Guide books for MBA Candidates
August 28, 2008 6:45 AM   Subscribe

I need suggestions for a good MBA program guidebook, and anything else that will help me be a good MBA candidate.

I am looking into applying to full-time business school for admittance in fall of 2010 (will probably focus on general management or operations). I would like a book on business school programs to jumpstart my search. I've tried looking online, but it's all too much- I need an organized place to start from. I want information on classes, curriculum, professors, special programs. The book I got at the library ("The Business School Buzz Book") is utterly worthless- students saying the same thing about every school. I want clues that will help me begin to diffentiate between programs as I decide where to visit and apply to.

Also, anything else that you think might be helpful in preparing me for the application process (I'm all set for GMAT help)- books, things I should study, anything that will help make me a more attractive candidate. I have time, and I want to make the best of it.
posted by anonymous to Education (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
People typically work backwards from their particulars-- they look at their stats and identify, say, the 10-20 best schools that they have a chance of getting admitted to, and then start crossing schools off the list for a variety of reasons.

Core curricula and the like should be readily available on the website of each school.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:14 AM on August 28, 2008

Honestly, your frustration may be because MBA programs are significantly interchangeable. The reason students say the same thing about every school is because there aren't significant differences between them. Various entities rank graduate programs, including MBA programs, but unlike disciplines like finance or accounting, "business" isn't particularly well-defined, and the field is marked by what would be considered an utterly disastrous lack of rigor even by other professional degrees, such as law. As a result, "special programs," curricular differences, etc. don't make nearly as much of a difference as going to the most prestigious school you can get into. Why? Because MBA programs are at least as much about networking as they are about education. The information you're looking for probably doesn't actually matter.

In short, you need to have the best grades you can, from the best undergraduate school you can, with the best test scores you can. Throw in a few years of management experience--many MBA students don't go straight from undergrad, but are sent back to school by their employers--and you'll do okay. Even better, get a "real" major like engineering, biology, or even something like philosophy or history rather than business, because it shows that you're capable of doing actual academic work (marketing, business, and management classes simply don't count).
posted by valkyryn at 8:15 AM on August 28, 2008

When I was going through this process I was deeply amused by the MBA guides and rankings, because it seemed like their main purpose was to allow the publisher to have a different #1 school than any other publisher, regardless of how they had to torture the data to do it. And in terms of a "how to get in" guide, I never saw a good one. So you have my sympathies.

Since I can't recommend a book, let me try to address your underlying questions....

First thing to decide is WHY you want an MBA. I'm not questioning whether to get one (though you might want to do that too), but what you want to get out of it will influence where you would want to go, and that will influence what makes you a "good" candidate. For example, if you want to follow the classic path of consulting firm / investment bank, you should (a) get your head examined ;-) , and (b) go to a top-tier school where those companies actually recruit.

In terms of which school to go to, my TOTALLY BIASED, limited thoughts:
(1) Top schools (HBS, Stanford, Wharton, maybe Berkeley, Kellogg and Chicago, maybe a couple others) are the way to go for maximum flexibility. The top firms will recruit there, and if you want to work somewhere that doesn't recruit there, nobody will turn away your application. In general, they're not more expensive than other schools, though harder to get into.
(2) Local schools are fine if your aim is to improve your finance/business cred for local jobs. If your aim is to work for one of the big MBA recruiters (e.g., McKinsey) be aware that they MIGHT recruit at a school like Emory for their Atlanta office, but are unlikely to hire Emory students for the locations with more competition (NYC, San Francisco, etc.)
(3) Some schools do have specific associations:
- HBS is good for getting "the H-Bomb" on your resume. Great for life-long networking. For men, it can have an aphrodisiac effect on a particular type of woman. Large class size. All classes are taught using the case method, which some like and some don't. Classmates can get competitive. Boston is cold.
- Stanford is great for Silicon Valley / Bay Area networking, though weaker for other parts of the country/world. Strong entrepreneurship program. Relatively small class size. Classmates typically don't get competitive, it's a pretty collaborative environment. Palo Alto has nice weather.
- Wharton is known as a feeder school for Wall Street and finance-type jobs. Philadelphia is cold, and farther from New York than they'd have you believe.
- INSEAD (in France) is good if you want to do international business, but US recruiters don't really consider it a top school. You need to speak at least 2 languages and commit to studying a third. Fontainbleau is a small town and farther from Paris than they'd have you believe.
- Kellogg has a reputation as a "marketing" school, but I don't know if that's really true
- Chicago has a reputation as an "econ" school, but I don't know if that's really true
- Berkeley has a good reputation for entrepreneurship, and has cheaper tuition if you're a California resident. Recruiters may ask you go down to Stanford for their presentations

In terms of getting into schools, spend LOTS of time on your application essays. Be sure to incorporate their marketing spin tailor your message accordingly. Ask friends who went to b-school to review your essays. If you don't have any, consider hiring an essay coach. ('s MBA message boards are full of them.)

Also, as you've pointed out, GMAT is key. You'll want to score 75th %ile in each category (NOT aggregate) before you apply to top-tier schools.

The other elements are college grades (not much you can do at this point), written recommendations (start cozying up to bosses / clients NOW), and interviews (like a job interview, but with admissions).

Good luck to you!
posted by CruiseSavvy at 1:50 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older Where to kitesurf in Europe?   |   He's the employee from heaven AND from hell. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.