Operation B-School: Finding the Right MBA

Information overload makes finding the right B-school more difficult than it needs to be. Here's how to find what you need, and toss what you don't

In the millions of words of advice proffered each year on all aspects of the MBA experience, the very first step of the business school admissions process"the research"is virtually ignored. Yet choosing the right school is vital, and you can't do that without first popping a few hoods and taking a look inside.

From bloggers to business school associates themselves, people have a lot to say about the admissions process, including which schools should be on an applicant's radar, how to write a decent application essay, and where to get recommendation letters. Wading through all the material and so-called help to get the right list of potential schools can be overwhelming. Many do not know where to start.

"It can be a daunting task," says Bruce DelMonico, director of admissions at the Yale School of Management (Yale Full-Time MBA Profile). "There's so much info out there for you to process."

Researching business schools is akin to trying to find oneself. Reflecting on what one wants to get out of a degree and the type of business school experience desired is key. Admissions directors say it's not too different from gazing into a crystal ball.

"Determine your priorities," says Kathleen Edwards, associate director of MBA admissions at Emory's Goizueta Business School (Goizueta Full-Time MBA Profile). "Think about how the degree will advance your career, the job you'd like to have, and your lifestyle. Then consider your preferences of location, personality of the school, the kind of alumni it produces."

After some introspection, an applicant can start talking to others. Informational interviews with those who have the jobs you're seeking is a great way to confirm choices and find out about schools that specialize in those areas, says Edwards.

"Really explore your career goals," she says. "It will help you in the application process, but also down the road in the job search."...

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