As a young professional who is almost done spending four long (yet satisfying) years on getting an MBA, I often get a lot of questions from others considering this opportunity. Is it worth it? Where are you going? Do you like it? Do you have any suggestions? An incredible amount of time and money goes into getting a second degree, so you certainly don’t want to waste either of those resources choosing the wrong program. There are countless tips and tricks I could give to those that ask, and it often ends up being a longer conversation than they probably asked for, however I can never stress enough how important it is to find a program that supports you, your goals, and your schedule. Although it was hard to narrow down the list, these five tips can point any current MBA prospect in the right direction:
1) Do your research- How many core classes are there? How much does it cost? Are there online options? What is the schedule like- will it work with my responsibilities every week? What types of jobs have alumni gotten post-graduation? Do your beliefs align with the school’s beliefs in terms of education? Before you choose a program, you should know the answers to all of these questions like the back of your hand. Consider attending an event designed to present students with their MBA program options, and be prepared. You will have access to top Admissions Officers, and learn from admissions panels as well as former MBA students from different programs. Compile this information and have an idea of what schools you are most interested in before you go. This will cut down the time you spend visiting each campus and will help you narrow down your options.

2) Follow your own path and learn at your own pace- Choose a program where you have the option to learn as slowly or as quickly as you’d like (within reason). Look for programs that offer a self-paced option, allowing you to vary in terms of how many classes you can take per semester, as well as the option to take classes in the summer/winter breaks. For those of you that are full-time professionals, be sure to discuss the time commitment with your employer to be sure there is enough work/life balance for the program.

3) Engage in classes- I chose a program where online learning was not an option- as much as I would love to sit and learn from home in sweatpants after a long work day, getting into the classroom and engaging with fellow classmates is essential to the benefit you’ll receive. Learning about other students’ experiences and sharing yours is one of the most vital learning experiences the MBA has to offer. MBA classes are also a safe space to work on public speaking and participating in areas that you may not yet be comfortable. Find a school that allows you to participate and learn from others in the most beneficial setting for your learning needs. If online programs are your only option due to time commitments, be sure to choose a program that offers other opportunities to meet your classmates.

4) Choose your professors wisely- ensure that your professors have experience that is relevant to your goals in each class, and take the time to research past students’ experiences in the classes you would like to sign up for. Doing this will entirely change your experience! Prior to choosing a school, be sure that the caliber of professors aligns with your learning goals. If possible, choose a program that has enough class options where you have the luxury to choose.

5) NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!! Get to know your classmates, professors and advisors, try to choose new partners and new teams for group projects, attend school social events, and connect with classmates outside of school- these are some of the most valuable connections you will ever make. I have found that current and former MBA students will go out of their way to help others that are in the same boat. Start your search with a forum or tour style event, and meet other students looking for similar experiences. Head to prospective student events at the schools of your choice and meet others that are in the program, and ask questions that the school websites do not have the answers to in terms of culture and expectations.

Once you have done this research, be sure to compile the information that means the most to you and attend an upcoming event in your city to help choose the right school. It’s a great resource for anyone deciding between programs, so use this opportunity to meet others that have been in your shoes, get a feel for what each program is like, and figure out what your options are. If an MBA is right for you, there are plenty of options out there to find the perfect fit, so I can promise you the time invested in researching is time well spent. Now get out there and get that MBA!

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