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3 Great Reasons to Apply to Business School — and 3 Not-So-Good Ones

Sep 16, 2020
How b-school admissions and recruiting teams evaluate candidates’ rationale for applying to business school

By Kara Sherrer

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many business schools saw their application volume almost double in the spring and anticipate that the same thing will happen again this fall. While some candidates have thought through why they want to go to business school, others have applied on a whim and don’t have the most convincing explanation for why they should be considered. If you’re wondering how your reasons for going to business school stack up, we talked to faculty and staff at Vanderbilt to get their top “good” and “bad” reasons to apply to business school.

First up are 3 justifications that are probably not going to convince admissions committees:

You hate your job and don’t want to find another one.

Rob Schickler

“I hate my job” is not going to win over admissions officers when they ask you why you want to go to business school. After all, you could just go find another job if you don’t like your current one. That’s why you need articulate, well-considered answers that explain why you want to go to business school in particular, not just why you want to move on from your current position.

“We like students who are working towards something, not students who are running away from something,” said Rob Schickler, Associate Director of Recruiting & Admissions. “Applying to business school because you don’t have anything else to do or you don’t like your job is not the right reason to be applying.”

You have no idea what you want to do after business school.

Bailey McChesney

Bailey McChesney

Business is a broad field, and admissions representatives will want to know what specific industries and functions you’re looking to enter or return to after graduation. While you might change your mind during the course of school, it’s important to start a program with at least some idea of what you might want to do, so you can have an effective employment search.

“While we expect you to have some sort of exploration and have thought about career paths that you might be interested in, you don’t have to have it like completely mapped it out, although we would encourage you to do some self-reflection and think about what you want from the program,” said Bailey McChesney, Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions.

You want to relive your college days

Cherrie Wilkerson

Many recent graduates may feel cheated out of their senior year of college due to all the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. However, those same changes have impacted business schools, and there’s no telling if things will be back to normal next year or not. Besides, even under ideal circumstances, the business school experience is very different than that of college, both academically and socially.

Cherrie Wilkerson, Assistant Dean for Young Professional Programs, advises against pursuing an extra year of school because you miss college. “That’s an expensive thing for you and your parents to do. Your classmates are counting on you to have a strong goal and work hard… you have to come prepared to work,” she said. “You really need to come for the education and the network. That will still be there, though it will look different.”

There are plenty of fantastic reasons to apply to business school. Here are 3 of the top ones that admissions teams look for:

You know what transferable skills you bring to the table.

Whether you have a business background or not, transferrable skills can be applied to an almost any situation. No matter what business school programs you’re applying to, the admissions team will be looking for skills that will help you during school and your job search. Basically, they want to make sure that you know how to present your past education and work experience in a way that will appeal to employers. If you can do that, you will make yourself an attractive candidate to both b-schools and potential employers.

“It’s all about being able to identify the transferable skills that you could bring to business school and also to a potential employer afterwards,” Schickler affirmed.

You want the extra career support that b-school provides.

From dedicated career coaches to large alumni networks, business school offers a lot of support for career moves and pivots. If you’ve been trying to make a move on your own and haven’t had much luck, attending b-school can give you the resources you need to succeed and get the career that you want. This is true for applicants straight out of college and those that have been in the workforce for a little longer.

“Those are invaluable tools that you’re simply not going to get at an undergrad career service center. They’re not designed for that, they don’t have the staffing levels for that like a business school does,” Wilkerson explained.

You’re at a good transition point in your career, regardless of the state of the economy.

Despite the pandemic and the economy — or maybe because of them — you might be at a good point in your career to take time out of the workforce and get an additional degree. Maybe your opportunities for promotions have slowed down, or you’d always planned to apply to business school right now. The perfect timing for business school varies from person to person, but if you’ve thought it through, this year might be the year for you.

“For some folks, staying with their company and getting more hands-on work experience may be more valuable at this point in time than stepping out of the workforce for 2 years to go back to school to get an MBA. For other people earlier in the careers, promotional opportunities may have stalled because of the current economy… and so there could be less of a detriment to them stepping,” Schickler said. “It really is going to vary from candidate to candidate, and depending on how likely their employment situation is or isn’t going to change in the next year or so, based on external economic forces.”

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