The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a highly demanding master’s program. Preparing for and completing your MBA course involves a significant investment of time and money.
As demand increases and admissions become more competitive, preparation is vital – for both your application and your MBA coursework.
Here are seven tried-and-tested ways to prepare for an MBA:
1. Ask yourself: Why do I want to study for an MBA degree?
Various factors drive MBA applicants. In today’s swiftly evolving and competitive world, an MBA can be an attractive differentiator, and equip professionals with the skills to stay relevant and abreast of developments in their field. Many leverage their MBA to make a career change, while others use the skills to grow their businesses and develop their staff. Regardless of your aim, an MBA offers opportunities for growth and networking, and self-fulfillment.
Before you begin studying for an MBA, it’s vital that you probe your reasons for wanting to do so, as the answer will dictate what program to take at which business school. The format of your MBA course (full, part-time, or online) will also be mainly defined by your reasons for taking the course and your existing commitments.
Taking a full-time MBA enables you to focus your attention entirely on your studies and potentially finish the course more quickly, while taking advantage of on-campus activities. Part-time study, on the other hand, enables you to continue working, spread the course load (and cost) out over a longer time, and maintain a balance with your life. Executive MBAS, for seasoned professionals with at least 10 years’ experience, are also offered part-time.1
2. Choose the right business school
Every MBA course is different. Some focus heavily on building leadership qualities, while others are more analytical and strategic. One course might specialize in information technology; another could center on marketing or supply chain management.
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), for example, has developed the MBA Essentials online certificate course. This 10-week online MBA short course focuses not only on the hard financial and strategic skills necessary for contemporary business leaders, but also on the soft skills that allow managers to expand their influence over a multitude of stakeholders. Find out what past participants had to say about the LSE MBA Essentials course, or watch the trailer to learn more.
Answering why you want to study an MBA provides early guidance in selecting a business school and MBA program. If you haven’t already, spend time researching potential schools. Weigh the quality of the programs against cost and format.
Tip: When considering the cost of potential MBAs, bear in mind that in-person, full-time programs could require travel during your studies. Take this into account when budgeting.
Use lists such as the Financial Times business school rankings to research top business schools. If you’re looking for an MBA course that focuses heavily on a specialization, such as sustainability, look for MBA rankings in those fields. Then search for alumni on professional networks, such as LinkedIn, to gain insight into their career development and informal opinions of the school and program.
When applying to business schools, apply to several. Fortune estimates of the average number of applications varies between four and 10. But rather than aiming for a specific number, apply to those schools where you would be a good fit. In addition, try to vary your applications between aspirational schools, ones where you have a competitive chance of admission, and ones you consider a safe bet.2
3. Prepare for the GMAT
Most business schools and universities use the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) as a screening tool. Achieving a respectable score is critical. Fortunately, this is one aspect of the MBA application process that’s within your control. There are a plethora of preparation tools, practice exams, and classes to help you prepare for the GMAT. You simply have to tap into them.
Set a target for yourself based on your desired schools. Forbes lists the average GMAT scores at Stanford Graduate School of Business, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard Business School as 734, 732, and 730 respectively – and work towards that target.3 Also plan to take the exam more than once, as fewer nerves and more practice will help you attain higher test scores.
4. Refine your resume, references, and recommendation letters
As part of your MBA course application, you’ll need to submit your resume and professional references. Any shortcomings therein could potentially cost you your acceptance.
A few tips:
- Ensure your application is watertight by keeping a strong focus on your most recent and relevant work experience. No one in the admissions department cares what you did seven years ago
- Business schools also pay specific attention to your extracurricular activities, so be sure to include these. If you find them lacking, use the months leading up to your application to enroll in some
- Volunteer work never looks bad on a resume, so consider community engagement or mentorship programs
When arranging references, or letters of recommendation, don’t fall into the trap of asking a big business influencer you barely know for a reference. Instead, get personalized, thoughtful references that show your impact on the lives of others and their work.
Of equal importance is the management of your referees. If they don’t submit their recommendations on time, what does that say about your people skills and management abilities?
Remember: There’s no shame in asking for help – this is why networking is so vital. If you feel you need professional assistance, get it.
5. Prepare for the technical MBA courses
Preparing for your first year of coursework is as important as the effort you put into your application. As MBA curriculums typically involve a lot of quantitative and data analysis, Harvard Business Review recommends brushing up on these skills before the start of your course, particularly if your prior degree was lacking in this area of expertise.4
The MBA Essentials online short course from the University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (USB-ED) does exactly that. This course is designed as a preparatory course for an MBA and prepares you with practical skills and knowledge in three of the most challenging MBA course subjects: economics, quantitative methods, and managerial accounting.
This preparation enables you to hit the ground running when you begin your MBA, allowing for more time to focus on developing your soft business skills. The course also strengthens your application and allows you to gauge your appetite for the MBA program (if you’re still unsure).
6. Expand your reading list
MBA students read hundreds of pages every week as part of their class preparation and coursework.
Reading more before your studies will help you avoid fatigue when studying. Moreover, it will aid in your knowledge of business, leadership, and global markets (provided you select suitable reading materials), making you more valuable as a potential employee and MBA applicant. As an MBA involves developing problem-solving and leadership skills, Harvard Business School advises reading books on these topics to prepare yourself.5
If you have your eye on a particular industry or company that you’re hoping an MBA will help you break into, that’s always a good place to start.
7. Work on your networking skills
The opportunity to rub shoulders with future business leaders plays a large role in why people sign up for an MBA. Networking capabilities are some of the most valuable skills any MBA student can have.
Before you start studying, practice your networking skills in any way you can. For example, make a conscious effort to talk to others at corporate and social events. Also, take advantage of technological resources like LinkedIn, which the Financial Times reports has made it much easier for students to find and access networks.6
The MBA Essentials online short course from USB-ED provides an opportunity to exercise these soft business skills. Although the course focuses on technical business topics, continuous interaction with your peers and student success team enables you to begin expanding your professional network and polish your networking skills.
Undertaking an MBA is no mean feat and there are many ways to prepare. Follow the steps listed above to help set you up for success. If you are currently unable to enroll, online short courses offer an alternative, flexible option to to build some of the technical business skills gained from an MBA.
Enhance your business skills with an online MBA essentials course
- 1 (Nd). ‘Part time MBA vs full time MBA programs’. Retrieved from The Princeton Review. Accessed October 14, 2021.
- 2 Armesto, J. (July, 2021).‘Deciding how many MBA applications to send out’. Retrieved from Fortune.
- 3 Symonds, M. (Apr, 2020). ‘What MBA candidates need to know about the online GMAT’. Retrieved from Forbes.
- 4 LaBalle, C.L. (Aug, 2021). ‘Thinking about an MBA? Here’s how to plan for it’. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.
- 5 Reynolds, M. (Sep, 2019). ‘Considering earning an MBA? 5 tips to help you prepare’. Retrieved from Harvard Business School.
- 6 Bell, A. (Jan, 2020). ‘Why MBA networking matters – and how to make it work for you’. Retrieved from Financial Times.
The post How to prepare for an MBA appeared first on GetSmarter Blog.
By: Andries Bester
Title: How to prepare for an MBA
Sourced From: www.getsmarter.com/blog/career-advice/how-to-prepare-for-an-mba/
Published Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2021 07:16:57 +0000