Applying to JD/MBA joint degree programs is a rewarding and challenging experience that can sometimes be overwhelming. Given the limited size of JD/MBA cohorts, ranging from 15 to 30 people at most schools, finding firsthand resources and insights can be difficult.

Here, I share three tips from my JD/MBA applications based on my personal experience throughout the process.  

1. Establish a clear motivation

JD/MBA programs typically require a greater financial and time commitment compared to a standalone JD or MBA. So, it is important to establish a clear reason for wanting to pursue a JD/MBA - both for the admissions committee and for yourself. Professionally, few careers require both degrees, so the question becomes whether the JD/MBA gives you significantly more leverage in the field of your choice. Do you want to be a corporate or transactional lawyer with a strong understanding of business fundamentals so you can better advise your clients? Consider why a JD/MBA would be more meaningful and useful towards that goal than just a JD coupled with several business electives. Do you want to be a business strategist within financial services with a keen eye for the regulatory and compliance risks of your products and decisions? Consider why a JD/MBA would be better than just an MBA plus a few electives on financial regulation. Before you sign up for the intensity and cost of a joint degree program, try to be as sure as possible that it will add sufficient value to your career to make it worth your while.  

Putting professional considerations aside, a JD/MBA gives you access to not one but two alumni networks, two distinct and highly contrasted educational experiences that also complement each other in many ways, and a wide breadth of knowledge. These reasons alone are enough to make a JD/MBA compelling. Still, it is important to reflect on how important these factors are for your development and whether the best way to obtain them is through a JD/MBA. 

2. Thoroughly research programs

When choosing which JD/MBA programs to apply to, it is often helpful to make a list of the things that are most important to you to guide your research. A few things that come to mind are the program’s structure, curriculum, academic and professional resources, and culture. When looking into these factors, it is good to keep in mind whether the program achieves your desired level of integration. Let's look at culture, for example: some JD/MBA cohorts have their own unique and distinct sense of community that shows through dedicated group activities and networking resources among many other things, while other JD/MBA cohorts feel more like loosely-connected groups of individuals with existing relationships across both the law and business schools. To give another example with curriculum, some JD/MBA programs have dedicated electives and schedules, while others rely much more on combining existing courses and learning patterns. 

One question that often comes up is the difference between 3-year and 4-year JD/MBA programs. 3-year JD/MBA programs allow you to accelerate your studies and graduate earlier, but they typically come with less academic and professional flexibility due to the condensed program structure. Conversely, 4-year JD/MBA programs give more room for exploration, but at the expense of an extra year of school. For the schools that offer both JD/MBA formats, choosing the best one for you will depend largely on your academic and professional goals and roadmap. 

It is always helpful to reach out to admissions officers, current students, and alumni from these programs because they can shed additional light on what the day-to-day experience is like and give insights into more in-depth considerations and questions you might have that cannot be answered through the programs’ websites alone. 

3. Showcase your duality

JD/MBA programs combine two distinct types of classroom instruction, ways of thinking, and skill sets. Because of this, it is important to demonstrate how your academic, professional, and personal experiences have prepared you for both degrees. If you work in a primarily corporate or business context, consider how problems you’ve encountered through work or your extracurricular activities have pushed you to think about and analyze issues relating to the law and policy. For example, many consultants working on business strategies for renewable energy companies have to think about not only growth, profitability, and operational efficiency, but also the impact of government subsidies and innovation policy. Similarly, if you work in a legal or non-profit context, consider how your experience has interacted with the private sector and the role that businesses can play in creating long-term social value. For example, people working in international development nonprofits often also have to think about how their organizations can cooperate with the private sector to create opportunities, allocate capital, and drive sustainable growth.  

No matter what your background is, connecting the threads of law and business and their interactions in your experience will demonstrate how you can be analytical, detailed-oriented, and logically rigorous in your JD, as well as creative, strategically bold, results-driven in your MBA. Displaying your ability to think, work, and thrive across two worlds will be very valuable when applying to JD/MBA programs and other joint degree programs more generally. 

The JD/MBA application process is a great opportunity to share your story and show how you traverse the similar yet distinct worlds of business and law.

The goal of these tips is to help you assemble a compelling narrative for pursuing a JD/MBA, identify the best programs for yourself, and put your best foot forward in the application process. Remember, you are an asset to the cohorts schools are trying to build, so embrace this next chapter with confidence and excitement! 

Eugene is an incoming JD/MBA joint degree candidate at the University of Chicago Law School and Booth School of Business. He is currently a Manager at Capital One and works primarily on strategies to apply machine learning to new areas of the business.

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