March 13, 2012
If you are considering an MBA, you are probably already comparing curriculum requirements at different institutions. You might even be listening to what others have to say about the reputation of each program on your list. But that may not get you where you want to – or should – be, according to Dean Raghu Tadepalli of Babson College. He advises prospective students to look “under the hood” of a program before making a decision.
First, Tadepalli recommends talking to faculty and students to get a feel for the academic culture of the program. Some institutions encourage competition between students; others – such as Babson – focus on collaboration. Not everyone will thrive equally in both situations, so it is important to consider which environment is more suited to your learning style and career plans.
Second, Tadepalli says, the admissions process and the student population that results from it will also tell you some important information about a program. Some schools focus heavily on GMAT scores and GPA; others consider work experience and non-business expertise as much if not more than these numerical scores. You will probably do best and feel most at home in a program where your strengths will be valued, not only because you are more likely to be admitted to such a school but also because you will probably fit better into the body of students that results. For example, Babson strives to admit students from diverse backgrounds, including the arts and humanities and well as business and the sciences. As such, the school evaluates candidates on a wide range of criteria, including talents outside of business. The result is a student body that, as Tadepalli says, is highly creative and generally more interested in making a difference in the world than in making money.
Last but not least, Tadepalli suggests finding out what the faculty and staff believe about teaching. Knowing what they have done professionally may be useful, but knowing what they do in the classroom is probably more important to you as a student. So, talk with them about their educational philosophy, observe them working with current students, and take note of what they value – both individually and collectively – to see if they will be able to function as something more than instructors for you. At Babson, for instance, faculty members work with students outside the classroom on a regular basis, an extension of the program’s collaborative culture. And, the school strives to prepare students for emerging opportunities in business, including international career paths.
Overall, Tadepalli emphasizes that an MBA program an experience, not just a degree. The one that suits you should foster intellectual, professional, and even personal transformation. Any accredited school can offer the basics, but you want to leave with more than that. So, you need to find the place where you can learn the most and have the kinds of experiences most meaningful for you.
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