When you finally decide to take a huge leap into the unknown and begin the MBA application process, this is a defining moment and turning point in your professional career. But with so many top-level, respected MBA programs to choose from around the world, it’s no surprise if you feel a little overwhelmed by the process and unsure of where to start. Follow the steps below to ensure that you are in a good place to start and complete the MBA application process successfully and find the best program for you. 

Determine Why You Want an MBA:

After taking the time to consider the alternatives for weeks or months, you have decided that doing an MBA is the right course of action for you. Use this step to determine the three main reasons why you want to pursue this program. Do you want to break through a glass ceiling and move up in your current career? Do you want to change industries or jobs? Or are you looking for a complete career change?

Along with considering your career future, it’s a good idea to think about the business school’s location, which can be a very important factor in terms of taking advantage of their relationships with the local business community and their network of alumni. Even if it means improving your language skills and moving abroad for a while, the location of your chosen school can be critical when it comes to opening up your career prospects internationally. 

Where Do You Want to Work?

As you go through the MBA application process it’s natural to think about all the places where you might like to live and work in the future. If you’re open to a career change or a change of job function or industry, rather than wanting to move up with your current employer, you could find yourself working anywhere in the world. And, there are plenty of things to think about like weather systems, climates and cultures. 

Living on a deserted tropical island might sound nice, but it’s not very realistic for somebody with an MBA if you’re looking to move to further your career. Start with your career interests; for example, if you want to work in investments and finance, consider the destinations where these are based like London, New York, or Tokyo. If working in a luxury fashion business is more for you, you might consider places like Milan or Paris. Your choice of location will vary depending on the industry that you’d like to work in, and your field of work can influence your choice. 

Choosing a Focus:

Some people know exactly what they want to do and can’t wait to start doing it. If you know exactly what your strengths are and the goal that you have in mind for your career, doing an MBA is an excellent way to achieve it. On the other hand, you may be like most other people, who aren’t sure exactly what their MBA should focus on in order to reach their career goals. Or perhaps you know that you want to work in business or in a certain area of business but don’t have a clear-cut career goal in mind. 

It’s worth taking some time to think about this in terms of choosing a focus for your MBA. Once you have a better idea of the skills that you want to focus on, you will be in a better position to determine which kind of MBA is the best for you. Almost all MBA programs offer far more than core management skills. To help, you might want to consider attending an event by The MBA Tour. These events provide more information on MBAs and are held all over the world. Check out The MBA Tour website to see where the next event will be near you and spend some time speaking to professors, students and alumni to get a better idea of which option is the best fit for you and your career. 

Full- or Part-Time Study?

The popularity of the two-year, full-time MBA is in decline and it’s easy to see why. Most of today’s modern MBA students aren’t in a position to, or simply aren’t willing to, give up their jobs for two years while investing what could potentially be hundreds of thousands of dollars into an MBA. 

However, the good news is that there are many other options available. If you want to get your MBA as quickly as possible but aren’t in a position to quit working, you might want to consider an online MBA or a blended learning program, which offers some classes online and some on-campus. Certain business schools and colleges are now offering evening MBA classes that are ideal for those who work 9-5 but still want to learn in a classroom environment. 

Return on Investment:

How to maximize the ROI of an MBA is the question on the lips of pretty much every MBA student. The good news is that it’s quite rapid for the majority of graduates with the average return being within 3-6 years. 

Bear a few things in mind when thinking about ROI, such as whether or not the business schools with the highest tuition rates will offer the best return on investment. This is actually not always the case; The Financial Times rankings found that many business schools that charge lower tuition fees actually offer a faster return on investment. If you want value for money, it’s definitely worth checking out all the business school options rather than simply heading for the big names. 

Contacting Schools:

Once you have considered all of the above, you will be in a better position to start contacting schools of interest and getting the application process started. Before you begin, make sure that you have been given as much information as possible provided by the business schools. Requesting prospectus, brochures and checking out the school’s website can help you gather important facts and figures about the schools that you have an interest in. Be sure to look for key figures about class composition, elective modules, and tuition fees. 

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, visiting the schools is a wise idea. A visit to the campus will allow you to view the school facilities firsthand, meet with professors, and perhaps meet some current students, helping you get a good feel for the place and a better idea of what to expect from the learning environment. 

Confirming Your Choice:

At this point, you will be ready to make a firm decision on the MBA program and school that is best for you. You might want to consider making a first, second and third choice and apply for each in order to improve your chances of admission. If you find it helpful, you can contact a careers advisor or an expert from the business school of your choice to go through your options and discuss your future career plans before filling out and sending the application. 

With so many MBA programs and school options to choose from, finding the right one for you can be overwhelming. Keep these steps in mind as you look for the right MBA program for you, to ensure a good fit.