How to Begin Your MBA Search, Part I

begin your mba search

You’ve weighed your options, and it seems like getting an MBA might be the best route to attaining your professional and personal goals. You’ve considered the expense and the time spent away from the workforce that an MBA requires, and you’re finally ready to begin your MBA search.

You’ve even read Philip Delves Broughton’s advice against attending business school in The Economist, and still find yourself cracking GMAT Study Guides and searching ROI figures in U.S. News & World Report. But even if you’re the most motivated future MBA, it is of utmost importance to ask yourself a number of questions as you embark on the process of applying and gaining admission to business school.

“Understand Where You Want to End Up Before You Even Begin”

Those are the wise words of Jeremy Schifeling, the founder of Break Into Tech and a veritable guru on the subject of how to find meaningful work in the tech world without engineering experience. A graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Schifeling also speaks to his experiences there, adding that “way too many people show up on campus just because other people are doing the same. And without a plan, they walk away two years later, six-figures poorer but not six-figures wiser.”

The end lesson from Jeremy’s advice? Suss out what you want to do with an MBA, and don’t just go into a b-school program to make a lot money, or because everyone else seems to be doing so. Make a plan, and even if that plan changes, you’ll still have a leg up on many of your classmates.

Figure Out What Programs Best Fit Your Plan

Let’s imagine that you know that you are interested in supply chain management. You could search around the web for schools that have special programs in logistics and supply chains, but that will only take you so far. Consultant Stacy Blackman notes, “some of our clients call up companies they are interested in working with to learn their opinions of target schools and where they recruit. If you are very specific about where you want to end up, this is a great idea.” Thus, if you’re certain about a career in operations and logistics, it might behoove you to contact companies like XPO Logistics or Werner Enterprises to see what b-school programs their management team recruits from.

If you’re not certain of exactly what career you want an MBA to lead to, but you have a general idea of the business field that you’d like to pursue, then it might be more reasonable to think about where you want to end up.

Location, Location, Location

Paul Bodine of Paul Bodine Consulting/Admitify says that it is absolutely necessary to ask yourself, “what geographies are essential to your post-MBA career and/or life goals?” The question can make all the difference in what schools you consider applying to—Bodine notes that “you can spare yourself the challenge of seeking admission to the top 10 schools if you have a defined region where you want to make your stand professionally and personally.” If you are wedded to working in traditional commodities markets (and bitcoin, surprisingly), then it wouldn’t make sense to stray far from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, for example. If your search is geographically limited for reasons beyond your control, then find out which programs suit your needs best within that area. A tech business mind in the South might ponder schools in Knoxville or Atlanta, whereas a future lumber baron in the Pacific Northwest need look no further than Oregon State in Corvallis. There are opportunities everywhere, but it is up to you to find those that are most in line with your goals!

Stay tuned for part two of our series, coming soon!

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