Choosing the Right MBA Program – It’s All About Fit
When I was applying to business school, I wanted to make sure I got in somewhere. I applied to 7 schools ranging from the selective to the very selective, and I hoped one of them would come through. When the decisions came in, I found that I had gained admission to the two highest ranked schools I had applied to, but had been waitlisted and even rejected at some of my backup schools. Why was that? Well, you see, it’s all about fit.
I was a non-traditional MBA applicant. I earned a B.S. in French at Georgetown and had minors in German and business. The majority of my pre-business school career had been spent at a 10-person ballet company that most MBAs wouldn’t have heard of. While small, the ballet company had taught me some important lessons. I learned how to run a small business, and my language skills had given me the opportunity to run the company’s sales operations in French and German-speaking Europe.
I thought I might want to work in France, so when I began researching MBA programs, I looked for schools with an international focus. In my research, two schools immediately jumped out at me. First, there was INSEAD, which has entryandexitlanguagerequirements and where there are 67 nationalities represented in the class of July 2012 (they had similar statistics in 2004 when I applied).Then there was the Wharton/LauderjointMBA/MAprogram where you earn a Wharton MBA, and you must study abroad for a summer, write a thesis, and demonstrate “superior” languageskills in a foreign language in order to earn your MA.
As my studies and career thus far had been oriented toward international business, I had a clear fit with those two schools. With the more standard management programs, I feel I was getting lost in the crowd. Admissions officers, who are protective of their yield, could see two things: 1) that some of these schools were my backup schools, and 2) that I frankly lacked a compelling reason to apply beyond the school’s brand name.
When it came time to select which school to attend, it was a difficult decision, but I chose Wharton because I didn’t have a lot of work experience at the time, and felt I wanted a longer, two-year MBA program. When my goals changed during my time at Wharton, and I didn’t end up working abroad after school, that didn’t matter. What did matter was my initial fit with the program.
When you think about applying to business schools – look for programs that fit your background and the direction where you want your career to go after you graduate. Whether you’re interested in international business, finance, marketing, healthcare, or something completely different, if you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find professors, dedicated programs, or internship opportunities at various schools that match your goals. Even if there is not a perfect match, you should be able to show that you’ve done your research and elaborate on at least five solid reasons why the school you’re applying to is a good fit for you.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find a few schools where you’re a great fit, and if all the other parts of your application pass the test, the admissions committee stands a good chance of seeing your fit too.
Authored by Alexandra Kenin, Wharton MBA, tech marketer, and founder of Urban Hiker SF