A lot of you are considering an advanced degree and looking to this website for advice, ideas and discussions. Also, most of you have already begun your professional careers. As is the case with our generation, many of you are not satisfied doing what you are doing and think that an advanced degree – an MBA or a Masters from a top school – will change your life. I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about some things I have understood from my experience of applying to Masters Programs and what I have learnt since.

Firstly, an advanced degree is not a pre-requisite for being successful; neither is it the easiest way to achieve success. An advanced degree like an MBA should only be thought of when you are able to understand what you need to learn and how you are going to benefit from it. Having decided to pursue this, you have to keep the following in mind:

GMAT is not the end of the application – you’d wish it was but it’s hardly even the end to the beginning. The application process is long-drawn, cumbersome and requires utmost dedication and patience. Please don’t assume that applications are a 1-month process once the GMAT scores are ready.

Getting in to a big school is difficult, but the struggle doesn’t stop there. Unlike in Indian Schools, most MBA programs and top schools don’t have “placements”. Career Services are strong and so are alumni relations – but you still have to work hard – in classes, on networking, for interviews and to be able to convert those interviews into offers.

Not all MBAs get jobs in Investment Banking and Strategy Consulting – most business schools have class sizes in excess of 500 – top firms would recruit from all or most of the top programs. Do a guesstimate at what % of the class would end up being i-bankers and consultants. Would be Investment Bankers generally need to have some professional background in Finance. Top consultants require stellar backgrounds, strong academics and extra-curricular kings and queens are preferred.

Finally, your past is not forgotten because you have an MBA (I’m not talking about what you did last summer). While many people look to an MBA as a means to change careers, and while many people do, you have to convince people that you could do well in a field where you have not worked before. With others having “relevant work experience” in the fray, sometimes, convincing people is not the easiest job.

Your post MBA job will not necessarily pay $200k – to top it all, you might not like your work still.

I would like to sum up with the following:

  • Think about why you want to do an MBA – convince yourself before you go out to convince others.
  • Plan where you would like to be post MBA – talk to people to see if that’s practical/ feasible.
  • Understand what an MBA can and cannot do for you. Keep in mind that getting an MBA degree is not tantamount to finding your fairy godmother.

All the best.


© 2011, Nitin Lakhotia | Columbia. All rights reserved.

Nitin Lakhotia | Columbia

Nitin did his BTech from NIT Warangal and is pursuing MS in Operations Research at Columbia University. Before Columbia, Nitin was an Associate at ZS Associates and specialized in the Pharmaceuticals industry. At ZS, he had worked across assignments in sales operations, sales force management, sales tracking and analysis.