Be it Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc., the web offers a myriad of places for people to stay in touch, share experiences, keep up with the global news, shop, get entertained, even gain their education and find jobs – the sky is the limit! However, there is a crucial difference between the benefits of the various web platforms available to us. All of them connect people but only some of them connect minds. Especially minds that are looking in the same direction.
According to a new eMarketer report, "Worldwide Social Network Users: 2013 Forecast and Comparative Estimates", the global social network audience will total 2.55 billion by 2017. The same report forecasts that by end 2014 the various types of social media (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, forums, Foursquare, Instagram, etc.) will see the highest percentage of user penetration in the United States with a whopping 53.1%. Western and Eastern Europe come second and third in the chart with 44.5% and 44.2% of the population respectively using social media of any kind. The populations of the Middle East and Africa are at the bottom with 18% user penetration. In total, that brings the numbers to 27.4% of the world population engaging in social media interaction. The forecasts claim that this percentage will increase to 34.5% by the end of 2017.
All these numbers only serve to show that the growing number of web users, people with different interests, knowledge and experience, are contributing to the constant formation and development of diverse web communities in terms of geography, age, background, education and experience. In that sense, one of the advantages granted to people who are along their MBA journey is the web. Yes – it is that simple. The web enables you to undertake your entire initial research thoroughly. With a little more targeted digging you can find the best business schools and, what their requirements, you can talk to people and gain advice as to whether a particular school is right for your profile and expectations, you can learn everything there is to know about scholarships, about exams, about admissions interviews, etc. The web has all the tools that you need to guide you along your "mission MBA" at every step.
Where should you look?
However, the overwhelmingly abundant options that you have at your fingertips 24/7 can sometimes be tricky. You can waste a lot of time and get misleading advice if you are not looking in the right places. You risk being bombarded with tons of information that's chaotic, contradictory, incomplete and even incorrect. This is why, as you are preparing for and going through your MBA journey, you have to be very systematic when you reach into the online space. Karen F., a 28-year-old former business consultant, decided she wanted to do an MBA in Europe and, as she was born in Europe but raised in the United States, she had many European friends in her social network circles who were her age and were going through similar education milestones.
"At some point you realise that eventhough your Facebook friends may knowof a good MBAconsultant that they canrecommend to you if you shout out youneed one via a statusupdate, this maynot be the best place to seek such help.Or if one of your Twitter followershasbeen granted a scholarship for his MBAand he can put you in touch with theright organisation – I guess it could workfor certain people but those web placesare more oftenthan not too generaland random, and you waste time gettingtons of unnecessaryinformation", Karenshared in her blog that she started writingwhen she first started preparing forher MBA.
In this sense, if your MBA intentions are serious, you can still benefit a great deal from the web but you should carefully target your search within specialised blogs and forums dedicated to post-graduate education and all of its aspects. Blogs and forums are precisely web spots that are designed as very specific meeting places for people who have the same mission as you, have similar questions and are going through the same situations. These are the places that connect minds. The information you will find there is systematically organised, you can easily find your way around and obtain the exact information you are looking for, and benefit from the experiences that people in similar situations share.
A blog is a website where someone, or a group of people, periodically shares their personal experience and thoughts. The term "blog" was used for the first time in 1997 by John Barger but the first blog as we know it today, called Links.net, was created in 1994. According to WPVirtuoso, there were over 152 million blogs by the end of 2013 and the number is growing daily – a new blog is created every half a second! Additionally, there are 500,000 new posts every day and there are 31% more bloggers today than there were three years ago. To top all that with an impressive number – 346 million people around the world read blogs! Clearly not all those blogs are dedicated to education. Nevertheless, the edublogs are growing at a constant speed. Theedublogger.com says that over 63% of all people who read education-related blogs are in the United States, followed by Canada (10.7%), Australia (8.5%) and the United Kingdom (7.3%).
"Even though I realised there's a lot ofuseful and targeted information on theeducationblogs, there are still way toomany to follow so I was a little overwhelmedat the beginning,wonderingwhat the most reliable sources are", saysKaren. When it comes to being convincedthat you are following the right blog, youcan always keep an eye on some of themany annual competitions for best blogson the web. Some of them are specificallydedicated to blogs about education,including The Edublog Awards, The EducationBlog Awards, Education ResourcesPeople's Choice Awards and manyothers.
Typical MBA Blogs are maintained by current MBA students who share their experiences, thoughts and the different situations and challenges they encounter during their education. This is a great way to obtain some inside information about the life and day-to-day peculiarities of the university you're interested in and also handy inside info about a particular MBA programme. Another type of MBA Blog is maintained by professors from universities, MBA experts and coaches or admission consultants who also share very interesting and helpful tips and information which can help you understand the admission requirements and process better. Frequency of posting varies among blogs and over time. A typical MBA blog might post once or twice a week.
Along with the specialised blogs, forums are web meeting spots for people and experts who share personal experiences and benefit from each other's knowledge on a particular topic. Today's forums are the direct descendants of the bulletin boards that first started to appear in the seventies. In order to access these bulletin boards, people had to use a phone modem to connect. Forums, or message boards, are centralised locations for typical discussions on a certain topic. The very first software dedicated to forum protocol was WIT, which was developed by the W3 Consortium in 1994. MBA forums abound with information on various topics covering all aspects of admission preparation, exams and universities. Additionally, you can get advice from experts in the field. The MBA forums enable you to easily reach current fellow MBA applicants, students, graduates and experts, ask for advice and get useful tips. "I found this forum about MBA Admission and I got in touch with a currentstudent from IE, one from IESE and another one from Manchester Business School – allinstitutions that I was considering for my prospective MBA. Eventually the girl from IE was really helpful and gave me some great tips about my application preparation", continues Karen in her MBA Journey description on her own blog.
Furthermore, people in your situation can benefit from the content generated in the future as the forums keep a structured record of all topics of discussion along with the responses provided. In some forums you can even find the socalled "experts" area that offers articles and practical advice by preparation centres, university admissions representatives and admissions consultants, which can be extremely helpful along your MBA journey.
One example is PrepAdviser.com. This global preparation network's mission is to be the primary source of information and advice for applicants to international MBA and Master's programmes from all over the world during their preparation and application process. PrepAdviser is the open meeting point for all key players in the field of postgraduate business education, welcoming applicants, admissions officers, advisers, test preparation instructors, current students and alumni to share experiences, discuss challenges and solutions and exchange advice. "Thecontent on PrepAdviser is basically generated for you byyou! In other words, MBA applicants drive the topics in the directions that concern them byasking all kinds of questions about admissions, entry exams, school and programme selection, programme characteristics andmany others, and our experts give them invaluable information and advice tohelp them along their MBA journey", says Project Development Director, Kremena Dimitrova.
One of the biggest advantages of forums is the way they are structured and organised. Facebook and LinkedIn Groups that are based on interests are very general and hard to navigate. Usually there are at least a few dozen posts per day on different topics, which can be quite overwhelming and increases the risk of a question being easily missed or lost in the news feed. In forums, on the other hand, everything is organised around certain topics, interests and themes. You can ask a question and receive answers from people who are genuinely interested in the same topic. "I had just started preparing for the GMAT and I wasreally frustrated with my scores. I found that Find MBA, a forum I was frequently visiting at the time, has all those tips and tricks, advice and suggestions from people who are alsopreparing for the test and from some experts as well", says Karen. "You have all the tools atyour fingertips but that doesn't mean anything if you don't know how to use them", says Karen as a conclusion to one of the latest posts in her "Mission MBA" blog. All information you need along your MBA journey is available online, but looking in the right places is key to your successful admission.