North American business schools pride themselves on the quality of their MBA programmes, which continue to attract young professionals from around the world. The top schools have built solid reputations, have outstanding career placement records and rank high among their peers.
With the growth of b-schools in Asia and Europe, MBA candidates are right to step back from previously held opinions and take a closer look at the entire MBA market. It is now possible to find top business schools outside of North America that have reached the same level of quality in terms of faculty, ranking and have even stronger and more diversified networks. But the MBA experience in North America remains for some reasons quite unique.
First Year Core, Second Year Electives
Firstly, American MBAs have different formats. There was once a time when all North American MBA programmes lasted two years, but this is no longer the case. Some b-schools have launched accelerated programs alongside their traditional programs. Thunderbird Schools of Global Management, for example, offers a traditional MBA program lasting from 15 to 20 months and an accelerated program lasting from 11 to 16 months. Likewise, Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management offers a traditional two-year MBA and an accelerated one-year MBA. However, HEC Montreal has opted to restrict its MBA offering to a oneyear program. Still, the majority of North American b-schools continue to be set apart by their two-year programs. In the first year, students learn the core general management skills across all functions and industries, enabling them to integrate the key areas of an organization, from finance and marketing to operations and human resources. Wharton for example offers students the opportunity of exemption from some core classes if they have sufficient prior academic study or work experience. These modules can be replaced with electives.In the second year, Wharton students can choose from nearly 200 electives. in 19 different majors in order to develop expertise in the functional areas of business while specializing in career-related professional fields of study. Louis Buell, Wharton MBA Class of 2008, said, "Through the Global Immersion Program, I've had the opportunity to travel to three countries in Africa and meet with top business and government leaders there."
Internships Start Early
In addition, MBA students in the second year often apply for internships with prestigious corporations that have developed long-term partnerships with business schools. This tripartite arrangement suits all players. As interns, MBA students in their second year have the opportunity to undertake supervised projects that if successfully completed often lead to full-time employment before or following graduation. Corporations benefit from the handson approach to recruitment of MBA graduates. Best of all, the business schools are left with relatively few unemployed MBAs three months after graduation, which boosts their rankings in the MBA community.
Some b-schools build a strong foundation for students wishing to do internships. At the fulltime MBA programme of Duke Fuqua School of Business (called the Duke MBA-Daytime), students can take at least five electives in the first year. For those students who want to do an internship in the summer between the first and second year, they are encouraged to enroll in the Flex Term. This is a special two-week winter term with additional career electives aimed at preparing MBAs for their summer internships. Some North American business schools use a case-study approach to business education. Hult adopts this hands-on approach throughout its entire one-year fulltime MBA programme. Students arrive on their main Boston campus to a month-long MBA Toolbox session (Hult also has campuses in Dubai, London and Shanghai). Based on three modules, the programme starts with the business fundamentals, moves to the integration of these concepts and then finishes with their global application. Teachers place a great deal of emphasis on action-learning techniques. In fact, students take part in an actionlearning project where they work in teams to solve a real business problem for a client.
Financing Your MBA
One of the major benefits of North American business schools is the importance they place on making financial aid available to international students. To them, an MBA is a longterm investment that will be paid back rapidly. In fact, almost all international MBA students rely on loans to cover most of their education and living costs. Hence, North American business schools employ financial aid officers whose role is to ensure that applicants do not have to turn down the MBA for lack of money.
The process of applying for financial aid will be different if you are a citizen or a permanent resident of the USA or Canada. Americans can apply for federal student aid such as Stafford loans, while Canadians can apply for Canada Study Grants and Canada Access Grants. International students or non-permanent residents can apply for funding within their home country, including government and private scholarships and loans. In all cases, North American b-schools share a common strategy, to make information about external funding resources available to students. By using their search engines, students can often uncover sources of funding that they had not expected to find. To find such "hidden" scholarships and grants, applicants are advised to start the application process sooner rather than later.
Student Social Life
North American b-schools emphasize the importance of participating in clubs and associations. The social aspect is crucial as students can apply their knowledge to topics that come up on the agenda at the events, while meeting professionals from select industries and businesses. Pepperdine boasts an unusual professional club based on the entertainment industry. Situated in the affluent city of Malibu overlooking the Pacific coastline, Pepperdine has one of the most beautiful campuses in the USA. It is no accident that Pepperdine MBA students can benefit from the location, especially those who want to work for a big studio or production company in Los Angeles. The MBA runs a club that brings together students interested in the media /entertainment industry. Invited to their club meetings are entertainment professionals brought in to discuss different aspects of the media and entertainment industry.
Going to a top business school in North America ensures that you will have access to a solid business network. To facilitate its network of 35,000 members, UCLA Anderson School of Business created the Parker Career Management Center. Working in conjunction with the Parker CMC's skilled professional staff, students can launch their post-MBA careers across a broad span of industries, from not-for-profit enterprises to hightech marketing to Wall Street investment banking. "The UCLA Anderson Alumni database has been a critical resource in my job search efforts," said Amanda Movahhed, Anderson MBA Class of 2009. "I have found Anderson alumnus to be friendly, helpful, and incredibly generous in sharing their wisdom and connecting me with their own professional networks that I would not have had access to otherwise." However, the downside to networks from North America b-schools is the limited reach of the alumni. For candidates who want exposure outside of North America, MBA programmes in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East can offer a wider reach and more diversity. All in all, choosing a top business school in North America could be a real unique learning experience. With an opportunity cost still generally higher than in other continents, candidates applying for US schools would be well advised to consider working there for a while after graduation.