Category Archives: MBA

Choosing the Perfect MBA Program for You

What you will get out of an MBA program depends completely on your situation. If you’re a career-changer, then you need to acquire new skills and demonstrate to potential employers that you have what it takes to thrive in their industry. If you want to move up in your current career, then you may only need to acquire a few very specific skills to complement your existing experience. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, then business school may be less about academics and more about networking and meeting future potential business partners. Knowing which of these categories you fall into will help you find the right program and go in with a solid plan for making the most of your time in school.

Accelerated Programs Could Be an Option
If you plan to go back to school mainly to acquire hard skills and don’t care too much about how fancy your diploma is, then a specialized certificate could be a smart choice. However, we hear from many applicants who think such a path can be a shortcut (both in terms of time and money) to everything that a full MBA can offer. If they want to change careers or get their foot in the door at a highly competitive firm, they’re often disappointed to find that a certificate doesn’t carry anywhere near the cachet that an MBA does.

In Europe, the most MBA programs are actually a lot shorter than are their American counterparts. While the one-year MBA is still a relatively rare breed in the U.S., this format is definitely growing in prominence. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, for example, has offered a one-year MBA program for years, and recently announced that it will expand the program. We expect that more American programs will follow suit. If you already have some basic business training, or don’t need the benefit of a summer internship, then a one-year program could be a great choice. Just be sure you choose this route for the right reasons.

Keep Your Expectations in Check
Whenever a student is disappointed with his business school experience, it often is because he couldn’t land the type of job he expected when he came out of the program. No matter what your career goals are, I recommend that you always talk to a school’s career office and find out how many students get offers from certain firms, which of those companies come to campus to recruit, and what support the career office can give you as you hunt for those jobs. The degree will arm you with certain skills, but after that, it’s largely up to you to find the opportunities (hopefully with some help from the school) and to perform well once you land the job. Be realistic about how much the school can or can’t help you in this regard.

Think Long-Term When It Comes to ROI
It is definitely a big investment to go back to school for a graduate degree. At a minimum, you should critically consider what the degree will get you in your career and ask yourslf, “Can I achieve these things without the degree?” Often the answer is “Yes,” but it’s a question of likelihood. For example, someone who wants to get into management consulting doesn’t necessarily need to earn an MBA to get into that field, but their chances of becoming a management consultant — especially at a blue-chip firm — increase exponentially with an MBA from a top-ranked school. It’s a big investment, but it’s one that could put you over the top and get you onto a career path that might otherwise be a long shot.

There definitely is an opportunity cost to leaving the work force for a couple of years to earn a graduate degree. It can be easy to overestimate this cost, though. If you are 25 years old and cnosider being out of the workforce for two years, that may seem like a really long time. But, remember that you will probably be working for the next 40 years, and a two-year investment in your 20s may help make the next 40 years much more successful.

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Five Questions to Ask When Choosing an MBA Program

Last week the Contra Costa Times turned to Veritas Prep for advice on what is happening to the value of an MBA in the current economic climate. In the article, we provided some advice for applicants as they choose which business schools they want to attend. As always, we stressed that an applicant must look at so many things beyond just rankings when evaluating whether a certain business school is a good fit.

Adapted from that article, here are five questions you should ask when looking at any MBA program:

  • What employers recruit from the school? If you want to switch careers and get a job in banking, but no investment firms recruit at the school, then don’t expect your post-MBA job search to be easy.
  • How far do the school’s reputation and alumni network reach? Many schools provide an excellent education, but only have a regionally strong brand. If you want to get a new job in another part of the world after school, this may make it harder to do.
  • What type of programs does it offer? Most business schools offer a full-time, two-year program. If this may not fit your schedule or you don’t want to quit your job, see if they offer part-time programs that allow you to work and study at the same time.
  • What are its academic specialties? Is the school strongest in one specialty, such as finance or marketing? Or is it a more general management-oriented program? Make sure this strength matches what you want to focus on in school.
  • How much will the school cost you? Obviously, half of the return on investment equation is the size of investment itself. If a school offers you a significant grant or your employer will cover the cost of the program, that may tip the scales in that school’s favor.

There are many more other important factors to consider, but these are all important questions you need to be able to answer for every school to which you plan to apply. Knowing these things will make you a stronger applicant, and will also prevent you from making a mistake when making an investment as big as a graduate business education.

For more advice on choosing a business school, talk to Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions experts, and follow us on Twitter!

More Americans Choose European Business Schools

Given the turmoil on Wall Street and the dim job market in the U.S. right now, it’s not surprising that many international applicants have decided not to come to the U.S. to pursue an MBA this year. Even more interesting, however, is that apparently many Americans also also now considering earning their MBAs abroad.

An article in last week’s Wall Street Journal describes the trend of more and more Americans deciding to go abroad for their MBA programs. Not only do schools such as INSEAD and IMD provide Americans with an opportunity to broaden their worldview, but they also offer a nice sort of career diversification in that they tend to attract a more diverse array of corporate recruiters than do American business schools.

According to the article, at some top European schools, only about 20% of the graduating class lands in finance, compared with up to 60% at some U.S. schools. While this has traditionally been a weakness for European prorgams in attracting top applicants who want to eventually pursue high-paying jobs, in today’s climate it’s one reason why more American than ever have sought out these programs.

Another advantage that many European schools offer is that their programs are shorter than most American schools’ programs, which, among other things, means that they can be significantly less expensive. While we tend to discourage applicants from choosing based on costs alone, this often significant difference can be hard for someone to ignore when they’re still paying off old student loans and are about to leave their job to take on even more debt.

The European programs aren’t content to just let Americans beat a path to their doors — they’ve made a point of aggressively reaching out to U.S. students in order to capitalize on this trend. As a result of the macro trend and these recruiting efforts, schools such as Oxford’s Saïd Business School have interviewed 60% more American applicants this year than last year.

The pendulum is swinging towards the rest of the world right now… Will it one day swing back towards American MBA programs when the economy recovers? What do you think? Comment and tell us!

Let’s Not Dismiss the MBA So Soon

In yesterday’s Financial Times, Stefan Stern wrote an interesting piece titled Why MBA Bashing is Unfair. In it he argues that, while graduate business programs aren’t perfect and need to evolve, they are not churning out the sharp-elbowed, non-consequence-caring sharks that some in the media have accused them of producing. If anything, they are guilty of producing leaders who only manage by the numbers, and, because of their lack of true management experience, are unable to step back at times and think about an organization as a whole.

To be sure, the stereotype of the cocky MBA is somewhat deserved. Heck, recently one of Harvard’s own MBAs put out a book describing HBS as the “cauldron of capitalism” in his own unflattering words. But to say that “arrogance and greed” are solely responsible for our current economic troubles misses the larger point about the value that an MBA can provide.

Argues Stern:

The content of the course, while not exactly incidental, is really not the most important thing. It is the process itself: applying for a place, being admitted, meeting and working with faculty and contemporaries, and forming a new network, that matters.

This is what you find when you talk to sceptical MBA graduates who may not remember a great deal about the different modules they studied. Even they will describe their time at business school as a transformative experience. They went in one end as a fairly ordinary, apprentice businessperson. They came out the other ready to operate at a higher level.

This is what we at Veritas Prep always tell our admissions consulting and GMAT prep clients: The hardest part of business school may seem to be getting in, but once you’re in, what value you get out of the program is entirely up to you. There’s at least as much value in the chance to make new friends, get exposed to new viewpoints, and build an incredible new network, as there is in learning about the capital asset pricing model.

And, as McGill University professor Henry Mintzberg argues in the FT article, the real learning about how to manage still needs to occur on the job, after you graduate. That inevitably means that at some point a fresh MBA will be promoted into a role that he’s not yet fulled qualified for, but management must be learned in context. Today’s business leaders are at least as responsible for educating tomorrow’s leaders as any MBA program is. This has always been the case, and will continue to be true well after the current economic mess passes.

Kellogg Application Essays for 2008-2009

Kellogg applicants, look alive! The Kellogg School of Management has just released its admissions essays for the 2008-2009 application season. The questions are as follows, lifted directly from the Kellogg web site:

All applicants are required to answer questions 1, 2 and 3 in addition to 2 of the essays in question 4. For questions 1-3, please limit responses to 2 pages.

1: Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg.

2: Describe how your background, values, academics, activities and/or leadership skills will enhance the experience of other Kellogg students.

3: Describe your key leadership experiences and evaluate what leadership areas you hope to develop through your MBA experience.

Choose two of the following three essays…

4: Applicants must answer 2 of the below essays. (Re-applicants must answer question 4D and 1 other essay). Please keep responses to two paragraphs.
– 4A – Describe a time when you had to motivate a reluctant individual or group.
– 4B – I wish the Admissions Committee had asked me…..
– 4C – What do others admire about you?
– 4D – For re-applicants only: Since your previous application, what are the steps you’ve taken
to strengthen your candidacy?

As Beth Flye told us at last week’s AIGAC conference, there are no really significant changes from last year. Questions 2 and 3 have been reworded, but are substantially the same as last year’s questions. Question 4A may appear to be new, but is similar to last year’s “Describe the most challenging professional relationship you have faced” question.

What stands out the most to me is 4C — “What do other admire about you?” I miss their old question that had applicants play the role of admissions officers and evaluate their own applications. While this isn’t quite the same, and is much shorter, I’m glad to see this sort of “toot your own horn” question back on the Kellogg application.

For more advice about your Kellogg application, visit our Kellogg School of Management information page.

Recruiter Demand for MBA Grads Remains Strong

This month the Graduate Management Admission Council released a report showing that demand for business school graduate remains strong even as the economy shows signs of weakness.

The report, produced by GMAC in partnership with the MBA Career Services Council and European Foundation for Management Development, shows 6% growth in the percentage of employers making offers to MBA grads, and an 11% increase in the average number of hires by each hiring company.

The results for compensation growth also looked encouraging. Three-quarters of employers reported that they expect to increase the annual base salary of 2008 grads vs. last year’s hiring class. The projected starting base salary for all business school graduates is $89,621, about 4% more than last year. Not surprisingly, consulting (over $111,000) and finance (over $110,000) offer the highest average total compensation.

What does this mean for you? Most of all, it suggests you should stay the course. No radical changes to the hiring outlook suggest that you, if you’ve been planning to apply for business school, don’t stop now. If you haven’t been planning on doing so, then these numbers probably won’t change your mind.

It will be interesting to see what next year’s numbers look like, and what impact the overall economy has to the number of people applying to business school in 2008-2009.