The first step in choosing an MBA program is to which type of MBA program you're interested and will qualify for.

There are a number of MBA Programs available, each offering unique benefits and catering to certain backgrounds. All of the programs can be classified into three major categories: traditional–includes 2 year fulltime and part-time MBA Programs, finally dual-degree MBA Programs, and Executive MBA Programs–include cross continent and global MBAs.

Things You Will Need

Internet connection or access to a library.

Step 1

The great majority of MBA applicants will apply for the traditional MBA. The major admissions criteria for both the traditional MBAs and the dual-degree MBA will be your GMAT score and your work experience. The GMAT is calculated on an 800-point scale divided into two sections. One section will test your reading, grammar, and logical reasoning, while the second section will test your basic math and analytical skills. A quick survey of the top 10 MBA programs will show a median GMAT score of 660–750 and an average number of work experience between 5–9 years. If you fall terribly short in either of those two categories, you'll need to think long and hard about the feasibility of a top 10 MBA program.

Step 2

Next, you'll need to know exactly what type of business training you want to specialize in. Some programs such as Wharton and HBS are generally strong and will practically guarantee you a spot in fortune 100 companies and the best investment banks in the world. If you're interested in social entrepreneurship and finance, then Fuqua might be your choice. And if global business is your oyster then you'll want to look at Thunderbird.

Step 3

Once you know where you stand on your work experience and GMAT score, you know your area of interest, and you've decided whether you're interested in the possibility of a dual-degree, it's time to go school shopping. The easiest place to start is US News and World Report. While it's often criticized for ranking programs too heavily on numbers and not enough on the soft factors, it is still recognized by every MBA program as the make it or break it ranking. A school moving from number 11 to number 9 in the ranking will see it's applicant pool increase substantially.

Step 4

As you look through the report you'll want to categorize the programs into three groups: dream schools, competitive schools, and fall back schools based on the admissions criteria mentioned earlier. Then it's time to weigh the soft factors. An often overlooked but significant factor in an MBA program is the involvement and integration of students. Because a substantial amount of what you take away from an MBA program is your connection and networking with other students, you want to find locations and programs that, in essence, force interaction. Programs in major metropolitan areas will likely lure student away from school and club sponsored events to other activities, thus lowering the amount of interaction you have with your classmates.

Finally, you should take a tour of the school. While I've often heard it said that the cost of flying or driving to a few schools is prohibitively high, relative to the tuition dollars you'll be investing in yourself, it's worth it.

Tips & Warnings

If you're still in undergrad and know that you want to go into an MBA program, a couple of the best career options starting out is with an investment bank or with a consulting firm.

If you're interested in a joint degree program and don't think you'll be able to get into the MBA portion based on work experience or GMAT score, you can often get in the back door by first starting the other degree program such as a JD, an MD or a PhD, and then applying the following year with your grades in hand and a couple of letters of recommendation from school faculty.