Researching the MBA
Last week I talked about starting your MBA program exploration at a tour, fair or forum. To put some context on these visits, let’s say that they are the first step in your action research project. What is your research project about? MBA programs. More specifically, the MBA programs you want to apply to and possibly attend.
This project may last as long as two years, depending on how serious you are and how ready you are. It may last six months. Regardless of the length of time, you want to craft and execute this really well so that when you are finished, you know exactly why you have chosen the schools you want to visit and to which you want to apply. And possibly, although your action project is not complete until you visit your selected schools, you may even come out of this project with a strong idea of which school you may want to attend.
What is your main research question? Be very careful here. You may think it is, “Am I qualified to attend your school?” But I would suggest that the real question is this:
“Are you the right school for me?”
You will be spending time, money, effort (and sweat and tears—yes, no good grad school doesn’t cause tears, at some point) earning an MBA. Don’t you want it to be at the graduate school that best fits your needs and goals? (Teaser–Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on post-MBA life from recent Babson grads.)
Where are your research materials? Primary sources exist at the schools websites and in the materials you brought home from the tours, fairs, or forums. Secondary sources exist at all the blogs and websites tailored to the pursuit of MBA admission: mba.com, Poets & Quants, BeattheGMAT.com, etc.
Do you need a research team? Yes, having one wouldn’t hurt – a friend, partner, co-workers. And don’t rule out how the Admissions recruiters can be part of your team. (That’s yet another post coming soon.)
What is your roll as researcher? You can’t be completely objective, I’d venture to say, but you can be systematic, detailed, analytical, and data-driven before you become smitten, enthusiastic, and in love with a given school. (Next week I’ll talk about school visits, when all that emotion comes out.)
How do you record your data? Whatever system works for you—Excel, folders, binders, index-cards, Notes Plus, Evernote, Notability. Think about what data you want to record and later analyze. I also recommend using the search tool on mba.com. It is flexible and lets you build a comparison chart and save it, too.
1. Keep your question front of mind, always: “Which is the right school for me?”
2. Make sure you define “right”(see above). Your idea of what is right for you may be different from that of your partner, father, co-worker.
3. Use as many of the tools available as you can; take time to use them well.
4. Analyze and review your results frequently.
Good luck. Think Big.