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What I wish I’d known before applying to business school

MBA Students Talking In UNC Kenan-Flagler McColl Hall

When preparing to apply to business school, sifting through the abundance of information across websites, blogs, conferences and from peers can be overwhelming. Business school will be one of the largest investments you make in your life, so use a long-term approach while assessing your business school decision.

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To help simplify the process, try boiling the factors down into how they impact your MBA investment. As they say “hindsight is 20/20,” so I thought through what I wish I had known before applying. The factors below encompass what I tell friends and colleagues to consider when applying.

  • Career: Understand each school’s recruiting scene. Spend time reviewing the top industries and companies that recruit at each school you’re interested in. This information is often found on the school’s website, as well as third-party MBA blog sites. During this process, don’t overlook the companies on the list, especially those that are recruiting multiple students from a school. This often means the company has alumni from the school, and go on campus for company presentations, interviews and other recruiting activities. Companies that come to campus provide exceptional access and insights into the company, increasing your odds for landing an interview. If you’re interested in a company and they don’t recruit on your campus, be prepared to put in the extra effort recruiting off-campus to give yourself the best chance for an interview.
  • Network: Get a true feel for the culture. Building your network is arguably the most valuable asset you gain from your MBA experience. Try visiting campus before applying to get a sense of what it’s like to live there, what the people are like and whether you can envision yourself as part of that community. Additionally, set up meetings with students and alumni to deepen your understanding of the culture. It’s fun and can be extremely informative.

A few questions to consider during your discussions:

  • Does it seem like students have strong relationships with classmates and/or alumni?
  • Is it a collaborative environment or self-centered?
  • Do people spend time together outside of the classroom or is everyone solely focused on the rat race to land their top job?

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These questions are important to answer because your business school will become a large part of your network and brand identity going forward. Find a school where you’ll build your ideal network and, more importantly, make lifelong friends and allies.

  • Cost: Consider applying as part of a club or affinity group. There are plenty of organizations and affinity groups that can make it easier for you to apply and finance business school. Through these groups you can apply to universities at discounted rates, become part of a community, and get access to valuable networking and scholarship opportunities not open to the general prospective students. A few examples of these groups are The Consortium and Forté Foundation, but there are plenty of other scholarships, fellows programs and affinity groups out there for those that seek them.

To summarize, while researching MBA options ask yourself three main questions to ensure you’re maximizing the ROI of your MBA:

  • Does this school provide access to the types of companies I want to work for?
  • Do I want to associate with the students, alumni, staff and faculty as part of my long-term network and brand?
  • Have I researched external options that could provide advantages both applying for and financing my MBA?

If you’re able to comfortably answer these questions, chances are you’re positioning yourself for a sound MBA investment and a meaningful experience!

By Anthony Miner (MBA ’21)