How Do You Know if You’re Ready for B-School?

Is there such a thing as a right time to apply for an MBA? Many prospective b-school applicants confront this question when they feel that their current career trajectory has stalled. For others, pursuing an MBA straight out of undergrad is a no-brainer, as they avoid putting their lives on hold for two years—and forgoing a potentially significant salary to do so.

While everyone’s timing for applying to business school varies depending on their circumstances, there are a few things you should be able to clearly articulate when you’re ready to take the plunge.

This week, the MBA blog published by the UV Darden School of Business poses four questions you should ask yourself to determine whether now’s the time to start cranking out those essays and rounding up your references. The advice is spot-on, and valid no matter where you plan to apply.

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  1. What are my career goals?

Darden says: Not everyone knows their specific career goals when heading to business school, but as a general rule, they have a pretty good idea. Maybe you want to move up within your current industry or company. Maybe you want to switch to an entirely different industry and need to build the foundation to get the job that you want. Or maybe you’re aspiring entrepreneur who wants to learn more about business so you can start one of your own. Business school can propel you in many directions, but you can also miss out on great opportunities if you don’t know what you are looking for.

2. Do I have enough work experience?

Darden says: Most MBA programs want you to have an average of four years of work experience. At Darden, the average age of students in our full-time program is 27. Having work experience is important because it teaches you how to work with a team, practice your leadership skills and learn more about the business world, which in turn will help you lay out your career goals.

3. Do I have the basic skills necessary to thrive in business school?

Darden says: While Darden looks for students with a wide range of experiences, there are certain skill sets that will come in handy as you embark on your MBA journey. One of those is quantitative analysis, which will be useful as soon as you start to study for the GMAT or GRE, and will continue to be helpful as you prepare to lead in the business world. If you didn’t take many quantitative classes in college, it might be helpful to brush up on your skills so you are ready for the first day of b-school.

4. Do I know what I’m looking for in an MBA program?

Darden says: There are all kinds of MBA programs around the world. Some are full-time; some allow you to work while you get your degree. Some excel at finance, while others specialize in general management or consulting.  The options are endless, so it is up to you to figure out which school is right for you.

It’s no surprise that an MBA expands your skill set and your network of contacts, as well as significantly increases your long-term earning potential. Candidates should talk with family, friends, and mentors—and potentially an MBA application adviser—early in the application process to determine where they are in the so-called “window” for business school.

But only you can judge when all of the necessary elements have come together to make the time right.

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Advice from an Early Career MBA

image credit: Flickr user Cam Evans (CC BY-ND 2.0)
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