However, success is rooted at the earlier stages of your MBA decision-making. Looking beyond MBA admission to your post-MBA goals and the skills you need will give you the milestones for the selection of the right school and help you build a strong application.

Your Goals

Your MBA will be a considerable investment of your time, effort and money. Thus, it has to serve your ultimate goal – to achieve the professional success and personal life-style to which you aspire. Traditionally, an MBA degree helps you grow to a higher management position in your company or sector, change the company or the industry, move to management consulting or start your own business.

Business schools care more and more whether they can help you achieve your post MBA goals. A perfect illustration is that some schools, (i.e. IMD, Chicago Booth) have career placement experts involved in the admissions process and their role is to evaluate how realistic your career goals are in relation to what the school can offer you through the programme and its career services.

Claire Lecoq, IMD Director of Admissions, Marketing and Career Services, explains what the relationship is between career services and admissions:

“I am involved in all the offers we extend to participants to come in. I have already an eye on their career objectives. This is my specific mission when I look at the file of the candidate. If the career goal in your application seems to us either difficult to reach or too vague, we try to give you specific advice at this stage. It is better that you know now [during application] than later”.

Your MBA Must Be Adequate

The classical MBA is a general management training which equips you with the full scope of soft skills and knowledge to understand business and feel confident to operate in a business environment. There are thousands of MBA programmes and each of them is different. The diversity of MBA offerings has never been greater because business schools are very responsive to the needs of the market. They benefit from their close relationship with the corporate world and adapt their programmes to current demands and future trends MBA applicants over the past 10 years, and even more today, have been privileged to be able to choose programmes which really fit most of their preferences:

• Location (local, international, cooperative or multi campus );

•Programme content (general management, specialized via electives (finance, consulting, strategy, etc.), or focused in a certain industry – MBA in Oil and Gas; Aviation, Luxury, etc.);

•Delivery mode (full-time, part-time, executive/ modular, distance/online);

•International exposure (international student body, campus rotations, international study trips and company visits, semester abroad; immersion programmes);

•Career services (career advising, corporate projects, leadership programmes, recruitment on campus).

Because of this great diversity the choice of an MBA programme is difficult. You need to do a lot of research and to learn how to read between the lines of schools’ marketing presentations. Some efficient approaches for a focused MBA selection are:

• Clarify the added value which you expect of your MBA. Is it the business network, immersing in a particular region, career placement, specific knowledge and/or skills?

• Work with an independent orientation expert who will select or shortlist the best MBAs for you. Make sure that the expert you are contacting is not an agent recruiting students for particular schools or programmes. Only an independent consultant will work in your best interest and research all offerings to identify the best match for your profile, needs and post MBA goals.

• If you use online school finder tools, before relying on the search results, check the number and types of MBA programmes included in the database, the criteria you can use for your selection, and how up-to-date the data is.

Be authentic, relevant and unique

Just as you are selecting your MBAs, schools are also looking for the right students. The win-win situation is to achieve a genuine match between you (profile, goals, and potential) and your selected programmes. If you have clearly formulated your goals and carefully identified the programmes, the next step is to present yourself in the most authentic, informative and relevant way to each programme you are applying to.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

•Start early with the preparation of your application and submit early before the deadline.

• Communicate with the admissions office to clarify all details.

• Be open to advice from current students and alumni, but consider their subjectivity and bias.

• Always be prepared, professional and focused during your communication with the school.

• Work on the application as a pack-age. Do not submit documents before you have completed all elements (resume, essays, application form, etc.) and make sure they convey to the school everything you want.

• Work on your MBA resume first and make sure it is relevant to each MBA programme.

• Start brainstorming on your essays immediately and commit at least a month to finalize. Essays are your best tool to tell the admissions committee about yourself, to give the arguments about your MBA choice, and to illustrate your potential for success

Why the GMAT

Most business school will require you to take the Graduate Management Admission Test. It will be helpful to know that GMAT tests the skills which you will need in the MBA classroom, during discussions, team work, projects and exams. So, do not think about the GMAT just a as a score, a barrier to your admission, neither as a golden key to it. Think of is a development tool. Preparing to score high on the GMAT will build skills transferable to the MBA, and then into the real business routine.

A good score for admission is definitely above the average score of the MBA programmes to which you are applying. A high GMAT score always attracts the attention of the admissions committees. An outstanding score can sometimes compensate for shortcomings in other elements application and often helps when applying for a scholarship.

Still the GMAT is just one element of the application package. A competitive GMAT score alone will not get you in, and a lower GMAT can sometimes be compensated by other elements of the application. The GMAT is totally within your control, so you should aim high and commit to preparation.

If you are ready to begin your MBA journey, start now. Think beyond MBA admission and clarify the practical value of an MBA for you. Select carefully and reach your best MBA match with an outstanding application portfolio.