Three questions to ask after admission

Nov 3, 2010
Tags: B-School, Choosing the Right School, School Selection

Written by Lawrence P. Ward, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Kogod School of Business, American University

You have been admitted to a graduate program in business or management and need to make an important decision about where to enroll. First, take a bow because you have conquered the most difficult part of the process—gaining admission. As you enter the next phase, consider the following questions:

Faculty engagement outside of class?

Business school faculty represent a significant amount of the intellectual capital and expertise that define the graduate academic experience. Beyond the classroom, graduate students should expect to be appreciably engaged with their faculty on consulting practica, independent research projects, case competitions, special topics symposia, professional development activities, and so forth. The value added to students’ graduate management education is regular and meaningful engagement with faculty outside of the classroom. Prospective students should look for specific “evidence” of faculty engagement in the student experience before submitting a deposit.

My contribution to the community?

Prior to admission, you undoubtedly asked several informational questions that helped you to understand the unique features and benefits of one program versus another. Informational questions address, “What can this program do for me?” After admission, be sure to ask yourself, “What can I do for this program?” As an academic dean, I expect that my students will understand the importance of contributing something specific to our community—something unique to them—and endeavor to do so. Graduate school is not a passive experience. When you join the community, we expect you to share a lot of what we read about in your application and observed during our recruitment interactions with you.

Do I see myself here?

After you have exhausted all other questions, there is no more important or fundamental remaining question than, “Do I see myself here?” Too many candidates obsess over decision factors that ultimately are not terribly important. A decision to attend the highest-ranked school that you can get into even if you do not feel a strong connection—or worse, would struggle to afford—is curious at best. The goal of earning a graduate management degree is not simply to impress at cocktail parties, but rather to expand your professional toolkit, build stronger analytical and strategic acumen, and increase your ability and confidence to make complex decisions with incomplete information. Choose the program that you feel puts you in the best position to be successful and where you know that you will enjoy the experience.