This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
Information in this section has been taken from the Guardian
“What can an MBA do for you? Make you richer? Propel your career? Help you change direction entirely? It is a broad business degree for professionals with several years [of] experience, but it is more than the sum of its parts”.
A Master’s in Business Administration attracts individuals from a range of backgrounds, whether those be engineers, military office, computer scientists/coders, charity entrepreneurs or even those who come from a Humanities-based background. They also appeal to a number of people who are interested in finance and consulting.
Most MBA schools have a broad curriculum, and a number of options for you to choose to specialize in: they are designed to provide technical training while also focusing on the development of “soft skills” like leadership, empathy, and global awareness.
If you are interested in developing your skills further for the corporate sector, you should definitely consider doing an MBA. The degree traditionally provides a concrete route into some “lucrative sectors” like “investment banking” and “consulting”. The degree is particularly attractive for hopeful entrepreneurs; many schools have incubator centers to allow students to have their own start-ups (while getting support and advice from their school). This information has been extracted from UK-based sources. Opportunities in Pakistan (and other countries) may be different. You are advised to do some research on this before choosing to apply.
MBAs can be very expensive, particularly in some parts of the UK, and they may not always guarantee a high salary. In addition to that, the course content can also be challenging: it could include some finance and accounting based modules even if you are in the marketing specialty.
TYPES OF DEGREE
In a nutshell, the following degrees + subfields/ specializations are available for Business Administration:
- Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) with specializations in:
- Human Resource Management
- Information Technology
- Operations Management
Note: this may not be an exhaustive list, so you should check your prospective university websites to see if other specializations are available.
- Executive MBA (this is a part-time degree for older professionals, who are working full-time. It does require “some deft time management and intensive periods of study” (Guardian).)
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees/specializations within this field)
It is recommended that when deciding between an MBA or Executive MBA, you should go through this resource.
There will be a number of things that will influence your decision regarding which area you want to specialize in. You could choose a field on the basis of:
- Job availability: which specializations have the highest market demand currently? -- note: market demand will vary by country. So for instance, if you are hoping to work in Pakistan after finishing your degree, you should look at the market demand and job availability in Pakistan. Does having an MBA with that specialization help in getting a job?
- Your own personal interests and goals: perhaps, you are interested in consultancy and want to specialize in that, or you are interested in developing some IT-related skills, or you are trying to gain more experience for a specific job or a higher compensation package. Whatever your reason it, make sure you think about it comprehensively before selecting your specialization.
You can click here to find more detail about each specialization. You should also go through your prospective course website to see what the different specialization offers.
You can also check out the following tip-sheets if you are interested in some of the specializations listed below:
- Master’s in Information Technology
- MSc Finance
- MSc Accounting
- If you are trying to decide between doing an MBA from USA or an MBA from the UK/other countries, you should go through this resource which contains an interview with Cassandra Pittman (a Columbia MBA alumnus, a former London Business School Admissions Officer, and INSEAD Associate Director). She talks about the key elements you should be considering when deciding which country to study in.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
Most programs accept students from almost all backgrounds. As long as you have an undergraduate degree from a recognized/accredited university, you will be considered for admission.
Although students from all academic backgrounds are considered, taking some business-oriented courses during your undergraduate career could definitely be helpful.
The MBA is a demanding program and requires you to have skills that will allow you to quickly absorb new information in an evolving world. For that reason, admission committees need the reassurance that you will be able to meet the intellectual requirements of the program. Most top-tier/competitive schools want prospective students to have first-class honors (or at least upper second class honors) or its equivalent (60-75%). Some universities, for instance, will require you to be in the top 25 percent of your class. These are the general requirements for the top-ranked universities; some places may have less stringent requirements.
Typically not required.
Top MBA programs typically require a few years of work experience (after completing your undergraduate degree), showing a consistent career progression. You do not necessarily need to come from business, entrepreneurial or finance backgrounds; candidates from non-traditional backgrounds are also admitted. Your professional experience should display your leadership/management experience and potential (showing your ability to strategize, make decisions, manage different parts of organization etc.).
In some places, international exposure and entrepreneurial experience (although not a requirement) is greatly valued. Having the ability to work positively and collaboratively in teams, and communicating effectively are also skills that are greatly valued.
For more specific information on what kind of experience is required or recommended at your prospective university, please make sure you visit its website.
Typically not required, but you should check your prospective university website to confirm this.
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
Your MBA application will require the following components: statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, transcripts, standardized test scores and a CV or resume. Typically your statement/essays, resume and recommendations will be the most important part of your application. Your test scores may also be quite important, especially for some of the top universities. Interviews will also be very important in some places.
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Standardized tests or entry exams
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
Very Important, when they take place
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
You may be required to submit one statement as a part of your MBA application, or you may need to complete as many as three admissions essays. The exact requirement will vary by university. The main purpose of the essay(s), irrespective of the form they may take, is to provide your prospective program with information about what goals you have, how have they influenced your professional and academic life and why you wish to do an MBA.
It is extremely important that you make sure that each application is customized to each school: just because your application was suitable for Program X does not necessarily make it compelling enough for Program Y. You need to craft each application in such a way that you appear well-acquainted with the program’s unique offerings and you have given considerable thought to what you can contribute to the program and what you can gain from it (Fortuna Admissions).
Many universities will give you specific prompts for your admission essay(s). These can be on leadership, personal growth, your short-term and long-term goals, diversity or they could be open-ended. For a brief overview of how you should tackle each prompt, please go through the ‘Essay Sample Prompts’ section in this link.
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
It is recommended that you write your own statement, and not use some pre-prepared format. Just give yourself enough time to do it.
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- Make sure you can show the connection between what the program is offering and your personal interests and ambitions. This connection should be as clear and as personal as possible. You need to clearly identify what it is about this particular program that makes you want to pursue your MBA there.
- Identify your goals as clearly as possible (both short-term and long-term goals, and show the connection between the two: how will achieving your short-term goals help you reach your long-term goals?
- You can talk about your past accomplishments and/or experiences, but make sure they are relevant to the MBA program you are applying to. MBA admissions committees like to select students who will integrate well in their university. If you have managed to gain some valuable skills (like leadership, good communication skills, problem-solving skills etc.) through these experiences, you can talk about those too. That does not mean that you should simply say: “I have strong communication skills and therefore, I make a good MBA candidate”. You need to give specific examples, talk about a few instances in which you have displayed those strong communication skills. Make sure you always give evidence for your claims.
- Your career goals: this is important for two reasons; one, it shows the committee that you are a determined and career-oriented person, and second, it will show the committee that you are well-aware of what you want from your MBA and how it will help you achieve your future goals.
- It is okay to talk about your weaknesses or any challenges you may have faced -- but do so positively. Talk about how you managed to overcome that weakness or challenge. Not only will that make you come across as a candidate who is self-aware but also one who is flexible and willing to learn.
- Make sure your essay is sincere and personalized. Usage of generic sentences and attempts to say the “right thing” just for the sake of saying it could harm your application.
- Make your essay is well-written: you need to be able to express yourself in a thoughtful, sophisticated and concise manner.
What are bad statements/ what things to avoid:
- Your statement/essay is not supposed to be a retelling of your resume. If you need to discuss your career progress, make it a small part of your essay (10-15% of it).
- Avoid generic statements: you should not say the right thing, just for the sake of saying the right thing. Make sure you are sincere in whatever you are writing.
How can applicants manage the process of writing?
- If you have managed to form trusted alumni or student connections, you could ask them to review your essays or offer some feedback. Their firsthand experiences might be invaluable, and they would be able to give some very helpful critique.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
Your letters of recommendation are the only part of your MBA application that are written by a third party. They are the only component that you have no control over and therefore, are absolutely critical. Universities will use your letters to check your academic potential, your hard and soft skills, and most importantly, your personality. They also serve a ‘corroborative function’ -- they allow the admissions committee to check if everything you have stated in your essay is actually accurate.
Please visit your university-specific website to find out how you ought to go about selecting your recommenders. Some universities will only want professional references; others may be willing to accept some academic references as well. Make sure you follow whatever your university recommends.
- Make sure you brief your recommender on the program you are applying to and other components of your application. You should ideally meet with them and share your future plans, your vision, experience and how this particular program is going to benefit you. Doing this groundwork will “allow your recommenders to include specific snippets that might resonate with your school in their recommendation letter”.
- You should also share your resume, essay, and your goals (why you need an MBA, what are your post-MBA goals) with them so that they can help you tell your story.
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Some universities may require interviews, others may not. You should visit your prospective university website to find out: if interviews take place; if so, how are they conducted for international applicants (online or in-person) and who they are conducted for (all applicants or shortlisted applicants) and how you ought to be preparing for an interview. Make sure you follow the advice written on your university website. For some general tips on interviews, please read below.
- Here is a list of general questions that MBA admissions committees may ask in interviews (note: this is not specific to universities in the UK, but you can expect some of these questions in the interview).
- One of the questions the unexpected question that some interviewers may ask is: which other schools are you applying to? Although this question may seem tricky to answer, admissions committees are usually using it as a way of assessing your “knowledge of their program’s values, culture and unique value proposition”. Amu Hugo, former London Business School Manager of Admissions and Recruitment, says “of course they also know that you are applying to other programs -- they expect that and it is a sensible thing to do”. To get an acceptance from their program, you need to show them why their program is the right fit for you and why you are passionate about gaining admission in it (Fortuna Admissions).
The resume is usually a critical component in your MBA application. Admissions committees do read your resume carefully in order to familiarize themselves with your educational and professional achievements. Try to keep it to two pages for UK universities (or whatever your prospective program specifies as the maximum length). The formatting should be simple: use a simple and professional font and do not use more than two font sizes. You should usually try to present your experience in reverse chronological order.
- This resource, developed by the University of Cambridge, gives advice to applicants on how they should be creating their CV. While this resource is specific to one university, it can give you insight into how you should ideally construct your CV. In addition to that, you should also try to find similar resources on your prospective university website -- that can help you curate a CV.
- This link gives advice to MBA students on how they ought to create their CVs when applying for jobs. Although this is not directly relevant to MBA applicants, it can still give you an overview of how you should be drafting your CV in a way that makes it readable and impactful.
Some places prefer the GMAT, others prefer the GRE, some may let you choose which of the two you want to take. Look at your prospective program websites to find out which tests you need to take.
So how important are the GMAT/GRE scores?
University of Cambridge Admissions Director Judge Business School, Conrad Chua (interview in 2013) says he usually looks at GMAT/GRE scores and academics of candidates first -- to ascertain if a “candidate is academically capable of handling the intense pace of the MBA”. Ensure that you submit your best possible GMAT/GRE scores, especially if you are applying to the top programs. Generally, the top universities will require the highest scores. But you should note that your GMAT/GRE score will never be looked at in isolation -- other aspects of your profile will be considered by the admissions committee when they decide whether or not you should be accepted. A perfect score alone will not guarantee admission.
Additionally, most programs in the UK will require you to take an English language proficiency test: either the IELTS or the TOEFL. Most websites will specify the minimum scores they require in these tests, so do make sure you are meeting those criteria.
FINAL COMMENTS ON APPLICATIONS
- Before applying to a particular program, think about your motivations -- what are you looking for in an MBA. Make sure you conduct ample research on your areas/sectors of interest. Find someone who is currently working in your target sector and ask them about their work experiences and environment. Discuss with them the benefits of getting an MBA -- how much would it help you in getting your dream job - University of Cambridge Admissions Director Judge Business School, Conrad Chua (interview in 2013)
- Some universities encourage their prospective students to reach out to admissions, contact their alumni and build a thorough understanding of the program and the school - Emma Bond, who used to be a Senior Member of LBS’s (London Business School) MBA Admissions Committee). She also says that international applicants should “identify something interesting about themselves” and talk about in the second “optional essay” (if there is one) -- this will be a good way for you to tell the admissions committee what your unique selling point is and why you are an asset to their course (interview in 2017)
- Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on final comments on applications (under the tab of ‘overview’).
This section will cover approximate costs of the program and provide information of resources that may help with funding. Complement the following field-specific tips with general tips on finances (under the tab of ‘finances’).
Which resources can I find useful?
- Many students fund their degrees through personal savings, loans, scholarships (or even a combination of all). Some UK universities also offer bursaries.
Conrad Chua (Admissions Director, Cambridge) advises: Budget for your MBA carefully; there will be unplanned-for-activities so it is vital to building in a lot of financial buffers.
These tips were compiled with the valuable help of SHAHEEN volunteers.
We thank our volunteers for their contribution, and hope their tips and advice help you in your application.
In addition, the following sources were consulted in developing this tip-sheet and we encourage you to consult these sources for additional information and guidance on your application.
Furthermore, the following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet: LSBF, The Guardian, Fortuna Admissions Interview Questions, University of Cambridge JBS, Fortuna Admissions: Which MBA is right for you?, MBA Crystal Ball - GMAT, Fortuna Admissions - Why now is a good time to apply for an international MBA, BMMagazine, The Complete University Guide, MBA Crystal Ball - Specializations, MBA Judge Interview, CV writing - Kent, Cambridge - CV guidelines