Higher education is getting bad reviews lately. National media lament the high costs and seemingly low returns of advanced degrees – even those that have traditionally stapled a higher paycheck to one’s diploma (metaphorically).
Business schools in particular are criticized for this seeming disconnect. Various traditional career outlets are shrinking their hiring pools or turning a blind eye to expensive MBA applicants altogether. Meanwhile, examples abound of drop-outs earning billions of dollars in romanticized entrepreneurial pursuits.
Many ponder: “Is an MBA worth it?” For our students, this question importantly translates to “Is the GMAT worth it?”
I go to one of the best and thus, most expensive business schools in the country. Even my most naturally talented and experienced classmates have been denied positions they could have easily gotten ten years ago. Meanwhile, tuition has skyrocketed to the point where these same students – many of them supported by foreign student loans with double-digit interest rates – will graduate with debt in excess of $150,000. Discouraged, these people tend to be leading the charge against what they deem egregious bills for education, and advocating that students stay out of graduate school.
In my opinion, these criticisms are unfounded.
The best business schools do not guarantee acceptance into the world’s best jobs; they guarantee access to the opportunity to be accepted to these jobs.
Despite the financial downturn, all the elite investment banks had representatives on campus. Though many were founded by drop-outs and renegades, the world’s best technology companies are hiring MBAs in droves. In short, the opportunities still exist in spades for business school students. As always, some capitalize on these chances, and some do not.
If you are planning to take the GMAT and go through the business school admissions process, put yourself in a position to be the former.
Come prepared to capitalize on the opportunity that business school provides its students: a second chance, a reset button, a way to pivot your career smoothly in a direction that your years of work have taught you will lead to financial success and professional fulfillment.
You will only be able to accomplish these objectives if you know exactly what you want out of your program. And the sooner you figure this out, the better.
In my experience, banking applicants who did not receive offers were not fully intent on working at a bank. It was one of many options – along with consulting, general management tracks at Fortune 500 companies, and maybe even entrepreneurial endeavors. The point is that each of these routes requires enormous commitment, preparation, and networking. An MBA does not have the time and resources to tackle more than one of these tracks in two short years.