What to consider when choosing your MBA

16 November 2020

"Although deciding which MBA to study is deeply personal, I believe it is always important to be objective in choosing the right programme to suit your personal needs". Full-time MBA student, Karabo Mothapo, takes us through her key considerations when choosing an MBA programme.

When I decided to pursue my MBA three years ago, I was unsure of which route I’d take or which university I’d choose. So I embarked on a journey of discovery to explore the programmes offered by different business schools. I attended various seminars and MBA tours that came to South Africa to speak to the different universities and hear first-hand about their different MBA programmes.

At first, I attended every session that I came across, as an exploratory exercise aimed at discovering Business schools from different continents. Then after attending a few sessions, I decided to structure to my approach. I considered all the information I had gathered from the schools and I came up with a criteria that would help me narrow down the options to my ultimate choice.

In order of importance for me, these are the factors I considered when selecting the various business schools and MBA programmes:

Personal budget: This was the number one criteria for my selection because despite my desire to live my wildest dreams, I needed to be realistic about what I could afford. I had to consider my personal savings as well as attaining a student loan to cover the tuition costs. Any programme beyond what I was comfortable with, I removed from my choices.

Location: I have always wanted to live in another country, either through work or study. So when I finally decided to pursue my MBA, I found this to be the perfect opportunity to live out that aspiration. The UK has always been top of my list due to the history between the UK and South Africa and the use of the English language. By living in the UK, I would have the opportunity to visit all the historic sites from the English History documentaries that I watched when I was growing up (I watched a lot of them!)

Length of programme: I love studying, but I did not wish to be in school for two years like in the USA, so a one-year programme became the default on my consideration list.

Scholarships: Scholarships are great as they help bring down tuition fees and allow consideration for some programmes which might have originally been out of reach. Some schools offered varied percentage scholarships against the tuition fee and some did not offer any scholarships. Those that did not offer any scholarships were eliminated from my list.

Curriculum: All MBA programmes are different. The curriculum content, although mostly the same, differs in method of delivery, electives on offer and support for your career path. This was crucial for my selection criteria as I had to ensure that the curriculum aligned with my future career plans, which ultimately led towards entrepreneurship, thus the MBA’s that had content and support for entrepreneurial pursuits got a tick.

Support for job searches: As a foreign student wishing to stay in the country, I had to consider whether the university supports and guides job searches by bringing recruiters to campus and sharing information about job opportunities. This was important because as an outsider, this information would be a minefield to uncover and I would need all the support I could get.

Rankings: University rankings also made it to the criteria in my selection process, as a highly ranked business school attracts high calibre candidates, meaning that class debates and future networking opportunities would be excellent. For this, I looked at the Financial Times and Economist Full-time MBA rankings lists.  

Although deciding which MBA to study is deeply personal, I believe it is always important to be objective in choosing the right programme to suit your personal needs. In the end, it is what we make of the journey that brings out the best from the experience. 

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