Muschamp Rd

Getting into an MBA program

April 24th, 2006
Sauder School of Business logo

I’ve written a lot on what it is like doing an MBA, though my personal experiences are unlikely to be duplicated. People have started to notice and have written me asking for advice on getting into the Sauder School of Business in particular. But what is important when successfully applying to an MBA program?

During my MBA, I went on exchange to China and I talked to a lot of people from a lot of different schools all over the world. I also talked to undergrads and alumni. So I have more experience and perspective than the average person. After putting it off for too long I wrote a nice long reply to a fellow from India who shockingly is an engineer considering doing an MBA. And just like after I taught English in Japan, I decided rather than write a new email every time I would make the information available to the entire Internet.

Is my opinion still relevant?

Well in 2024 someone must find it so, as Google’s algorithm keeps sending people to this old blog post on getting into an MBA program. I did eventually frame my degree and put it on my wall, but no one as asked me about getting into the Sauder MBA program in a long time, probably because as an alumni I don’t recommend it. It was the worst experience of my life, I still haven’t recovered. However, if you want to read general advice on getting into MBA programs, especially if you are from India, read on.

International MBA Rankings

UBC definitely takes a lot of international students. The majority are Chinese but the second largest group (at least in my class) were from India. Being an international student is not a disadvantage in applying. Most schools are after the all mighty diversity. However you need solid English skills and your GMAT score and other application materials may be more scrutinized.

I didn’t have a great experience while at Sauder. I did learn a lot though. One of the things I learned is their career center and the recruiters they get leaves a lot to be desired. MBA rankings are really subjective, what matters most is who recruits at a school. The Wall Street Journal used to do their rankings entirely based on what corporate recruiters say. But program and school rankings seem to have become more contentious not less. Another person left a comment with a link to their thoughts from 2007, let’s see if I can’t find something more up-to-date. Alas, the Internet or at least Google seems to be rife with graduate school admissions consultants maybe that is how people ended up here.

Patrick Shchuler recently shared with me his experience doing an MBA abroad in Beijing at the exact same school I studied at. His experience seems to have been better than mine.

Canadian MBA Programs

I only applied to schools in Vancouver. There is basically SFU and UBC. Vancouver is a great though expensive place to live. If you are willing to consider schools out East, Ontario has some higher ranked schools. I think a big problem with UBC is it is North of the 49th parallel and West of Ontario. I would avoid any of the Prairie schools unless you want to work in the oil patch. McGill and Concordia and possibly Dalhousie have decent MBA programs outside Ontario taught in English.

Of course the US has a hundred times as many programs as Canada and with the increase in the Canadian dollar, Canada isn’t such a bargain anymore. Canada is easier to immigrate to/study in for many people though, especially since the Trump election.

Applying as an Engineer

As for being an engineer, 25% of my class were engineers. So universities accept them, but the problem is, so many must apply. It is almost better to stand out in some way. That is a key, standing out from the crowd. UBC doesn’t get as many applicants as say Harvard or Tuck, but they get enough where you still need to be memorable. I think the essays and the letters of references are more important than your undergrad grades, especially if you did your undergrad degree a long time ago.

Experience is really important, try to have as much experience as possible before applying to any MBA program. It will help you get accepted and make you a more attractive teammate once you are in an MBA program. Being a good teammate, one who is desirable to work with is a huge deal if you want to be successful as so much of your grade is based on team projects at least at Sauder and Tsinghua.

Unlike in 2004 when I was applying, there is actually too much information online. I suspect “MBA rankings” is a very competitive keyword phrase in search engine results. This blog posting should have just gotten lost in the shuffle, but based on Google Analytics it didn’t. Unlike just about everyone else out there, I’m not trying to make any money and I’m only trying to provide truthful information. Others have provided advice on doing an MBA my advice to future MBA student may be more bleak in 2024.

Does social media help?

Apparently all it takes to get into some MBA programs is one well worded tweet. This is of course hyperbole, you still need an undergraduate degree and various supporting materials to complete your application. It doesn’t surprise me that Admissions is considering social media now. Always remember, you are writing for your future boss on social media. Business schools want positive people who will reflect well on the program. They don’t want people who don’t fit in. They want shiny happy people they can feature in their advertising and brochures. I ended up on Tsinghua’s website but I am unlikely to ever be a featured #SauderAlum.

Why not do the CFA® Program instead?

Well funny you should ask, because after my MBA and all the difficulty I had getting employment I did enrol in the CFA Program and become a Candidate. Many years later I even passed the final exam and eventually earned the Charter. So as much as I wrote about doing an MBA I may have written more about doing the CFA Program. An MBA program may cost more money, but you are far more likely to complete it successfully, most people fail to complete the CFA Program. However if you want a second opinion might I suggest 300Hours.

What should you do? It depends, that seems to be the conclusion of 300Hours. There are many MBA programs including many specialized MBA programs so what is best for you may not be what some magazine or website says is the absolute quantitative best option worldwide. If you have any thoughts on getting into an MBA program you can no longer leave them below because spammers.


  • Muskie says:

    This post is now one of my top three Spam magnets and since I really don’t want to chat about getting into an MBA program particularly the Sauder MBA program in 2023 I’m closing the comments.

  • Muskie says:

    Another Indian fellow doing an MBA in Canada, has just written an extensive post comparing the various rankings and the various Canadian business schools. I don’t have much positive to say about my MBA experience anymore…

    I always told the truth, some people choose not to believe me, now most people just choose to ignore me…

  • Muskie says:

    At some point I set up a Technorati Watchlist for “Sauder MBA” and it turned up another Indian fellow looking for advice on doing an MBA in Canada, possibly at Sauder.

    I haven’t learned my lesson and tried to answer his questions. I also linked to this blog posting, which lead to more questions. I answered them the best I could and now there are many more paragraphs of advice that might be of use to people other than Indians considering doing an MBA in Canada or elsewhere.

Comments are now closed.

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