mba graduate

Guest post by Caroline Diarte Edwards, Fortuna Admissions

The Masters in Business Administration is among the most coveted advanced degrees in the US—especially from a top institution. It’s a door-opening, international credential that offers a passport to the management and executive ranks of a wide range of industries. As such, the MBA attracts high-potential performers seeking opportunities to lead in the competitive, fast-paced and rapidly-changing business world. Most US programs are two-years, while some of the most competitive programs abroad distill the experience into a single, high-velocity year.

Three of the most compelling advantages of pursuing the MBA are:

  1. Gaining front-row exposure to cutting-edge industry insights, trends, and experiences. The MBA is designed to be a transformative experience, offering a chance to learn from faculty who are leaders in their field, and collaborate with excellence-driven peers from a wide variety of professional backgrounds. It’s also a gateway to powerful career opportunities. “Getting an MBA can be life-changing,” says my colleague Catherine Tuttle, Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach and former Program Director at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “In addition to quantitative and analytical training, an MBA can provide practical leadership and management skills to advance and accelerate your career in the short- and long-term.”
  1. Substantially increase your earning power. Earlier this year, the Financial Times reported that “salaries commanded by MBA graduates after three years back in the workplace have increased by the largest amount in a decade.” It cites that business school alumni from the top 100 MBA courses received an average salary of $142,000 in 2016—just three years post-graduation. And while the tuition for top programs is hefty, the percentage salary increase in the three years after graduation for the top 10 global programs ranges between 92% and 133%.
  1. Access to a vast network of high-performing individuals. From the peers and professors that surround you on campus to the alumni network you’ll join upon graduation, your connections to successful leaders makes the experience invaluable. “The network is, in my opinion, at least half the value of the MBA,” says my Fortuna colleague Cassandra Pittman, Columbia Business School alum and former senior member of the London Business School and INSEAD MBA teams. “The success of alumni offers a resounding endorsement for a program’s strength and career opportunities.”

If these reasons sound good to you, know that the MBA is also not for the faint of heart. The application process is a demanding one; it requires you to prepare thoroughly for the GMAT or GRE admissions test, write essays, mobilize recommenders, and craft a persuasive presentation that reflects who you are and what you will contribute to the business school community.

Also, any top business school needs to know you have the academic ability to handle a graduate degree. All programs are grounded in rigorous analytical and quantitative coursework, as well as interpersonal and leadership training that’s designed to shape effective, adaptable leaders. You’ll need to be skilled in math, critical reasoning, logic and language—with the academic track record to prove it.

Admissions directors are looking for a strong record of academic and professional success and a clear sense of where you are heading in the future and why you need the MBA. You must be able to answer why an MBA, why now and why this school. Demonstrating that there’s a logical flow to your plan and that the MBA positions you to take the next step is vital.

In our discussions with candidates about where to apply, it’s often apparent that their initial target list of schools is driven purely by MBA program rankings—which can be deceptive. No two MBA programs are identical and the benefits can vary greatly from program to program. My advice is to take a big step back and think about where you are in your life and academic or professional career; where you’ve been, and where you want to go in the short-, medium-, and long-term. Getting to know the distinctive culture, identity, and offerings at each prospective school is an important process toward assessing mutual fit.

This requires investing considerable time and effort in researching your picks—and visiting campuses if possible—to gain a deep understanding of what you will get out of a program, what you will bring to the community, and which community is the right fit for you. Time and time again, as Admissions Director, I observed that candidates who made this level of effort were much more successful in the admissions process—their motivation came across more clearly, and their sense of fit with the school meant that they were more easily able to highlight what they would contribute to the MBA classroom. The level of introspection and self-knowledge that shapes a persuasive application is among the most compelling side-benefits of pursuing the MBA.

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Written by Caroline Diarte Edwards
Caroline Diarte Edwards is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former INSEAD Director of MBA Admissions. Fortuna is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 8 of the top 10 business schools.