There’s a lot of advice out there for MBA students, and it can be tough to sort the good from the bad. With so many different sources of information, it can be difficult to know who to listen to and what MBA advice is worth following.
Whether you’re applying to MBA programs, a current MBA student, or a recent graduate, you will have likely heard some variation of much of the following advice, for better and for worse.
Prospective MBA Students
As anyone going through the MBA application process knows, there is no shortage of advice from friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers who will all have something to say about your chances of getting into a top business school. And while some of this advice may be helpful, much of it will be outdated or simply incorrect. With so much information to sift through, it can be challenging to know what to believe.
How to Get into an MBA Program
Good Advice: Take the time to research different programs and find the one that best suits your needs and interests.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to MBA programs, so it is essential to find the one that will give you the skills and knowledge you need to achieve your goals.
Bad Advice: You don’t stand a chance of getting into a good MBA program because you didn’t attend a prestigious undergrad school.
Admissions officers care much more about whether you excelled in undergrad and demonstrated leadership capabilities than the school you attended.
MBA Admissions Advice
Good Advice: Don’t be afraid to ask for help with the admissions process.
A lot goes into the admissions process, so don’t hesitate to reach out to the admissions departments of the schools you apply to. They will be more than happy to answer any questions that may arise.
Bad Advice: If you have really high test scores and an excellent GPA, you’re a shoo-in at any MBA school.
There are an array of factors that go into an admissions department’s decision whether to accept or deny your application, and high scores aren’t considered the end-all-be-all. If you test well but demonstrate a toxic attitude or lack leadership capabilities, you are by no means guaranteed acceptance into your program of choice.
MBA Application Advice
Good Advice: Submit your application early.
The earlier you submit your application, the better. It’ll ensure your application review isn’t rushed at the last moment, give you time to follow up if you realize you missed something, and you’ll have more time to apply for financial aid.
Bad Advice: If your application is rejected, you probably aren’t cut out for an MBA program.
Everyone will experience failure at some point in their lives. What matters is how you respond to it. Don’t give up if your MBA program application is rejected – the right program for you is out there.
MBA Essay Advice
Good Advice: Be yourself.
Admission officers will notice if you stick to your truth and let your passion shine. You know yourself better than anyone else, so write your essay from a place of authenticity.
Bad Advice: Tell them what you think they want to hear.
Admissions officers have reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of applications, and they will be able to suss out if you are being inauthentic. So don’t bother telling them what you think they want to hear – you’ll probably be wrong, anyway.
Current MBA Students
MBA students are also bombarded with plenty of advice, often unsolicited. While it’s important to consider the input you receive, it’s also essential to sift through the noise and focus on the advice that will be most helpful as you embark on your business school journey.
Have a Plan
Good Advice: Plan your future but be flexible as your career path evolves.
It’s been said change is the only constant, and it is a rare individual who retires from the same career they dreamed about as a child. Changing your plans doesn’t make you flakey, so do your best to go with the flow and change directions if your career aspirations change.
Bad Advice: Goals don’t matter since you’ll probably change them, anyway.
Your career goals significantly impact the MBA programs you apply to, so starting out with a goal in mind is advisable, despite the high likelihood your intentions will change. Having goals gives you a sense of purpose and direction, as well as something to aim for, even if you ultimately decide to adjust your course.
Build Time-Management Skills
Good Advice: Learn how to develop a healthy work-school-life balance.
To avoid burnout, it will be essential to develop healthy time-management practices. Keep a calendar of important due dates and plan your studying time, but remember to make time for friends and family. Especially if you’re also working while earning your MBA, your social connections will be what keep you grounded during a potentially stressful time.
Bad Advice: Give 100% at all times – it’s all about the grind.
Hustle Culture would have you believe that every moment you spend “unproductively” is time ill-spent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. No one is capable of giving it their all 24/7, and taking breaks for hobbies and spending time with others has inherent value.
Good Advice: Take advantage of this incredible networking opportunity.
After college, it can become increasingly difficult to network and meet new people. During your MBA program, you have an unparalleled opportunity to get to know others in your field and learn from experienced faculty. Be sure to take advantage.
Bad Advice: Your fellow MBA students are your future competitors. You aren’t here to make friends.
While one of your classmates may, by happenstance, one day becomes your main competitor, in reality, it’s much more likely your fellow alumni will be future colleagues and business partners. Once you graduate, the relationships you build during your MBA program could greatly determine whether you hear about some of your industry’s best job openings, for example.
Find a Mentor
Good Advice: Develop a mentor relationship with a professor or professional in your field of interest.
A mentor can provide guidance and support as you navigate the business world. They can offer advice on courses to take, help you develop your professional network, and give you insights into the working world. A mentor can serve as a sounding board for your ideas and help you create a plan for your career. While it is possible to succeed without a mentor, having one can give you a significant advantage.
Bad Advice: You can wait until you’re nearing graduation to start asking professors for positive references.
You will not be the only student asking professors for references on future job applications. If you wait until the last minute to start asking professors for references, you are almost guaranteed to receive lukewarm references, at best. If you don’t take the time to develop relationships with your professors, they may not even remember you after their course is over.
Recent MBA Graduates
As a recent MBA graduate, you will undoubtedly receive a lot of advice from well-meaning friends and family members. Some of this advice will be helpful, but much will be based on outdated information or personal preferences.
MBA Interview Advice
Good Advice: Practice your answers to common interview questions beforehand.
There’s no better way to prepare for an interview than practicing common interview questions – out loud, with another person. It will get you into the habit of thinking on your feet and make you more comfortable talking about yourself. Plus, your practice interviewer can give you constructive feedback you can use for the real deal.
Bad Advice: Change your career goals to better fit each position you apply for.
One of those aforementioned common interview questions includes, “What are your career goals?” While it makes sense to tailor your resume and phrase your experiences to relate them to the job at hand, don’t make things up or lie about your career aspirations during an interview. No one wants to work with a liar, and you’re probably not very good at it. That’s not to mention that most employers understand that your ultimate career goal probably isn’t exactly the position they have listed. If that happens to be the case – fantastic! You’ve hit the proverbial career opportunity jackpot. If you’re honest and share your long-term plans, it demonstrates you have ambition and are forward-thinking, both excellent qualities, no matter the role.
MBA Career Advice
Good Advice: Earning your MBA is a great way to increase your opportunities and chances of success.
Earning a Master of Business Administration is a valuable tool in your career toolbelt. If you apply yourself and make the most of the opportunities afforded by such a program, you have many potential avenues you can pursue with confidence.
Bad Advice: An MBA is a fast track to achieving professional success.
An MBA is undoubtedly an important step you can take as you strive for professional success, but it’s only one factor among many. If you earn an MBA but are incapable of admitting when you’re wrong, demonstrate poor leadership qualities, or fail to apply yourself, the piece of paper with “MBA” written on it will be of little help when applying for jobs after graduation.
Take Our Advice – Check Out the MBA at UTC
The Gary W. Rollins College of Business at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) offers an excellent MBA program that can help you take your career to the next level. The program is designed to develop your business acumen and leadership skills, equipping you with the knowledge and tools you need to succeed in today’s competitive business environment. If you are looking for an MBA program that will challenge and prepare you for success, the Gary W. Rollins College of Business at UTC is the right choice for you.