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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Finding the right MBA

You’re at a point in your career where doing an MBA will give you the boost you need. But, how do you choose the right MBA? Read on to find out.

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Choosing to take up an MBA programme is not an easy decision to make. For instance, the programme fee at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania—one of the world's highest-profile business schools—is currently $162,000 over two years. It’s not just the course fee that is a deciding factor though. Taking an MBA will mean that you’ll be out of the workplace for a minimum of a year, sometimes more, especially if you choose to get your MBA abroad. Thus, choosing the correct school and programme is imperative.


In order to have a successful career, it's true that you do not necessarily need an MBA. There's no doubt though, that in a market that is only getting tougher, for many professions, having an MBA could make a crucial difference on whether you get that promotion or a better career elsewhere.


Since pursuing this programme requires a significant amount of investment in terms of money and time, choosing the wrong school could cost you. The right school does not simply involve looking at the institution’s rankings or what is considered ‘prestigious’. The key to making the right choice is truly understanding why you want to take an MBA in the first place and what you expect the payoff to be. We’ll list some of the common reasons behind taking an MBA and how they might influence your decision of where to do it:


“I want a change in the direction of my career” 

A lot of MBA graduates and most of the successful ones use this qualification to build on the skills and experience that they already possess. Few employers would hire someone to do something that they have no prior experience of, simply because they have an MBA. If you’re looking to enter a completely different field from the one you’re in, you’ll need to aim for the very top schools. However, bear in mind that an MBA will serve to substantiate your application, not as a guaranteed ticket through the door.


“I want to set up my own business” 

There is no school to truly teach you to become a successful entrepreneur. However, what they can do is to help you develop the entrepreneurial skills that you’ve already got. The best schools to go to then would be those that have a faculty that combines traditional academics and ‘real world’ experience from those who have built their own successful businesses. It would also be good to search for schools with a varied student demographic - from different nationalities and cultures.


“I want to earn more money/get a better job/be more mobile”

The real value of your MBA qualification will only manifest over a period of time, not immediately. So, we suggest that you go to a school that will aid you in developing the skills and capabilities that you’ll need in the long run, not just right after you graduate. A school’s location also matters. You need to consider where you would want to be based in the long term. Similar to studying abroad for a degree, taking your MBA overseas might also open doors for you to work in that country, given that you make the right connections and work part-time during your time there.



“I want to build a network of contacts” 

Most MBA graduates will tell you that the most useful thing they got out of business school was an extremely useful address book. If this is what you want out of your MBA programme, think about the kind of network that will benefit you the most. Many of the high-ranking schools, especially those in the US and UK have taken measures so that they have diverse classes that will result in contacts from around the globe. This is especially useful for those intent on having an international business career, not as useful though if you’re intending to focus on the public sector in your own country.


“I want an international experience” 

There is a rise in the number of students taking their MBAs abroad. While studying abroad does provide you with an international experience, it is more important to take a look at the institution’s credibility and availability of international exchanges or study trips, and the number of countries in which students get jobs when they graduate. 


A good point to consider would be which languages will prove useful to you in the future. Almost all of the top-ranked programmes are taught in English, but living elsewhere, such as in France, Germany or even China for a year and interning with a local company to leave you with a degree of fluency that might set you apart from the other MBA graduates in the job market.


A school’s location would determine the kinds of expertise that it can offer due to their proximity to certain industries, for example, schools in Chicago, London or New York can easily attract guest speakers from financial institutions since they are located right next to them. Similarly, schools in other regions can offer you a gateway to experts in the aerospace, luxury or even bio-tech industries.


“I want to develop my knowledge and experience, but I don't want to break the bank” 

Obtaining an MBA can be quite pricey. However, if you’re willing to look past the obvious famous schools and consider one of the up-and-coming players, you can find some attractive deals. There are a handful of schools that have decided to keep fees relatively low. Most major universities offer financial support for MBA programmes. For example, at Harvard Business School you can apply for a needs-based scholarship where 50% of students are eligible for each year. Duke University (Fuqua Business School) offers merit scholarships based on achievements and qualifications, which can cover partial or full tuition fees.


Meanwhile, in Europe, Insead and Vlerick Leuven offer their students a low-interest loan scheme based on a student's future earning potential rather than their financial history and gives them 7-15 years after graduation to clear their debt. Furthermore, most schools will offer well-achieving students’ scholarships, some of which even cover the cost of the entire programme.



"I want to specialise"

Another point to note is a school’s specialisation. Almost every school will have a niche area that they excel at, such as entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, non-profit, real-estate, management or health care. These schools usually work hand in hand with the related industry, they also a faculty with an area of expertise. Schools may offer work-study programmes to their students to provide them with invaluable experience working with NGOs (non-governmental organisations) for example.


To conclude...

When shortlisting the schools that you might go to, look beyond the rankings and think about the criteria that matters to you. Do your research. Check out the schools, learn about the student experience and how successful their students are at fulfilling their personal and professional goals.

Happy hunting!


Motivated to take your own MBA programme? Check out the MBA programmes available here.


Or download a university’s prospectus now!

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