The business school application process is intense, and with good reason. Getting an MBA is a significant investment in time and money.
Going into the process without giving it a lot of thought beforehand is a recipe for disaster. If you aren't prepared for the b-school experience, you won't be able to take full advantage of the opportunity.
But when you go into it deliberately, after a lot of careful thought, getting an MBA can be a life and career-changing move.
Here are five questions you need to be able to answer yes to, before you're ready to apply:
1. Do you know your post-MBA goals?
It's not a good idea to go to business school in order to figure yourself out, or to get away from the working world for a bit. Most MBA programs move very fast, and if you want to take full advantage of the experience, you'll need to have a plan.
Think about where you want to be in five years. Not just in your career, but where in the world you want to be, and what you want your life to look like. Do you want to work globally, start a business of your own or move into higher management positions within your current organization?
2. Do you know how an MBA will help you accomplish those goals?
Lower-tier schools and diploma mills may be happy to admit anyone who seems interested and can foot the bill, but top business schools want to know that you have given a lot of thought to the prospect of getting an MBA. They are looking for students who will take the opportunity seriously, and reflect well upon the school as alumni.
When you know how an MBA will help you to achieve your career goals, you'll be ready to apply to b-school, and ready to ace your admissions essays and interview.
3. Have you gotten a perspective from outside your bubble?
When people get excited about the prospect of a big change, they often only talk it over with people they know will support them. While a support system is vital, so is a dose of reality.
Before you decide to apply to business school, do your homework. Talk to alumni of schools you are considering, to see what their post-MBA career has been like. Talk to HR or senior employees to find out about the value of an MBA within the industry and career path you want to pursue.
Once you've done your research about the realities both positive and negative of getting an MBA, you'll be ready to decide if applying to business school is the right choice for you. And you'll be in a better position to defend your MBA aspirations.
4. Do you know what kind of program will be the best fit for you?
Factors like campus location, program length, alumni network and support, available courses and areas of concentration, teaching style, and family support are all important considerations when you're choosing the b-school that will be the best fit for you.
Be realistic about what is important to you, and what you're willing to compromise on, when it comes to your education. It doesn't matter how highly a school is ranked. If it isn't the right fit for you, you'll have a miserable couple of years, and will be less likely to take full advantage of your time there.
5. Are there some things you need to improve about your candidacy before you're ready to apply?
If you've answered yes to the first four questions, then you've probably made up your mind you're ready to head to business school. The final piece of the puzzle is determining whether you're really ready to put together an outstanding b-school application package.
There are a lot of elements required to apply for an MBA: GMAT or GRE scores, letters of recommendation, resumes, transcripts and essays. Getting an outside perspective can be incredibly helpful, whether it's having a trusted friend look over your application materials, or signing up for a free MBA application assessment from an admissions consultant.