A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is an internationally recognized degree designed to enhance management and leadership skills. Courses tend to be heavily teamwork-oriented and based around the in-depth analysis of case studies. MBA graduates are able to utilize their skills in a variety of settings including business, government, non-profits, entrepreneurship and more.
When to Attend
For quite some time, competitive business schools required at least two to three years of experience as part of their application requirements. Recently, the tide has begun to shift and those same schools are recruiting students fresh out of colleges like Williams. Attending business school directly has its benefits. With the rising cost of education you will be paying less by getting your MBA now vs. later. Making the life adjustment to business school may also be easier now rather than waiting, working and then returning to the life of a student.
However, there is still something to be said for gaining experience before applying to business school. Admissions committees consider experience from literally any field such as government, non-profit, private industry, entrepreneurship, and education. Working in any one of these industries will help you determine more clearly what you wish to gain from an MBA program and what type of program will fit you best. It’s also still true that most applicants to business schools have at least two years of experience or more. Working between college and business school will give you time to develop skills that make you stand out in the applicant pool, give you life experience upon which to apply your classroom learning, and make you more competitive once recruiting rolls around for full-time jobs post-graduation.
The GMAT is a standardized exam that is an important part of the application process for business schools. Visit the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) site for more details. We recommend that you take the exam during late summer or early fall of your senior year if you plan on applying for an MBA program during the upcoming year. If you plan on attending business school within a few years of graduation, we suggest that you consider taking the GMAT during your senior year. It is easier to take the exam when you are academically focused and your scores are valid for five years. As in the case of any standardized test, we recommend that you prepare for the exam by familiarizing yourself with the test format and completing practice tests.
How to Select a Business School
Often one’s first inclination is to run to the MBA rankings and start applying to those top schools in which you feel you are competitive. However, that may not be the wisest move. Business schools vary widely in their curriculum, specialty areas, teaching methodology, and culture.
Academic reputation is important, but rankings do not give the complete picture. It is essential for you to think carefully about what you wish to gain from an MBA program and the quality of life you want to enjoy during your time as a student. Research each program in depth to determine which is going to be the best fit for your academic goals and lifestyle.
There are a variety of resources to help you find this information including business school websites and general websites listed below. Consider visiting business schools during the academic year for an admissions tour. Many will match you up with current students and allow you to sit in on a class or two. Along those lines, you may also find it helpful to speak with Williams alumni who are currently attending or have graduated from business schools on your target list. Robin Meyer, in the Career Center, can help you find this information.
The Application Process
Many business schools have multiple admissions deadlines with the latest being in March or April. We encourage you to apply as early as possible to increase your chances of admission. You will be asked to fill out an application and submit your GMAT scores, academic transcript, resume, 2-3 letters of recommendation and a number of personal essays specific to each school.
References & Personal Essays
References and personal essays are an extremely important part of the application packet. Admissions committees will read your entire application from beginning to end and are relying on references and essays to give them a strong sense of who you are as a candidate and how you would benefit from an MBA program.
References are usually requested from your employers and possibly a professor. If you have been out of Williams for more than two or three years, business schools will want to have references that are the most current. Your employers and colleagues will likely be the best options. Make sure that the people you choose as references can speak specifically about your skills and experience and your ability to perform in an MBA program.
Your personal essays may be the most crucial part of your application. Most business schools require at least four essays, and some even more. Writing essays for business school is a time intensive process, especially because you will be writing them for each individual school. Please give yourself plenty of time to complete this process and have your essays critique d by a counselor in the Career Center. “How to Write a Winning Personal Statement” is a must-read classic available in the Career Center library.
Helpful MBA Websites
- MBA.com, the official site of GMAT.
- GMAT Practice Prep
- The Economist, “In this four-part series, Fortuna Admissions, a team of former directors of MBA admissions at Wharton, INSEAD, Chicago, London Business School, UC Berkeley and IE Business School, explain how to improve your chance of getting into a top business school.”
- Business Week, offers a variety of helpful articles about Business schools.
- The Wall Street Journal, “MBA Admissions Experts Discuss Application Missteps; Take the Mask Down and Pick the Right Recommender.”
- MBA Depot
Business School Rankings
Follow this link for the most recent ranking of the top 20 business schools, according to US News & World Report: