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After a few years of working in a corporate environment, some professionals feel the need to take their career higher. There may be those who desire to change function within the same industry or switch over to a different industry altogether. There may be other aspiring entrepreneurs who need the required know-how for launching their own start-ups or taking over an existing family business.

At this juncture they start looking out for study options that can help facilitate this change. This is when higher business education comes into the picture.

Of the various options available, the MBA (Masters in Business Administration) is the most popular one as it offers the students a lot of post-MBA career options to choose from. The curriculum covers a wide variety of topics and also allows specialization in areas of interest. Internship may turn out to be a great opportunity of getting your foot in the door in a different career-role.

1. What to expect:

The duration of the MBA program can vary from about a year to two years. However before taking in the plunge, you need to investigate whether an MBA is well-suited for you or not. Getting an MBA from a reputed university can be a pretty expensive affair. The ROI (Return on Investment) plays a crucial role.

So firstly you need to check what exactly you’re expecting from your degree. If you are just expecting knowledge enhancement in a particular stream, there may be cheaper courses offering you that advantage. So you need not shell out an extravagant amount for doing an MBA. You can save your energy by going in for other optional courses.

2. GMAT:

Once you’re convinced that an MBA is indeed the right course for you, the next step would be to start your GMAT preparation. Majority of the reputed business schools require a good GMAT score to get in, so it’s a good idea to start early with your GMAT preparation. The GMAT can be taken in advance even if you’re planning to apply a year or two later, as the scores are valid for five years. Getting the GMAT score early gives you enough time to concentrate on other important elements which are equally time-consuming.

3. Business school selection:

Along with GMAT you can start collecting data about the various business schools, their specializations, and where you think you would fit best. A few parameters like the duration of the course, GMAT score, financial planning, choice of country to study and work thereafter, post-MBA career options and age would influence the choice of schools. You might even consider taking it online. There are well-established mba online programs in California that might fit you just right.

4. Business school applications:

Once you’ve short listed and prepared a list of schools where to apply, you can check out their online application form and get started. You can apply to a few schools which are on your high priority list in the first round. In this round you hold the maximum chances of getting admitted. In the following rounds, the chances of admission go on decreasing. However you may keep a few schools for the second round if you are not able to complete all the applications in the first round. Each of these elements of the application takes time and needs to be completed in a highly organized and structured manner with enough time for multiple rounds of editing.

5. MBA essays:

The essays need to be thoughtfully drafted with the various academic and professional achievements highlighted appropriately. The Admissions Committee would be able to shortlist your application if your essays are able to create the much-needed impact and portray the dynamic personality that you are.

6. MBA letters of recommendation (LOR):

MBA applicants should be able to choose appropriate persons whom they may be professionally connected with within the same office or the previous workplace. They should be willing to complete the letters of recommendation for you. The LOR’s add to your credibility and talk about how well you’ve managed challenges so far. The LOR contains an outsider’s independent opinion about you and hence a good recommendation can add substantial value to your application. Two recommendations per school would be required.

7. MBA resume:

This is different from a regular resume. It should be short, relevant, crisp and to the point. You should work on your regular resume and customize it so that it is suitable for submitting along with the MBA application and can generate enough interest.

8. MBA interviews:

Interviews may be face-to-face or over the phone. Some schools have a compulsory interview as a part of the process. Others do the initial filtering and short list candidates who are then invited for an interview. Whatever you speak out during an interview should be consistent with whatever has been written and said in the rest of the application. You would be have to be confident, answer in a structured manner and your answers should reflect your clarity about what you want to do in the future and how an MBA would be of help. So be prepared and give it your best!

9. MBA financing:

Once you secure a place in the MBA program, the next step would be to arrange for finances. You may apply for scholarships and some schools may be very generous in this matter. You have to apply early and if you’re lucky, you may be able to secure a certain percentage of your fees through scholarships. There are other options like study loans, bank tie-ups with schools, depending on the school.

10. Accommodation:

Once all is set, make appropriate accommodation arrangement, be it within the college campus or outside. College accommodation has other frills attached like socializing opportunities for you and your family and other campus facilities.

Social and business networking is an integral part of an international MBA program. Students from countries all over the world spend one or two years together and get to learn a lot from their peers as well. So it can be a truly enriching experience.

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Posted by Sameer Kamat

Sameer Kamat is a writer & published author. He is also the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an MBA admissions consulting venture specializing in GMAT preparation & MBA essays.

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