In choosing an MBA program, you will want to identify programs that fit your basic requirements. There are two
aspects to this:


- what you want to learn and gain
from the program, the type of experience you want to have.

- the practical


As regards your needs,
you will want to ask questions like:

  • Is it the
    right program structure for me?
  • Is the content
    what I want?
  • Is the focus
    what I want ?
  • Are there
    electives that I will be interested in?


As regards you
circumstances you will want to think about questions such as:

  • Does the
    program run where I am or want to be?
  • Is the
    duration right for me?
  • Can I give it
    the time it will require?
  • Is the start
    date right for me?
  • Can I afford
    the fee, plus the other costs, e.g., living expenses, materials etc?


Then there are other questions:

Will the program have
people like you on it?

Particularly on taught
programs, a lot of what you will gain will be from interaction with and
learning from other participants, so you need to ensure that they are not very
different from you. In particular, check that they have a similar amount of
experience to draw upon, or have held jobs at similar levels to you. You might
not want to be on a program where most others were very much older or younger
than you. In other respects you will want to ensure that there is some
difference. For example, you may want to check that there will be people from a
range of backgrounds and cultures. The twin issues are the level of the people
and the diversity of the group.


What learning or
teaching methods will be used on the program?

People learn
differently, so check that it will suit you. For example will there be a lot of
group working and if so is that something you will enjoy and be good at? Will
there be a lot of case study work - and if so are you good at reading a lot,
quickly and absorbing information in this way. Will there be an emphasis on
lecturing - will this suit you? Perhaps project work will be important - so do
you have much experience of investigating things, preparing reports and making
presentations? Of course you will be going on a program to develop your skills
- so you will not be good at everything - but overall you will want to ensure
that the style of the program will suit you.


How will you be

The assessment methods
used on programs differ - exams, of various types: assignments; presentations;
individual and group based assessments, etc. What will suit you? Are you good
at writing exams under controlled conditions, etc? Of course it may be some
time since you had to submit to some form of assessment - so you may just want
to think about the overall balance of the assessment in a program - e.g. the
proportion represented by exams versus other forms of assessment. The point
raised above about going on a program to get better at something doesn't really
apply in this case - so try to be sure that the approaches used in the program
will suit you.


How much work will be

Naturally you will
want a program which is demanding. - but nevertheless achievable. Typically how
much time will you need to put in? How much time and how frequently will you
need to be at the Business School? Can you cope with these requirements? Will it
fit your domestic or job situation? That's not the same as asking if you can
fit it in without any effect on anything else - such a program may not be worth
very much to you.


How achievable is the

What is the success
rate of the program - i.e. the pass rate? Do those that fail do so for academic
reasons - or just because they drop out? What would either of these things
indicate? Remember - whatever the situation of those who have done a program before
you - your objective is to get an MBA - so you need to know why others didn't.


How easy is it to get
onto the program?

Getting an MBA is one
thing - getting one which is respected and recognized is sometimes another. The
status of a program will often be reflected in the competition to get into it.
So you may want to know about how many applications a program gets - and what
proportion are admitted. Such figures can be deceptive - since the number of
enquiries is not the same as the number of applications and the number of
offers of admission made is not the same as the number which join a program.
You can also compare the number of places available on a program - as
identified in the entries in the database - with the actual number that entered
the program last year. You will have to ask for the latter. If the actual is
less than the number of places made available it may indicate that the demand
for the program was not as high as had been hoped by the school. The data you
get in either of these ways will probably mainly be of use in making
comparisons of courses. You will want to assess the strength of your own candidacy
for a program, since whilst it will be good to know that there is big demand to
get into a program - you will only apply if you think that you might be one of
those that succeed. So you will aim for a balance - i.e. a good entry
competition in which you have a good chance of succeeding.


Will I get a good job?

If you are going to do
an MBA in order to get a new job on completion, how much will the program help
you? Is there an appointments service provided through which potential
employers visit the school to interview candidates before they graduate? Will
others on the program also be looking for a job - or will they be returning to
the organization they came/come from? You don't want to be one in a few whose
circumstances are different. How highly regarded is the program by the type of
employer you might be interested in? Have they recruited from the program
before? Is there an alumni group/network which helps with


What support will
there be?

If you are planning to
do a Distance Learning MBA what support, such as tutor contact, face to face
contact, contact with other participants, is provided? How important is this
seen to be by the school - because it could make all the difference between a
solitary life and one where you are able to work with others.


Will you be expected
to make contact with others at your stage of the program? Will all those who
start at the same time be put together as a group to work together or are you
going to be alone?


Is there electronic
support, such as computer conferencing or video-conferencing. If so what
proportion of participants use it and what technology do you need?


Some similar
considerations will apply if you are planning to do a part time or modular
program. You will want to know what opportunity/requirement is there for
contact between participants when they are not at the school? Will there be
access to the facilities and faculty when the school is held, such as is the
case in between sessions?


Is this an established

Age is not necessarily
related to quality, but you might like to check how long the program has been
running. If it is well established it is more likely to be well known. On the
other hand if it has been running for some time you might like to find out when
there were last any significant changes to the structure, content, or syllabus,
since a program that does not change is soon likely to be out of date.


How is this program

Newspapers and
magazines occasionally publish rankings. Some relate to schools and all that
they do - while some relate specifically to MBA programs. Such rankings aim to
give some indication of how well regarded certain programs are, but the
information must be used with some caution.


How important is this
program to the school?

Is this a mainstream
program for the school or a fringe activity? If the former you can be
reasonably sure the faculty will give their best. If the latter, check more
closely. If it is well established then good, but ask about intake numbers in
previous years. Is the program growing, stable or declining? If the latter, ask
why. All of these matters are to do with the significance of the program to the
school and thus your significance as a member of that program.

Republished with permission from The MBA Program Information Site (, a comprehensive source
of information on MBA programs.