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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 also (especially offline) what is most important in successfully applying to an MBA program.

I went on exchange 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 especially in China. 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 went teaching English in Japan, I decided rather than write a new email every time I would make the information available to the entire Internet.

Update January 19th 2014: Google’s algorithm must have changed again, as once again I’m getting asked about the Sauder MBA program, in short I don’t recommend it, it was the worst experience of my life, I’ve never recovered. If you want to read some more general advice on getting into MBA programs, especially if you are from India…

First of all UBC 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 the best of experiences 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 that school. The Wall Street Journal does its rankings entirely based on what corporate recruiters say, that should be the one to consider the most strongly if you are highly career motivated. That said the one I put the most stock in when I applied was the Economist. I think they have a good global perspective.

I only applied to schools in Vancouver. There is basically SFU and UBC. Vancouver is a great 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 100 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.

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 the grade is based on team projects at least at Sauder and Tsinghua.

There is actually too much information online, I suspect “MBA rankings” is a very competitive keyword phrase in search engine results. It is possible this blog posting will just get lost in the shuffle. However 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 which jives pretty good with mine.

Update May 3rd 2012

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. I wonder when they’ll start considering Klout score?


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