Excerpted from How to Apply for an MBA by Tyler Cormney and Christopher Aitken of MBA Prep School, October 3, 2011
Clear career goals will help you to create a target list of MBA programs that you should apply to. Your objective is to identify the schools that will best prepare you for the specific career path that you envision. In this article, we’ll cover five questions that will help you to select MBA programs that are a good match with your career goals.
Geography is the first factor to consider. Assuming you have some degree of flexibility about where you can go to school, you should think about where you would like to build your career once school is over. Location matters because recruiting opportunities tend to be the best in the region in which the school is located.
If you plan to work in the United States upon graduation, then a U.S. business school is probably your best choice. By the same token, if your goal is to work in Europe or Asia, you should be considering the best programs in those regions. There are, of course, schools that have such a strong international reputation that you’ll have the credentials to go wherever your career takes you.
Proximity to the industry hub(s) of your field of interest is another important factor when it comes to choosing the best location to get your MBA. Going to school close to the hub of your future industry means it will be easier to build important industry connections during school, participate in field studies and master classes in that industry, and have the CEO of the 800-lb gorilla in your field swing by campus for a keynote address. Moreover, schools tend to develop a symbiotic relationship with the firms closest to them and that kinship will be an advantage to you when recruiting season rolls around.
With your career goals in mind, you should inventory the skills and knowledge that you’ll need to succeed in your future career. Having a clear idea of what you need to learn to be best prepared for you career will enable you to decide which schools have the most resources specifically targeted to your career goals. Business schools cannot be all things to all students; so they tend to specialize in certain disciplines – entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, and so on.
Where do the thought-leaders in your future field teach? Which schools offer courses that appear tailor-made for your career goals? Which have dedicated research centers, clubs, conferences, and field study opportunities specifically targeting your career goals?
Talk to as many people in your future field as you can and ask them what they perceive to be the schools with the strongest MBA brand.
While we caution everyone about over-reliance on magazine rankings, if magazines have ranked schools according to the strength of their offerings by industry-area, those rankings might also be good indicators of the brand-strength of the school in the field. You still need to do your research to figure out why those schools hit the top of the charts in your field.
Another excellent way to determine a school’s match with your career goals is to find out which schools have the most extensive alumni presence in your field. A strong alumni showing is a signal that the degree is valued and that the skills and knowledge acquired by graduates correlates to long-term success. From a more practical standpoint, alumni strength also means that by attending that school you will be opening doors that may lead to job opportunities in the field. On a related note, you want to find out which schools have the best placement results in your field. Your answer to the other questions won’t matter much if you can’t get a job when you graduate.
To learn more about what you can do to strengthen your candidacy and increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter from a top business school, please visit MBA Prep School. MBA Prep School has a suite of powerful on-demand videos and web-based tools that will help you build an outstanding application and realize your dream of attending one of the top business schools.