This page is sponsored by MBA@UNC, an innovative MBA program offered by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School that lets you enjoy the flexibility of an online program combined with the top-quality business education offered on UNC’s campus. Learn more about the MBA@UNC.
Looking at an MBA program can be a very analytical process, as the use of rankings, return on investment (ROI) data and costs associated with earning the degree all need to be taken into account. However the “fit” of the program can be a key component in student satisfaction, though one that’s harder to measure.
When considering the fit of an MBA program, you want to assess several factors; first and foremost, what type of program you decide to enroll in. Determining whether or not to enroll in a part-time program, a full-time program, an executive program or an online program such as MBA@UNC, offered by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, is the first step in finding the right fit. When looking at these various program options, one should think about where they have been in their career, where they are now and where they want to go. Determining the format of an MBA program is the most important part of the fit piece.
Once you have determined which program type, you will need to determine the best school fit for your career needs. These are some aspects to consider:
Location is important for multiple reasons: First, the location of a school will have a heavy influence on your final career path. Many full-time MBA programs are much stronger in the region in which they reside and have heavy job placements in that area. Furthermore, if you’re looking to work in a particular location of the country, attending an MBA program in that area can be advantageous. For example, if you want to move to the Pacific Northwest, the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business places the majority of its alums in that region.
Another key component of location are the companies and industries represented in the area, and which ones you will have an opportunity to interact with while in the program. If you’re looking for a career in the automotive industry, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Michigan State University’s Eli Broad School of Management are natural fits due to their proximity to Detroit.
Finally, one needs to think about the location in terms of lifestyle. You will be living in this city for two years, so ask yourself, “Will I be happy personally living here?” If you’re not happy with a town that you live in, it will be harder for you to be successful as an MBA student. MBA programs are located in major cities, mid-market cities, as well as rural areas, so finding a location that best fits your lifestyle and personal needs is easily found. For students looking to avoid relocation due to professional or familial obligations, online MBAs are a particularly viable option.
Size varies from program to program and is another factor in determining where you will best fit. The Harvard Business School is annually the largest top 25 full-time MBA program, with an annual intake of approximately 900 students. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management is annually the smallest top 25 full-time MBA program, with an annual intake of approximately 110 students.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both large and small programs. Larger programs offer you the opportunity to network with more students, however small programs typically allow you to form closer relationships with classmates and former a tighter network. Larger programs offer a wider range of electives due to higher demand, but smaller programs can offer smaller class sizes.
As you determine what size program you want to attend, think about what type of learning environment you want to be a part of, and how the size of the program will impact your academic and professional careers.
If you are interested in a part-time or online program, you’ll likely want one that will be just part of your life, rather than your whole life. The flexibility of the program becomes a piece that needs to work well with your work schedule. Are classes held in the evening or on the weekends? Is the program delivered via a structured cohort or do you chose when you will take classes? Does the program need to be finished in a prescribed time or can a semester be taken off? Mapping out an academic timeline and how it fits with your professional and personal lives is a good first step in determining how the flexibility of a part-time or online program will fit into your career.
By the time you’re applying to an MBA program, you’ll have been in school long enough to know in which circumstances you best learn. Do you benefit most from a tradition lecture-style class? Or do you prefer more active discussion, like the kind encouraged in the case study model? Do you like to get hands-on in real world situations through experiential learning? Different schools emphasize different teaching methodologies, so you should search for programs that cater to the way you learn best.
There are also multiple teaching methods for online MBA programs, which may affect your choice of which online MBA program to enroll in. In the most traditional model, a professor assigns readings, assignments and quizzes to students via online message board or digital classrooms, and students complete the work on their own time. However, newer programs use recent technological advances to simulate a real-time classroom experience through enhanced video conferencing. Determining which delivery method is more attractive to you can be a huge help in deciding on an online program.