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The key to choosing the ideal MBA program is understanding your needs and goals. Ranking systems sort schools based on statistics that may not be relevant to you. So take some time to think about what YOU want.

Aiming to develop emerging markets or lead current top companies? Planning to work in Europe, Asia, or bridge global gaps? Prefer one-on-one guidance or large cohorts and alumni networks?

There are many factors to consider! Therefore, follow these 7 steps to find out which MBA suits you the best!

1. Really get to know yourself

“Knowing yourself to improve yourself” – Auguste Comte

Personally

What defines you? The key milestones in your life? Any situations/stories you would like to showcase? How many languages do you speak? How was your leadership defined? Do you have any anecdotes? What are your biggest failures?

Academically

Did you graduate from a top tier university or not? What was your GPA? Did you take a semester (or more) abroad?

Professionally

How many years of work experience do you have? What managerial role (s) do you have? Any direct reports and budget responsibilities? What qualified achievements can you list? Overseas work experience? Do or did you work for a top tier firm such as a leading consulting firm, investment bank or tech giant? Did you have a fast career progression?

2. Define your project

“The clearer you are on where you want to be post graduation, the more the school can help you” – Sheryle Dirks, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business associate dean for career management

✓ Think about your career goals in the next 3 to 5 years

What industry are you targeting? What function would be your ideal job? Would you like to work overseas or not? Do you want to go for entrepreneurship? Do you want to join a startup?

✓ Have back-up plans

You need to approach your career plan in a very strategic manner. List at least 3 potential post-MBA exit strategies.

✘ Don't look for industries you would like to work in.

Understand which industries you could transition to. Consulting firms hire alot of MBA graduates every year. But it doesn’t mean that every MBA graduate has a shot at it.

3. Start your research

“Research is creating new knowledge” -Neil Armstrong

✘ Don't look at the rankings first

Look at each of the programs career statistics. To ensure that you pick programs that are relevant to what you want to achieve after graduation.

✓ Use powerful tools such as LinkedIn

To compare your profile to recent graduates from the programs you are targeting.

✓ Carefully analyze each of the program's incoming class profile

What is the GMAT average? What is the GPA average? What’s the percentage of international students? Women?

4. Finalize school selection

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”-Micheal E.Porter

✓ Apply to your dream school

Even if it is a stretch. You do not want to have any regret. This is your only chance.

✓ Apply to MBA programs that are similar

Your choice must reflect your strategy. We strongly recommend you to apply for at least 3 MBA programs.

✘ Don't apply to more than 6 schools at once

Applying to MBA programs is an intense and time consuming process.

5. Get your GMAT done

“There is no substitute for hard work”-Thomas A.Edison

✓ Start your GMAT preparation at least 4 months before the first deadline

Consider taking classes at a well-known prep center near you or consider the online classes alternative.

✓ Learn how to read faster

Use a software such as Spreeder to improve your reading speed to up to 350 words per min.

✓ Practice regularly

1 hour a day will always beat 6 hours on both Saturdays and Sundays.

✓ Consider taking the GRE (if your GMAT prep is not doing good)

While the GMAT is the preferred test, it would always be better to present a great GRE score than a bad GMAT score.

6. Apply

“Showcase who you truly are through the lens of who the school truly wants to see”-admissions.sg

✓ Tailor made each of your application

Each school has unique specificities. You need to address those specifically in your application.  Their locations, career stats, top employers or class profiles are some of the many parameters that you can showcase to build the fit.

✓ Plan in advance your professional references

It’s a long process, so make sure to work with your referees closely.

✓ Prepare your CV

Admissions committees are looking at specific information: budget responsibilities, direct reports, quantified achievements. Your CV is the most critical part of your application and unfortunately often the one applicants spend the least time on.

✘ Don't submit an application before having it reviewed

Proofreading is essential. Get at least 2 persons to review your application. You wouldn’t want to submit an application with grammar errors.

7. Choose your program

“Choice, not chance, determines your destiny”-Aristotle

✓ Review carefully the admission offers

Take into account the financial aspect of the offer as well as the career opportunities.

✓ Take advice

You can take advice from friends, family and colleagues. But you must make your decision on your own ultimately.