On the one hand, in the business world in the West, and increasingly in the East, the abbreviation MBA has almost become a magic word. It creates high expectations(primarily in terms of career and income) and thus encourages many ambitious professionals all over the world to apply for it.

Myths about the MBA

On the other hand, the abound myths in relation to MBA (primarily related to gaining admission, the GMAT and the financial investment) discourage some very talented and capable people from ever thinking about taking an MBA programme. Some of these potential candidates tend to underestimate their chances of getting an MBA simply because they are excessively self-critical.

Business school ratings

In addition, the ratings of business schools come into play. For a considerable number of applicants, ratings actually played a controversial role. The issue is that many tend to accept ratings as “the lists” of programmes to which they “should” apply, but often these schools may simply not be the right match. Christophe Coutat, the founder of Access MBA, recently expressed concern that “Most MBA candidates I meet just daydream about doing an MBA in top-ranking schools”.

Another limitation of ratings is that they provide little direct orientation on criteria (i.e. programme content) crucial for a successful MBA experience. Making choices based solely on ratings can easily result in disappointment with your MBA application. Programmes worth your commitment and investment are those which are relevant your experience, your career goals and the required return on your investment, not necessarily those listed in one or another rating.

How do you find a solid foundation for success in a context dominated by glory, myths and an elitist approach to the MBA? Most of us experience an MBA programme only once in a lifetime. Although MBA applicants are adults, educated and responsible professionals, it is a challenge that almost all of them face for the first and only time in their lives.

So once you begin thinking about an MBA, get to know it thoroughly. Professional advice in this process is rewarding and considerably increases your chances of success. The next step will be much easier and better-founded.

Evaluate Commitments

“...Students are open, sociable, engaging and hard-working, with a strong drive and the will to succeed”, according to professor Jorge Bento Farinha, Director the Magellan MBA, EGPMBA students have to be committed. On the one hand, MBA programmes are very intensive and demanding. On the other, unlike during undergraduate and Master’s degree studies, MBA students, particularly executive MBA students, already have considerable responsibilities that they need to balance properly in order to accommodate the MBA in addition. Their social and family commitments are important factors in addition to their business. Moreover, candidates are recommended to obtain the support of their employers and to adjust their business targets for the period of their studies, especially if they are undertaking a part-time, distance, modular or executive MBA format programmes.

How can the MBA experience go wrong?

To be truly realistic, you have to be aware of the possibility of failure.

MBA application rejection. Rejection may mean that you either do not qualify for the programme (have not selected the schools adequately) or that there were a sufficient number of more suitable applicants than you. You need to analyse the reason in order to decide on further action.

Conditional admission or entry on a waiting list. Some programmes offer conditional admission to candidates who have the right profile but need to improve some of their skills, e.g. language or analytical. This is a good sign, but you will have to focus on the improvements required.

Deferred enrolment. The most common reason for deferral is insufficient funding, which means that applicants have not planned their resources adequately. Other reasons, especially for all part-time delivery modes, are usually business commitments, promotion or anew job. Deferral is seldom a good option.

Failure during MBA studies. Failure during the programme may be caused by unbalanced commitments leading to failure to keep up with the demanding requirements of the MBA or by unrealistic expectations about the programme (see Stage 2 and 3 below). Failure has direct implications for your image and can ruin your networking and partnership opportunities, which are often a major benefit of MBA studies.

How do you know if the MBA experience is right for you?

There are two separate realities that you should study in detail: yourself and the MBA experience. Only then you can decide how they fit together. Below is a structured outline of what an MBA candidate will have to do and what professional tools and assistance are typically available at each stage. You commitment to this stage of research is critical for a rewarding MBA experience.

Stage 1. Know yourself and your capacity

Professor Michael Luger, Director of the Manchester Business School summarizes: “Evidence that doing an MBA at the particular school is part of a well-thought-out career development strategy and that career aspirations are realistic with this MBA are a key that we are looking for in MBA applicants.” Rose Martinelli, Student Recruitment and Admissions at Chicago Booth, further advises “Know yourself and do not limit your self-assessment and reflection to work and school alone.”

Stage 2. Know the MBA experience

You will also contribute a lot and work intensively throughout the programme.” Notes Professor Jorge Bento Farinha, Director of Magellan MBA, EGP

Stage 3. Decide how you and the MBA fit together

“The admissions process is all about the right fit. We want to help you figure out if this is the right place for your background, career goals, learning styles and personal interests” explains J.J. Cutler, Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at the Wharton School. But you need to make your own evaluation before the Admissions Committee takes its decision. You are the one to choose. At this stage you will definitely be ready to start planning and preparing a well-informed and targeted MBA application. The latest 2010 MBA Reach data show that most active MBA candidates expect to obtain an MBA degree within the next one or two years. MBA coaching practice reveals that it may take up to 3 years on average before you decide to go ahead.

Be open to professional advice, new opportunities and different perspectives so that you can achieve your MBA. The sky is the limit for your dreams. Realism, well-considered action and commitment will take you there.