Choosing a B-School: Assessing Your Profile

The first step to choosing a business school is to assess your profile. Understanding what you have to offer will help you find a program that fits your talents.

Drowning in Business school applications? With so many MBA programs to choose from it's hard to know where to start. In today's post Linda Abraham discusses factors to consider when applying to business schools from your academic record to extracurriculars and everywhere in between to make sure you apply to the right schools for you.

To make applying to business school next fall run more smoothly and efficiently, we recommend that you get started on generating a list of target schools NOW. With so many programs out there, it can be hard to narrow down your selection to a reasonable list of just five or six possibilities.

The first step to choosing a b-school is to assess your profile. You may have a life-long passion to attend HBS simply because one of your parents went there, but if your GMAT scores aren't even in the ballpark or if your GPA is too low, or you don't have a lot of leadership, then you may have to adjust your plan.

Here are some factors to consider when assessing your profile:

  • Academics - This includes your GMAT score and your GPA. As mentioned above, a weak GPA or a low GMAT score may limit your school choice. Be realistic--if you don't have time to improve your scores in either of these categories, then you're going to have to rule out the schools that require scores of a certain level. Of course, you do still have time to retake the GMAT, so if you think you have a shot at increasing your score, you may still be able to keep HBS (or another top ranked program) on your b-school list.

  • Work experience - Your target business school is going to want to know about your past and current jobs. Now is a good time to think about any progressions you've made through your career path. If you haven't made significant strides, then maybe you still have time to take on a new leadership position or increase your job responsibilities. Think about your strengths in your past and current positions, as well as your weaknesses. In what ways can you work now to strengthen your weak spots? Also note that some schools expect a certain number of years in the workplace before applying; others do not. Check your target schools' requirements.

  • Goals - "Fit" is extremely important to the adcoms who will be reviewing your application. This is usually determined by seeing whether your MBA and post-MBA goals match up with the mission and ideals of a given program. A lot of introspection goes into developing a concrete list of goals. Get a head start thinking about why you'd like an MBA and you'll have an easier time answering the goal-related essay questions later on.

  • Extracurricular activities - Your extracurriculars will set your application apart from the others, highlighting those unique aspects of your personality. Now may be a time to think about some of your hobbies and interests and perhaps get more involved in extracurricular activities. In terms of choosing a b-school, these activities could help you (as well as the adcoms) determine school fit.

  • Miscellaneous factors - Criminal records, honor code infractions, and other negative aspects to your profile may limit your choices when it comes to applying to top b-schools. On the other hand, positive experiences like military service and academic or community awards may help boost your profile.

Evaluating your qualifications is step one to generating a list of potential b-schools. Next time we'll discuss the various aspects and offerings of different programs and how you should take those into consideration when choosing a school.

Looking for more tips on creating a realistic list of potential business schools? View Accepted's FREE webinar MBA Reality Check for more insider information on choosing the b-school that's best for you.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com, co-author of _MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

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Previously: Grad School Math: Which Degrees are Worth the Debt?

Next: Choosing a B-School: Determining What's Important to You

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