Part of the research linked to the MBA selection involves aspirants talking to different people as they try to identify the programme that suits them best. But should they take everything they hear at face value?

It is perfectly normal for MBA applicants to solicit opinions and advice from many people as they look for the programme that best corresponds to their preferences and future plans. However, prospective MBA participants should know who is in the best position to give them the most accurate information about the different aspects of pursuing an MBA degree. And, in order to avoid bias, establish the facts behind certain opinions.

It will help immensely if, before starting your school and programme selection, you are fully aware of your preferences. Compile a list of criteria for the types of programmes and business schools you prefer. This will considerably improve the efficiency of your search. For instance, if you know your budget, it will be quite easy to focus on the group of programmes that you can afford. The same applies to your location preferences. If you know where you want to study, then you can narrow down the group of potential business schools you can choose from.

Different people can offer different kinds of information. That is why you should know the positions of school representatives you are talking to. You need this knowledge to be able to ask the right questions and find out the details that matter for your decision making.

So, who are the people you can approach before you decide which way to go?    

Admissions officers

How can they help you?

Admissions officers are quite familiar with the requirements and know what type of candidates apply to a particular programme. Therefore, they are in the best position to give you feedback as to what degree your profile stands a chance of impressing admissions officers, historically speaking. They can also tell you a lot about particular programmes, but bear in mind that they don’t have the in-depth knowledge that programme directors have. You can also use the opportunity to ask them to highlight the areas in your applications that need improvement.

Read: Choosing the Right Business School​

A piece of advice

Admissions officers cannot give an estimate of your chances of admission, because the selection is done by the Admissions Committee, but they can advise you about the outstanding features of your profile.


How can they help you?

If you have the chance to talk to professors, you are well advised to ask them questions about the teaching methodology at their business schools, about the focus of the programmes, and above all, about the field they specialise in and the role of their field in the overall management education. Professors can also elaborate on interdisciplinary collaboration and to what extent teachers are in touch with each other over the course of the programme.

A piece of advice

You shouldn’t be left with the impression that the field of the professor you are talking to is the most important part of the programme, although it may sound this way. View professors just as an example of the kind of teachers you will have if you choose this particular programme or business school.

Current students

How can they help you?

Current students are a great source of information about the ‘feel’ of the programme and its pros and cons. You can ask them about their personal experience and the things they like and don’t like. They are also abreast of the latest developments in the programme and also may know of imminent changes and planned improvements.

A piece of advice

Always take the accounts of current students with a pinch of salt. Their arguments may not apply to your situation; in other words, you may not like the things they like and vice versa. For example, a student you are talking to tells you that they don’t like the programme because there is not enough sun in Scotland. While you will understand his argument, it is possible that you also realise that sunshine is not at the top of your list of priorities when it comes to an MBA education.   

Read: Why Do B-Schools Approach MBA Applicants Directly?


How can they help you?

Alumni can tell you a lot about careers after graduation. They may be already plying their trade as consultants, marketing managers, or investment bankers, and have a pretty good idea of the working world and the kind of doors an MBA degree can open. You can also ask them about their goals before and after enrolling in the MBA programme. It will be interesting to see if and how they have had to adjust their ambitions.

A piece of advice

Make sure to always ask alumni how actively they looked for the job and what they believe helped them to find it. Was it the MBA career centre, an internship they got, was it the reputation of the business school, or it was probably a classmate who referred them? You should know this because different people have different ways of looking for a job. Some graduates expect universities to lend them a hand in finding one while others who are more prone to take matters in their own hands. It is therefore essential to know what type of person you are talking to before assessing the strength of the MBA programme or the school in the job market.

Wait for emotions to subside

In your quest to find the business school and MBA programme that suit you best, you will talk to many people and each conversation will leave you with some kind of emotion. It’s never a good idea to make decisions in a state of excitement. A chat with a school representative or alumni can incite you to choose a particular school there and then, but it’s always a good idea to pause in order to shake off the initial excitement. A current student may paint a wonderful picture of an MBA programme, stressing only the advantages. Refrain from being carried away. Give yourself some time to think soberly about the received information. Wait a day or two, or a week or two, for the rush of optimism to subside before weighing the pros and cons.

Read: An Overview of MBA Study Options

Selecting an MBA programme is both exciting and challenging. It’s a high-stakes endeavour because your future is involved. There are many factors to consider and many pitfalls to avoid. Business professionals are bound to make many important decisions in their lives and this is one of the most crucial ones. Don’t underestimate it.