What kind of program?
One of the first things an applicant needs to decide is whether they want to take a full-time or an executive program. Full-time MBAs are just that—akin to a full-time job—and cater to students without much business track record. Executive MBAs allow students to complete the program while working. Students in EMBA programs tend to have significantly more experience. At Western University’s Ivey Business School, for example, successful applicants to the full-time MBA program have worked for an average of five years; in the executive stream, it’s 15. Consultant Stacy Blackman says applicants should also consider whether to take a one-year or a more traditional two-year program. “Issues to think about here would be whether you want the benefit of a summer internship? Are you a career switcher? How much time can you afford to take away from the working world,” says Blackman.
Where is the school?
MBA consultant Alex Chu says applicants should consider not only where they’d like to go to school, but also where they’d like to work after their degree. For those who plan on staying in Canada after business school, it doesn’t make sense to spend extra money to attend a program in the United States or Europe.“You don’t need to go outside Canada to get a great education,” says Chu. If, however, an applicant wants to work in another country, it’s not a bad idea to attend school in that location to develop a network and to ease the process of getting a work visa.
Can you get in?
An applicant’s score on the GMAT—the standardized admissions test for graduate-level business schools — is likely the first thing an admissions officer will look at. “It’s the first barometer of how they want to evaluate your application,” says Chu. Most business schools publish the average GMAT score of successful applicants, along with the range.
“If you can get within 20 points of the average, you should be O.K.,” says Chu. Applicants who fall outside the average ranges at their school of choice need to develop a plan to mitigate concerns about performance and abilities, says Blackman.
What companies recruit at the school?
The reputations of business schools are primarily driven by where companies recruit—and that’s important. “In plan English, is it going to get you the job you want coming out of school?” says Chu. Potential applicants need to figure out where they want to work upon graduation, then research where those recruiters go to find future employees (most schools post this information online). Those are the schools to focus on.
Does the school “fit”?
“Many applicants walk through the halls of a school and just know whether it is a good fit,” says Blackman. “There is no clear right or wrong, better or worse—it’s simply a matter of personal preferences.” Every school has it’s own character. Some tend to be highly competitive, while others are more collaborative. Some focus on academics, others on applied skills. Kouk recommends visiting schools, meeting with admissions and alumni officers, sitting in on a class — and, most importantly, talking to people. He often wanders into a lunch room or lounge and asks to join current students to chat about their experience with the school. “I walk into some of the schools and I feel it’s home,” says Kouk. “And some of the business schools, I just don’t feel very good.”
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