Currently there are more than 450 institutions offering MBA programs in the U.S., with dozens of different concentrations. An MBA degree from an accredited university is one of the most prestigious and recognizable business degrees at the master’s level. Since courses are very diverse and focus on various topics, it offers a wide range of career opportunities.
The process of choosing an MBA program can be daunting, especially if you are an international student. Researching your options and getting a grip on what preparations to take is big task. Here are some factors to consider as you start this process to help you make the best decision.
1. Accreditation: It might not be first on your list but it is an important factor: Choose an institution that is accredited. This is a good way to make sure the institution you are researching offers a qualitatively sound program.
The number of institutions offering MBA programs is rising, especially online options, but this doesn’t mean that every institution offers you the same value for your money. Since an MBA is a big investment, you want to make sure that you get the best value for your money. Accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International tends to be most prevalent among U.S. programs.
2. Requirements: While looking at various MBA programs you want to get a clear picture of the requirements. What tests do you have to take? Is an essay or an interview a requirement? Will references help your acceptance?
Every program has different types of requirements or requires different test scores to be accepted. You want to make sure that you know what to expect and that you take the appropriate amount of time to prepare yourself.
If your bachelors’ degree doesn’t match the MBA program directly, you might have to take some additional undergrad courses to be accepted. It will be up to you to decide to take these courses in your home country, online or at the U.S. institution.
3. Types of MBAs: The MBA degree is offered in various shapes and sizes: traditional or on-campus, professional, accelerated, executive, part-time and online. While part-time options may be difficult for international students due to immigration requirements, the other varieties are a consideration.
Your background will influence your choice in this matter.
If you are a professional with a number of years work experience, you might benefit from a professional, accelerated or executive MBA. Generally, the average age is higher in these programs, and you’ll find people with comparable experiences.
Are you fresh out of college? If so, you might be more comfortable in a full-time, on-campus MBA program. These generally have a more mixed student body, and offer more face time with professors.
Some MBA programs do require extracurricular or volunteering experience, which is not a common focus in undergrad programs elsewhere in the world. Keep this in mind when you are applying straight out of college.
4. Faculty: Once you made your decision on what type of MBA and perhaps a specialization, researching the faculty might help you make your final decision. Class sizes are generally a lot smaller in the MBA program and the relationships that you build with your professors can take you a long way in your career.
Once you narrow down your options, start looking into faculty to see if the professors’ work experience, or even research background, align with your interests. Connecting with these professors will help you make the most of your time and could give you an advantage in furthering your career.
5. Finances: An MBA degree can be costly – costlier than other master’s programs. Since scholarships and financial aid are limited for international students, you are required to have all the necessary funding before applying for the appropriate visa.
Universities will offer employment options or graduate assistantships to international students, and it is definitely worth exploring those options before you start, but keep in mind they are limited and highly competitive.
6. International community: Researching the international community at an institution could be part of your personal decision-making process. If a university has a big international student community, it might be easier for you to settle in and feel at home.
It also gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons and get to know all kinds of cultures. However, if you’re looking for the all-American experience, the percentage of international students might not be one of the criteria for you.