or one who influences the action from behind the scenes?

Your priorities matter too. If it is money you want, you'll need to be in a career that pays well. If you chiefly want recognition, look at careers that get lots of publicity. If you want to be the boss, consider functions in startups or those that advance quickly. If it's changing the world to help people, explore those roles.

Looking at careers that fit your natural abilities, your personality and your life priorities almost always results in success, personal fulfillment, and joy!

What is Your Chosen Career Path?

Many of us chose a career path when we selected our bachelor's degree program. Many others completed our bachelor's and found that wasn't exactly what we wanted. We don't usually have the "big picture" about the occupations and industries available as freshmen.

That's why the tests, reports and recommendations from guidance counselors and career services are of value. They give us ideas and help us narrow the choices. If you like the career path of your bachelor's degree, skip this and go to the next section. If you are unsure or want to make a change, read on...

If your career interests are hands-on you might succeed in roles in Technology, Medical, Engineering, Arts. Those who are good with numbers may like Economics, Finance, Auditing or IT. Work with ideas spans Academics, Research or Actuarial Science, Biochemistry, Microbiology and more. Working with people could mean anything from Medicine, Services and Education to Marketing and Communications.

Include environments. Do you prefer to be outside over behind a desk? Are you OK with noise and frequent distractions or do you need quiet and focus? Look at where you'll do most of your work. Every occupation has a few crappy parts, but if you consider where you'll spend the most time doing the key activities, you will find something that is overall a happy-maker.

Where's Your School?

Once you know what role you want to play in the whole wide universe of work you can eliminate unsuitable schools and choose the best B-School for you.

1. Make a list of schools best known for MBA programs in your career functional area.

2. Take the GMAT and weed out any listed schools that won't accept your scores.

3. Decide if you are the type of person who will do better in a classroom or online. Include the time required to obtain your MBA.

a. If you do best on campus, weed out B-schools in geographic locations where you don't want to be.

b. If you are fast-tracking, weed out schools whose MBA programs take the most time to complete.

c. If you have the discipline to succeed online, assure that you aren't enrolling in a diploma mill. Weed out schools that are not accredited by the U.S. Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), or other countries' higher education accreditation body.

4. Compare your B-school options to your budget. Research financing options with each school's Financial Aid office and apply for ALL funds for which you are eligible. When you have the results, weed out schools you can't afford.

5. If you did the advance work we recommend on choosing a school after you review its MBA internship programs, weed out the schools that don't fit those criteria.

6. Visit the physical schools or speak with admissions professionals AND graduates of the schools on your short list.

These objective and subjective steps help you choose a Business School based on its reputation, your likelihood for success in its program, and your feeling of "chemistry" or "fit." Just remember that it is much simpler to select a school to match your professional goals if you know what those goals are!

Make Your Own Choice

Get advice if you don't already know who you are as a worker. Listen to others. Get tested. Consider the advice. But make your own choice. Remember that YOU are the one who will live the life that results. Do not allow others to persuade you that what was right for them is right for you. Don't allow people to make you feel guilty because they missed out on doing something they wanted to do. Because your parent or grandparent didn't have or complete the opportunity to fulfill a dream is not a real reason for you to carry that torch.

Once you know who you are and what careers will give you the best chance for joy and success, you can choose an MBA school that suits you. You are never as comfortable in clothes that don't fit as you are in those that do – choose a school that fits.

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