Pursuing your MBA is a big decision involving short-term sacrifices for long-term advantages: you're quitting your job and potentially taking on debt, but your business degree will build important skills and offer new opportunities. How can you be sure whether an MBA program is right for you? Let's think through the decision like an MBA student would.

MBA student

1. Identify the decision.

This one is pretty simple: is an MBA right for you, or not? Think about whether you should apply this year or wait for future cycles—you want to be as prepared as possible when you submit your application. Also, weigh whether a full-time or part-time MBA program is best for you. 

2. Gather information.

Fortunately, a lot of information about MBA programs is available online: visit school and program websites to learn about their strengths, expectations, and employment prospects. You can also research programs using our business school search tool, which offers up-to-date MBA admissions requirements, costs, notable alumni, student reviews, and more. If possible, tour campuses in person and ask questions to current and former MBA students. Keep all of this information in one place (like a spreadsheet) so that it's easy for you to compare schools. 

3. Identify alternatives.

Once you've done your research, start building your list of schools. Most students apply to around five programs—including reach, target, and safety schools—but apply to as many (or as few) as you see fit.

4. Weigh the evidence.

When building your list, decide the criteria that are most important for you. Are MBA rankings your top consideration, or an impressive faculty? Do you prefer a well-rounded curriculum or more specialized courses of study? Determine your priorities and compare your notes for each school. 

5. Choose among alternatives.

After you've decided on your list, consider the logistics of the MBA programs you've chosen: think about the cost of each program and the steps you'll need to take in advance of submitting your application. Remember, you can apply to as many schools as you want, but more MBA programs means more materials to prepare. 

6. Take action. 

Putting together an MBA application can take a year or more: you'll need to write your MBA essays and personal statement, study for the GMAT, obtain letters of recommendation, and more. So get started early! If you're invited to interview, you'll also want to practice ahead of time to ensure you make a good impression. 

7. Review your decision. 

With enough preparation and hard work, you'll hopefully be accepted to an MBA program—and, if you're lucky, you'll have more than one choice. Weigh the pros and cons of each program again before you make your final decision.

Quiz: Should You Take the GMAT or GRE?

The GMAT is not the only test in the business school game anymore. Answer a few questions and will help you decide whether to to take the GMAT or the GRE.