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How to Choose an MBA Program

By Saad Laraqui

Gregory Fowler, PhD

Deciding to pursue an MBA can be both exciting as well as daunting. MBAs are one of the most popular master’s degree programs, which means that they are offered by almost every college or university. So how do you decide which one is the best fit for you? I went through this MBA selection process as well, and at times felt unsure of which program to take.

During my journey, I received great advice from my cousin who had just earned his MBA from one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the U.S. He told me, “The best MBA for you right now is the one you can afford, that takes the least amount of time, and ensures you graduate with immediately applicable skills, and are fully equipped to move on with your career.” Now, with a completed MBA, I can say that his advice served me well. Through my experience and journey of choosing an MBA program, I want to offer some advice of my own that guided my decision.

Consider the Investment

As with most master’s degree programs, you must consider the financial investment it will require for you to earn your MBA. Scholarships and financial aid can help with the cost, but you want to make sure that you have the security to afford both your degree and your lifestyle. My window of opportunity to secure an MBA was limited. At the time, I could neither afford to join a traditional full-time MBA program without jeopardizing my financial responsibilities, nor postpone my MBA without jeopardizing my goal of reaching higher levels of management.

This is when I really took my cousin’s advice into account. I chose an MBA program that was both flexible and affordable. I quickly graduated without being buried under debt, because I chose an institution that allowed me to repay loans in less than a year after I graduated. I also decided that the investment would be worthwhile for me because the cost of my MBA was more than offset by the considerable increase in salary I received afterwards.

Select Your Learning Environment

One of the best parts about pursuing an MBA is that you can do it anywhere to fit the learning environment you thrive best in. The main difference you will see in programs are whether they are offered online, in-person, or a mix of both. Understanding the difference between an online learning experience and in-class learning will ensure you choose the best educational delivery method for your needs. In-person can offer students physical interaction with their classmates and professors that they may find more impactful and easier to comprehend the information. Online learning can offer great flexibility and superior possibilities of interaction with your peers and professors. It also offers the opportunity to hear ideas from around the globe.

Research Programs that Offer Experience and Support

Not only is the information you receive when you earn your MBA important, but so are the connections you make along the way. Choosing a school with a good cohort program, where students in the same program work through the curriculum together, may help you develop your professional network. It may also provide you with encouragement and advice from your classmates when it comes to balancing school, work, and life. It is helpful to select a program that understands your specific needs and will accompany you from your first steps in applying to their program through your post-education career development.

Furthermore, the program needs to offer a high degree of diversity and inclusiveness that will put you on the path of life-long learning. Diversity in faculty and students will bring innovative ideas to the table, from a more global perspective. Individual successes of members of your cohort can inspire you. Your former classmates may become role models, important networking connections, and people with whom you have shared important experiences.

Doing your homework to choose a program that meets your specific conditions, supports your strategic career plan, and does not burden you with debt will give you a better educational experience and an advantage in today’s competitive work landscape. The MBA I chose offered a faculty with well-diversified business experience around the globe, a curriculum rooted in corporate problem solving, and student support that enabled me to gain leadership skills to advance my career.

Additional Information

Masters in Business Administration at UMGC

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