Originally Posted: 4/1/2014 1:37 PM
If you are fortunate enough to have options for an MBA program, you have the very difficult decision of picking the program that is right for you. This is not an easy thing to do; I have a three point guide on information you should have before making a decision.
Your career choice may change within the first week of your MBA program, but get yourself some facts from the school on your current career aspirations.
Mistake: Asking “who recruits here”. That’s a terrible question since most programs will have a long and prestigious list of companies.
Solution: Ask specific questions that provide context. “How many of the people recruiting for x received offers in that area”, “which companies consider this a core school”, “how many alumni do you have at company x”. Take this information and convert it into ratios. A large school will always have more people doing x than a small school, but on a % basis one program may give you higher odds of getting the career you desire. Obviously nothing is guaranteed but failing to adjust numbers for total students is a huge mistake.
Visiting a school and trying to get a feel for the culture can be tough. Make sure you’ve talked to lots of different people to get unique perspectives.
Mistake: Asking “how do you like it here” or “which clubs are you involved with”. These will give you obviously biased answers and provide little information on how active that person is in the community.
Solution: Ask specific questions that provide context (sound familiar?). “What were your favorite club events you attended/organized”, “how did club x impact you so far”, “what session did you find most helpful for you”, “what is your favorite memory you’ve made here”. The questions you ask need to change depending on the context, but the general idea is the same. These sorts of questions give you a sense of how involved that person is/was, what the clubs actually did that was memorable, and gives you a flavor or what the experience might be like.
Now that you have options, spend time thinking about what you really want out of the program; what did you say you wanted when you first thought about an MBA?
Mistake: Worrying about the above two things too much.
Solution: Spend time thinking about what you want out of a program beyond a job. This will likely be the last degree you ever get. Do you want a place that values academics or not? Do you want to make new friends or live in an area where you know a bunch of people already? Do you want a campus you can walk around on or not? Will you ever want to attend a reunion at your college 5 or 10 years from now?
These questions and many more, were (hopefully) on your mind as you applied to MBA programs. Take time to revisit those same questions. Remove all of the other clutter and focus on whether or not you’re going to be happy attending the program and proud telling people about it – both now and down the road.
I already know you’re not going to make your decision lightly. What I’m encouraging you to do is make the most of the time you have by giving yourself the facts you need to make a decision.
And once you’ve made it, there’s only one thing to do: have fun. It’ll probably be the best 2 years of your life.