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How to choose your overseas MBA programme
Karan Gupta
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October 19, 2006

Sandeep Shah has decided to pursue his MBA at the University of Chicago. "Teamwork, leadership and analytical abilities are what I will gain from the university," he says. "With 35 per cent international students, my education at UC will be invaluable."  

Like many other students, Sandeep is now in the process of deciding which school to attend. Your two or four-year tuition investment and time are at stake, which is why it is in your best interests to carefully go through various criteria before finalising your school. 

How your MBA will help you

One of the most important things you can do is self-analysis. After determining what skills you want to develop, ask yourself the following:

Many MBA programmes are geared towards general management, while others offer specialisations in finance, accounting, international business, and so on. Skills and knowledge of the business world are constantly changing, which is why it is better to opt for a programme that regularly updates its courses and curriculum.

Teaching methods

The teaching method adopted by the school is also an important factor to consider. Know the difference between the 'case-study' approach and the 'theoretical' approach. Some MBA programmes have intensive tests, while others do not have tests at all. Many students would prefer torture to weekly tests. According to the web site of Dartmouth College's business school, "At Tuck, our approach is innovative, yet practical. The curriculum is as flexible as it is focused. Our faculty of respected scholars is accessible, involved, and dedicated to teaching. Our students are bright, accomplished, diverse, and down-to-earth." 

Even MBA programme directors expect students to be focused in their career goals and know what they want from the MBA programme. "We are looking for students who know what their career goals are," says Stephen Chambers, Dean of Admissions at Oxford University.

A word about rankings

There are several rankings such as the US News, ReportED rankings, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and so on. While students can consult these while deciding on their MBA programmes, it is worthwhile to note that rankings should be used as a subjective criterion, not as an ultimate measure of whether or not to attend a business school.

To find more information on the programme, go straight to the horse's mouth. Ask alumni and students currently at your prospective university about the programme you are interested in.

Thesis or work experience? 

Many MBA programmes require a major paper, called a thesis. This paper ascertains that you have an accepted level of mastery of your field. Some programmes offer the option of an internship and thesis. Check to see if your MBA programme has a thesis or internship requirement and whether the programme allows you the flexibility to choose between the two. If you have less work experience, you may just want an MBA programme that allows and requires an internship.

"I am looking for a part-time MBA because I don't want to quit my job in this economy," says Mohit Bhatia, an engineer at Honeywell [Get Quote] International, Arizona. "I need a weekend programme or a programme that allows maximum flexibility in terms of time commitment. Hence, Arizona State University is my best bet."

Narrow down your career choices and be sure you know which industry you would like to work in. Be practical and ask yourself if you can realistically afford the two-year investment. Also remember that you will be losing your earnings for the two years you are studying at a B-school.

Eventually, there is no right or wrong answer to the question: 'How do I choose my MBA programme?' There are many factors to consider in selecting an MBA programme, but your primary consideration should be how well the programme fits with your needs and aspirations. Don't just be intrigued by the three mystical letters -- M, B and A. Know why you want to pursue an MBA, what your career goals are and whether a particular programme will help you achieve your career goals or not.

You are about to embark on a path that will change your life. Choose it wisely.

Are you currently pursuing your MBA abroad? Why did you opt for this programme? Post your tips and experiences

-- The author Karan Gupta, founder of Karan Gupta Consulting, has been working as a professional counsellor since 1999. He studied at Ithaca College and The University of Texas at Austin in America. While pursuing his education he worked in the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid office and the International Office. Karan is currently the honorary study abroad counsellor at Jai Hind College, Mumbai and is also the founder and editor of ReportED, a study abroad education magazine. 

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