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For many young professionals, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) will always be seen as a viable option to proliferate and diversify your opportunities within your professional career. In fact, the two-year hiatus from the working world can help drive and inspire your career trajectory with a holistic style of thinking and networking. While many people cannot phantom the concept of sacrificing a secure job and two-year’s of salary, you, at the end of the day, have to understand your overarching long-term goals.

Unlike undergraduate applications and various graduate programs, an MBA forces you to do preliminary work and research before making the leap into the deep end. In fact, the arduous and elongated process of the application speaks loudly to what the program offers and what is expected of you before you step foot on campus.

If you are a young professional who is having some consideration for the MBA life, begin by asking yourself the question you will be constantly asked on every application and interview: Why do you want to get an MBA?

As simple as this question is, knowing the ‘why’ will always be one of the biggest definers of whether or not you are ready. Yes, the wide range of job opportunities and networking can be great to note, but that is not what MBA admissions and recruiters are looking for. Instead, they are looking for your reasoning of the degree and what you can do with it later on in life.

That brings us to the second question you should ask yourself while you are considering the graduate program: What do you want to do with your MBA degree (or where do you see yourself five years after your MBA program)?

For many top programs, they are not just looking for any individual to fill up their class roster. Instead, they are looking for leaders, movers, and game changers who can inherently impact the world today. As you go through your reflective process, you want to ask yourself these overarching questions. Knowing what you want to do five, ten, twenty years from now can help solidify whether or not you are ready for an MBA degree. Now, saying something along the lines of ‘ascending up the ladder of your career’ is not bad. But to truly spark inspiration and drive for an MBA degree, you want internalize and know what you can actively do with the degree in your future. Remember, these programs, especially the top tier programs like Kellogg, Harvard Business School, or Wharton, are looking for you to actively change the game after your two years. That is essentially what makes these programs so incredibly difficult to get into because they find leaders who can impact and reinvigorate a particular sector.

Now, once you have understood which concentration you want to study and what you want to do within after the two years, then you can move onto this next question: Where do you want to go for your MBA degree? 

Yes, it is easy to rattle off all of the names of the big programs like HBS, Stanford, Fuqua, Kellogg, Wharton, Tuck, Yale SOM, etc., but to understand the program beyond the U.S. News national ranked reputation can help narrow your list for your particular field. Take for example Marketing. While the number-two national ranked school University of Chicago (Booth) will always be a huge contender with applications, MBA programs such as Northwestern University Kellogg, Wharton, Columbia University, Duke University Fuqua, or University of Michigan Ross are most likely better options for marketing careers and opportunities. As you continue you research try and go beyond the statistics. Ask yourself whether or not your career goals and personality can match and mirror those within your program. Having that open-mindedness and holistic style of thinking to your research can essentially rule out and narrow down the right programs for you.

To help with your research process, try and evaluate your personal and professional career by asking yourself: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

For some people, this is something that can be easily spoken of. If you are one of those individuals, congratulations! You have a true understanding of what you can accomplish and what you can refine with your MBA degree. If you are unsure of what own professional strengths and weaknesses, start by evaluating yourself immediately. Think of this as one of those interviewing questions. Ask yourself what are particular instances that you are most proud of or skills that you need to work on. This type of internalized thinking can help you find the best fitting program that matches your personality and career goals.

Once your strengths and weaknesses are understood, now you can begin your application. To help, ask yourself: What is needed for an MBA application?

For many, this will consist of the standard GMATs, references, essay applications, and online applications. But make sure you do your research. For some potential MBA applicants, there are groups and organizations that are dedicated in helping you reach your MBA goals such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Consortium, etc. Remember, the more you can add to your application the better. So try and continue your research so that you can better enhance your application today.