Asking yourself questions like “Where do I want to be?” might seem trite, but it’s an essential step to picking the right b-school and getting in, says Jodi Schafer, director of MBA admissions at the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Management.
How clear do you think MBA applicants should be about their career direction?
We like to see that candidates have some idea of the different opportunities in business so that once they get here, they’re able to quickly identify with a specific career path. That’s important because we only have two years. A big part of our program is career preparation, and if the student hasn’t identified with a functional area by the second semester it makes it difficult to prepare them for their post-MBA career. The goal is to help them obtain the type of position that they want. That requires focus from the student and the program.
That being said, we realize that candidates a lot of times don’t know exactly what they want to do, and we wouldn’t expect them to. But we would want them to say, “Oh, I would appreciate a career in strategy, and here are the reasons why.” Now the assumptions of what that position would be may be wrong, and they might figure that out during – in our case – the first semester of the program. That’s really the time when they are exposed to alums and current students who talk about their experiences in internships and full-time positions. You kind of go through a day in the life of different careers, so that they can tell the students what to expect, and dispel some of the myths associated with MBA positions.