The Problems With Entering Business School
By: Daniel Repko
The task set before me is to convey to you, the reader, the biggest
problems that people face when applying to b-school and then let you
in on the secrets on how to solve these problems. Unfortunately, this
task is not as simple as it may sound. There are courses that last
more than a month trying to discuss what I am supposed to explain
in one page. However, I can point to two things, out of the many tedious
little items, that seem to give many people, and in particular Russians,
the most problems. The two problems are: escaping the rankings when
choosing a school and profiling oneself for each individual program
to which one applies.
RANKINGS, RANKINGS, RANKINGS:
When Russians are deciding to which school they should apply, the
first place to which they turn are the many different ranking systems,
in an impossible attempt to decide which is the "best b-school
in the world." Even though the rankings can give you good knowledge
as to which schools are considered the best overall, no ranking system
can break down each area of a school's strength and analyze which
program is best for which student. Therefore, the best variant for
prospective students is to not only look at the rankings but also
to think of additional factors that will affect their future after
they graduate. Examples of such factors include: 1) Where do you want
to live after graduation? 2) What career path do you want after graduation?
3) Where do you want to be in 10 or 20 years?.
Taking as an example just one such factor-what kind of career path
you want-you can see the importance of going beyond the rankings.
Let us take two students, both of whom would like to be general managers.
One decides to go to Harvard and the other decides on Michigan. At
first glance it would seem that after graduation the student from
Harvard would get the premiere job while the student from Michigan
would have to take a less prestigious position. However, even though
Harvard is, in general, one of the best known universities in the
world, Michigan is known for producing better General Managers while
Harvard is better known for producing Consultants. Thus, industry
leaders interview at Michigan just as much as at Harvard.
As another quick example, let us take Thunderbird University. Thunderbird
is a Top 50 B-school but ranks nowhere near the top 10 or top 20.
However, if you take individual strengths and weaknesses you will
find that Thunderbird is generally considered to have one of the best
international management programs available. What does this mean?
Well, if you want to work in International Management then a smart
choice might be the top 50 b-school Thunderbird, rather than a top
10 b-school like Wharton or Harvard. Of course, it would be hard to
hang up if Wharton calls, but you might find yourself more easily
admitted or more eligible for financial help at Thunderbird, while
still getting a top ranked international business education.
To reiterate, the truth of the matter is a name and a high ranking
is not the best reason for choosing an MBA. You must look at many
other factors, such as the match between your interests and the strengths
of individual programs within the school.
Problem number two is profiling yourself for each individual school.
The common tactic of applicants is to write one example essay and
then submit the same answer to different schools. Since many schools
have similar essay questions many students make very minor changes
for each school.
The problem with this strategy is that each school has a different
type of student that they are looking for. Therefore, in order to
increase your chances of getting admitted to more than one school
you should research each school and learn enough information about
the school to know how to best profile yourself for that school. For
example, if Harvard and INSEAD were both to ask a question about what
makes you unique, you would not want to write the exact same essay
for each. The reason is that both schools like diversity but both
have a very different applicant pool. While Harvard, with its Eastern
US location may have, for example, very few applicants from the Russian
Far East, INSEAD, with its Singapore Campus and history of loan programs
targeting Russian students, may have many such applicants. Thus, the
uniqueness that makes your application focused on your Far East business
activities interesting to Harvard, might make it "just another
on in the pile" for INSEAD.
The other problem in profiling oneself comes into play when one is
asked to describe oneself or to describe a recent success one has
had. Every university asks itself the same question, "Is this
a person that we want to represent our university in the business
world." If they answer no, then this is the answer you will get
from the school. Therefore, understanding the school and what they
are looking for and targeting your essays to each particular school
increases your chances of getting accepted.
Noted above are only two of the
many problems that students encounter when applying to b-school. It
is a long grueling period with the rewards only witnessed two years
later. While there are no sure fire methods of ensuring one's chances
of getting into one's favorite b-school, with some insights into the
process and some personal research most students find that they can
be very successful. Do not be afraid to ask for help, especially from
those who have extensive knowledge and experience in this field.
ANO Pericles, Moscow, 2000. ANO Pericles, American Business &
Legal Education Project, 1st Miusskaya str 22/3 office 310 tel. (495) 649-22-73 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.pericles.ru
You may freely print or photocopy this article for any non-commercial
purposes provided you do not delete the name of the author and the
name and contact information of Pericles American Business &
Legal Education Project. If you use this article for your own web
site, please link to our site rather than stealing it and reposting
it on your own. For any other uses of this article, please contact
us for permission. Your comments on this article are welcome.