Choosing an MBA: Frequently Asked Questions

There are hundreds of B-schools around the world, and more than one ‘right’ school for you. We recommend short-listing five schools, two that are your dream to get into, but where you will face stiff competition

By Ross Geraghty

An MBA is a tough, expensive but potentially lucrative undertaking and prospective MBAs have so many relevant questions that entire books could be written on the subject. Here, the TopMBA Career Guide filters down the most commonly asked questions for people in the first stages of considering whether or not to do an MBA…

How much experience should I have before applying for an MBA?

An increasing number of graduates are applying for MBA courses immediately after their first degree. However, the best advice is to gain at least four years in the workplace. This means you will have been involved in leadership positions and have some experience to draw on in terms of methods of working, communication and leadership styles.

How do I select the right Business School?

There are hundreds of B-schools around the world, and more than one ‘right’ school for you. We recommend short-listing five schools, two that are your dream to get into, but where you will face stiff competition; one that is a prestigious ‘evens bet’ and two that you have a good chance of getting into. Think hard about what you want from your MBA, where you want to begin your career, where you’d like to live and what your realistic achievements are. Then work at finding out which schools are best placed to help you achieve your aims, communicate with them and don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions.

When should I apply?

Early. Find out if your school has a rolling admissions process – they take applications all year round – or if there is a specific date deadline, and aim to get your application in some weeks before it.

Does it matter where in the world I study?

Not as much as it used to. The US and UK MBAs earn the highest average salaries but the costs of undertaking such courses are commensurately high. There are prestigious and cost-effective courses in Australia, Europe and Asia as well.

How important are league tables in making my decision?

Debate continues about rankings. Rankings can be a useful guide depending on who does them. If you look at most rankings there is 60-70 per cent commonality, which shows that those schools must be doing something right. However it’s unlikely that the schools just outside those top 10 rankings really lack quality.

Are highly ranked business schools good across the board?

A high-ranking B-school may not be strong in one core area that interests you, such as finance or entrepreneurship, or may not provide excellent career facilities in a region of the world you want to live and work in. Also, remember that the highest ranked schools can also have the greatest competition to be accepted there.

What is Return on Investment?

Return on investment (RoI) is a method of comparing the post-graduation salary of an MBA course against the costs involved in taking that course.

Should the cost of an MBA be an important factor in my decision?

Yes. An MBA is a full-time commitment and you are unlikely to have time or energy to earn a salary as you study. Other than the tuition fees themselves, you will have to take 12 to 20 months out of your career, pay living expenses, books and other costs. Try and get a realistic appraisal about the costs of living in your host area. Don’t forget travel costs, in the host country and home again. And include the costs of any international exchange you may want to undertake.

The $100,000 question: How will I finance my MBA?

Most B-schools will have some kind of contingency in place to help with some or all of your tuition fees or living costs, even when studying in a foreign country. We know that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of scholarships or other financial aid goes unclaimed every year so spend as much time as you can discovering what funding is available. Remember, the school wants you to succeed so go to them for as much help as you can.

Lastly, look closely at scholarships and loans but be prepared to have savings enough to look after yourself in difficult financial situations.

Are scholarship applications quite rigorous?

Some scholarship applications can be quite straightforward; others, especially those of higher value or prestige, have a process as involved a process as your MBA application itself.n

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