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7 Myths You Shouldn’t Believe About Business School

Sep 28, 2020
Dispelling misconceptions about applying to business school graduate programs

By Kara Sherrer

While the area of business offers some of the most popular masters degree options, there’s a lot of information out there about business school — and not all of it is accurate. Today, we’re breaking down 7 of the most common myths about applying to business school and explaining why they aren’t true.

Myth: Business school only prepares students to work in a few fields.

In the past, many b-school graduates went into investment banking or consulting. While many graduates continue to find work in these industries, there are many different job opportunities available to students, from marketing to tech to sustainability to startups.

Rob Schickler

“Even in the 6 years since I graduated from the program, it’s been really interesting to me to see how much more diverse the career paths are for our graduates. Historically, yes, MBA graduates have typically maybe only placed in a handful of roles, such as investment banking, or corporate finance or brand management. Even over the past few years, we have seen a much broader array of fields into which our graduates place,” said Rob Schickler, Associate Director of Recruiting & Admissions, who earned his MBA from Vanderbilt in 2014.

Myth: I won’t be successful because I don’t have a business background.

You can succeed at business school without having an undergraduate business degree or working in traditional business roles — and you definitely don’t need to be a math whiz. However, students coming from a more liberal arts background will need to demonstrate their aptitude through a good GMAT score, supplemental courses, or other avenues.

“The MBA is designed to teach everything that students need to know in the quantitative classes that they’re taking,” Schickler said. “That said, for students who are maybe liberal arts majors and or don’t have a lot of quantitative responsibility in their current jobs, they may need to put forth a little extra work to demonstrate to the admissions committee that they have the aptitude to be successful in quantitative classes.”

Myth: I have to go to school in the same city or state where I want to work.

Many prospective candidates assume that they should go to school in the geographic area where they want to work. However, it’s totally possible to go to school in a different area, as long as the b-school has alumni networks and recruiting connections wherever you want to work.

“One thing you do early in your career that you don’t do later is that you have the flexibility to pick up and move somewhere and experience a whole new part of the country… We can help you get a job where you want to get one,” said Cherrie Wilkerson, Assistant Dean for Young Professional Programs.

Myth: Only white men go to business school.

For a long time, white men made up almost the entire student body at business schools. But this is no longer the case, and business schools (and the employers who recruit their graduates) are actively looking for diverse candidates of all kinds. In fact, many of them offer scholarships specifically tailored to diverse candidates.

Cherrie Wilkerson

“Businesses are diverse, that’s a fact. And they want more diversity on campus. There’s never been a better time for diverse candidates to come to business school and get the tools and the training and the career services they need to get the best job,” Wilkerson said.

“I think there’s a stereotype that that an MBA is for white males with financial backgrounds. While that is certainly a percentage of the applicant pool, both business schools and companies are making deliberate steps to try to reach out to different populations to increase the diversity of their student body and their employee base,” Schickler added.

Myth: High rankings mean the school is automatically better for me.

Applicants often begin their b-school search by looking at the programs that are highest ranked. While this might be an easy way to narrow down your options, a ranking alone isn’t a great way to determine whether you’re a cultural fit for that schools and whether it can provide the specific career support you need.

“There are a lot of other factors to consider when choosing schools, whether it’s location or size of the program or career outcomes or curriculum. Applicants should really spend more time focusing on those factors and choosing business schools that best match what they are looking for in those areas, than solely focusing on rankings,” Schickler said. “If you’re interested in working in healthcare, it does you no good to go to a top 10 program that doesn’t have a healthcare concentration and doesn’t bring healthcare companies on campus to hire students.”

Myth: I don’t have a perfect GPA or GMAT, so I won’t be accepted.

A high GPA or GMAT score can boost your chances of acceptance, but they won’t automatically get you in the door — and less-than-perfect scores won’t tank your chances either. Business schools evaluate the whole application to get a holistic view of the entire candidate. If you’re worried about your scores, compare them to the middle 80% of the program’s class profile to see where you fall.

“Combined with great work experience and recommendation letters from your workplace, you can be a very impressive candidate,” Wilkerson said.

Myth: Business school is too expensive, and I can’t afford it.

The sticker price you see quoted on admissions websites can definitely be high, especially for in-person programs. However, you won’t necessarily pay that entire amount, especially if you can get scholarships and/or financial aid. In fact, if you belong to a group that’s underrepresented at business school — such as women, BIPOC, or the LGBTQ+ community — tens of thousands of dollars of scholarship might potentially be available for you. And the higher salary you’ll command after graduation will help you pay off any remaining debt faster. Once you factor in scholarships and future earnings, “the number looks a lot different for most people,” Wilkerson said.

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