CHOOSING YOUR MBA : THE DOS & DON'TS

"But how do I choose?" Many candidates find themselves asking this question at this time of year. They have been accepted into a few of their shortlisted MBA programmes and have been given a deadline by which to officially enrol. But parting with a considerable amount of money means you have to be fully confident that your choice is right. Remember the MBA itself is like the tip of an iceberg and you also have to be aware of the underlying elements such as the school's foundations, reputation, accreditations, faculty, career services, research... So, do you have all the information you need to make a sound choice? Can the words used in that glossy brochure be understood in different ways? Is there something you don't know? If you still have doubts read on. The EDHEC Global MBA Admissions Team offers advice on the DOs and DON'Ts of choosing your MBA to help you make this crucial decision without falling into any traps... The DO's and DON'Ts of Choosing your MBA

• 1/ DO CONSIDER THE WHOLE PACKAGE
DO consider the whole package when you choose your MBA. Your MBA is not just a series of back to back classes so DO look at the big picture. Remember that an MBA is usually one programme among many within a school so DO check if the foundation of the school is solid. If the school is well established and has a long history of producing quality graduates, the chances are that it will have a strong reputation among employers and solid corporate relations. DO check the quality and the dynamism of the alumni network

• 2/ DO CHECK ACCREDITATIONS & RANKINGS 
DO use the schools accreditations and rankings to provide an indication of quality. The AMBA accreditation will guarantee that the quality of the MBA programme meets international standards while AACSB and Equis will prove the same for the business school itself. Only 59 schools in the world have this coveted triple crown of excellence so DO consider the added value of a triple accredited MBA in the eyes of a recruiter. DO remember that rankings are just a snapshot of the state of a school at one given time so DON’T use rankings as the sole choice of MBA. Remember it’s not because a school boasts a certain post MBA average salary that you will necessarily get the same. DO use the rankings to check the criteria you feel are important to you and DO check the school’s general evolution over a period of time.

• 3/ DON’T UNDERESTIMATE RESEARCH
DON’T underestimate the importance of research produced by the business school. Research contributes to a school’s international visibility and keeps professors at the leading edge of knowledge in their field. 

• 4/ DO MAKE SURE THE CURRICULUM FITS YOUR NEEDS
DO ensure that the core curriculum covers your needs once you have established the strength of the school’s foundations. If the school has the AMBA accreditation, you know that the curriculum has been thoroughly audited, together with the quality of faculty to offer high standards. MBA programmes should all offer a blend of business courses such as Strategy, Finance and Marketing etc but DO remember that soft skills such as leadership and managerial competencies are an important part of any MBA curriculum and are dealt with in different ways. DO also check that the specialisations offered match your career goals. 

• 5/ DO CHECK THE LEARNING ENVIROMNENT
While the core curriculum may show similarities in different schools DO check that there is a variety of learning methods. An MBA should not be a sit-back-and-take-notes course but a hands-on, discussion-based learning environment. DO ensure you change work group often and are not stuck in the same small team for the full year. Ensure that you have the opportunity to do group work a variety of fellow participants so DO choose an MBA with an experienced class profile so that you can learn from peers in group work. These same mature classmates will not only enrich your learning environment but provide better networking potential and form a stronger alumni network. In order to check that an MBA will expose you to the learning experience that you aspire to, DO talk to alumni and, if possible, DO visit the school and sit in the class for a couple of hours.

• 6/ DO CHECK OUT THE FACULTY
DO prefer an MBA whose faculty are not pure academics but ones who also give executive training courses in companies or who come from industry. This ensures a true understanding of what companies are seeking today.

• 7/ DO ENSURE THERE IS A PERSONALISED, MBA CAREERS SERVICE 
DO make sure the careers service is specialised in MBA careers and that it does not just concentrate on first-time jobs for young candidates. A service offering specialised career coaching will of course provide an advantage. 

• 8/ DO CONSIDER LIFESTYLE
As you will be in class most days, DO consider the quality of the campus, both in terms of location (is it really in that city or will it require a long trip on public transport?) and in terms of facilities (is it really a campus or just one classroom in an office block? ). DO make sure there are nearby amenities for the whole family at a price you can afford. If you have to spend a year far from home, the experience has to be as enjoyable as possible for everyone involved.

• 9/ DO SEEK TRANSPARENCY ON SCHOLARSHIPS
DO ask for clarity on scholarships. If you are told you can get a scholarship, pay particular attention to the word can. 9 times out of 10 it will just mean that you are eligible for a scholarship but without any promise that you will actually get one. DON’T pay any fees until you know for sure what scholarship you will get. 

• 10/ DON’T BE FORCED INTO MAKING A QUICK DECISION
Once you have chosen your MBA and are lucky enough to be accepted, DON’T be forced into making a hasty decision. An MBA is a big investment and so warning bells should ring if you are offered a seat then told that if you don’t accept within few days you will lose your place or scholarship. DO make sure you get all the information before you make your final decision. 

The DOs and DON’Ts of choosing an MBA are endless and so is the choice of programme. It’s possible that the same highlight you found in one programme actually exists in another, but it’s up to you to ask the right questions. Finally, with a full understanding and good advice in hand, the next steps are yours to make: there is a time when you DO have to take the plunge yourself; but DON’T wait too long or you might get pushed in!