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Why an MBA?

By Jordan Perras

April 8, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that “grad school” implies medical school or law school. Most students don’t have business school on their radars yet, which is understandable since almost all programs require post-grad work experience to qualify for admission. However, understanding why to get an MBA will help you make smart, calculated decisions about your career even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do yet.

As the Baby Boomer generation retires, an unprecedented amount of leadership roles are being vacated. Who will replace them? The people at the top of the list will most likely be Millennials, especially because we’ll make up almost half of the workforce by 2020. That means that a huge percentage of your competition for promotions will be other people your age.

One of the most powerful ways of showing that you’re prepared for the challenge of helping to lead a firm is by continuing your education and earning an MBA. An MBA is an internationally recognized identifier that shows your commitment to lifelong learning and personal development. If you’re ever up for a promotion, having an advanced degree shows credibility and strengthens the case for your promotion by eliminating the argument that you’re too inexperienced or young.

Employers understand that an MBA program affords you a comprehensive understanding of many aspects of running a business and prepares you for leadership roles. MBA programs help you strengthen your problem solving, time management, and leadership skills. Most schools have requirements for global experiences that help increase your cultural and global awareness while helping you gain an international network of professionals.

Something else to keep in mind is that the average amount of time that a Millennial stays at one company is two years. That’s half the time it takes an average student to finish their undergraduate degree! The network of other MBAs that you meet at business school is another asset that you will (statistically) draw on as you navigate changing employers.

On a personal note, I was lucky to be raised by two parents committed to education, and my mom earned both a Bachelor’s of Finance and an MBA. Through the stories she has shared of her experiences, I’ve realized that having a solid educational background makes it much easier to be a woman in a male-dominated field. While Finance has come a long way from where it used to be, women are still underrepresented in business schools, C-Suites and leadership roles across firms throughout the country.

Even if you still aren’t sure whether or not an MBA is for you, there are some steps you can take in college to make the decision easier down the road. Do some research about business schools. What are their average GPAs and GMAT scores? What have their alumni gone on to do? Where do they work? How much money do they make?

Check out some GMAT study courses like Forté’s preparatory resources. If you have space in your schedule, take a few quantitative courses like Economics or Intro to Finance to make the quantitative section of the GMAT easier.

Think about taking the GMAT during your senior year, and keep in mind that your score will keep for up to five years. This has the added benefit of eliminating a situation where you’re working full-time and trying to study on top of that.

Anything I missed? Comment below or tweet at @fortefoundation or @perras_jordan!

Jordan Perras is a third-year student at Northeastern University majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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Preparing for the GMAT as an Undergrad

January 27, 2015

by Kaitlyn Lannan

Most people who are interested in going to business school don’t take the GMAT test until 2 or 3 months before they apply to business school after getting several years of work experience, but it’s never too early to start preparing!

The GMAT, which stands for Graduate Management Admission Test, is a standardized test required for most business schools, so the earlier you start preparing, the better. Just like the SAT and the ACT, the more practice you get, the better the end result will be. Use these tips to get your best score possible!

1. Talk to your friends.

Ask around to see if any of your acquaintances are planning to take the GMAT soon, or if they have taken it already. Friends can be great study partners and good first-hand sources of information about the test.

2. Buy a study book.

There are tons of GMAT prep books on the market, and your college’s bookstore probably has some in stock. Setting a small amount of time aside each day to work on a few pages adds up quickly, and will help you to be better prepared on the day of the test.

3. Consider enrolling in a preparation class.

Preparing for the exam in a formal setting cam help you to get familiar with the test material in a more personalized way. If you can’t fit weekly classes into your schedule, consider trying to find a tutor that is a current business school student at your college’s business school.

4. Schedule a date to take the test while you are still in school.

GMAT scores are valid for 5 years, so you can actually take the test while still an undergraduate. Your test-taking skills are sharper now than they will be a few years after graduation, so take the test now and you can always take it again if you don’t like your score.

Taking and preparing for the GMAT as early as possible is the best way to guarantee yourself a great score. Good luck on the test!

Kaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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Using the Major You Have to Get the Career You Want

January 14, 2015

by Stephanie Watkins

In a field as broad as business, you can get involved in just about anything. With seemingly endless opportunities and different career paths to go down, it can be tough to get an educational background in exactly what you will be doing ten years down the road.

Many schools don’t even offer undergraduate business degrees. Countless successful business executives come from varying, diverse educational backgrounds. So how do you use the major you have to get the business career you want?

GET INVOLVED IN CLUBS ON CAMPUS

Colleges and universities have an amazing selection of different clubs and organizations for you to get involved in. Check out what organizations are offered in your field of professional interest.

You may be able to join a professional club like Finance club, or an International Business club. Even if you don’t have a business degree offered at your school, there will be plenty of other like-minded individuals looking for ways to get involved.

Other non-professional clubs can make just as good business experiences. Seek out leadership roles in a service club you’re passionate about, run for marketing chair of your sorority, or get involved in a student government committee.

By getting involved in clubs, you can learn what it’s like to work with a team on a project, and use the experiences you gain from participating in professional and non-professional clubs alike to further your future business aspirations.

EXPAND YOUR NETWORK

It can be really valuable to start tapping into and expanding your network during undergrad. You never know which classmate will go on to be an executive, or who your former boss knows in your field of interest.

One great way to use your network is to conduct an informational interview with someone whose career you admire. Are they doing something you would want to do a few years down the road? Make time to meet with or call them, and ask them about their career path, what skills they use day to day, and what you can do as an undergrad to put yourself on the path to success.

Without a formal undergraduate business degree, connections you make with other professionals can lead to opportunities you may not be exposed to otherwise. Don’t take relationships lightly- making connections and keeping in touch is a resource that can be a useful as you make it.

CONSIDER AN MBA DEGREE

Despite the diverse fields that business offers, employers still love to see you have the hard skills they’re looking for. It’s never too early to start thinking about furthering education, and an MBA can help you stand out from the crowd while teaching you valuable information not included at the undergrad level.

Most business schools require you to take the GMAT or GRE as an entrance exam. The scores from the exam last for five years after you take it, so they’ll still hold their value. It can be helpful to take the exam during undergrad while you’re still in prime studying and test taking mode. Even if you’re not sure exactly what you want to do, taking the GMAT or GRE while in undergrad can be a really smart career move to get you to the professional position you want to be in down the road. 


Stephanie Watkins is a senior at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduating in 2015. Her major is in Management and Society and her dream job is to be a marketing and social media consultant which allows her to travel all over the world. Stephanie’s spirit animal is Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec and you can find her on Twitter at @StephanieWatki5.

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4 Tips to Strengthen Quantitative Skills

January 8, 2015

by Nicole Chacin

When trying to improve quantitative skills, it is important to give yourself varied materials in segments to absorb and learn at a reasonable pace. Cramming learning materials in such a way is much like heavy lifting when your muscles are overworked or out of shape; more often than not it will be very exhausting and may not produce the results desired.

The following 4 tips will address just how students can choose cost-effective resources at their disposal for a strong approach to improve their quantitative skills in business.

Read Business Oriented Materials such as Journals, Articles, and Blogs

Becoming familiar with the language of business is pivotal to being able to advance in your study of business concepts and models. The vocabulary of business is not the typical vernacular you hear every day and requires familiarization.

By reading these materials you will also strengthen qualitative understanding of business such as the climate of the marketplace, the key movers and shakers, and the way policy affects business here and all over the world.

Pick at least one business role model in the industry you want to enter and examine how they became successful.

There is a great deal we can learn from leaders in business in the way they got started and how they advanced in their industry. Great leaders were all students at one point, and it was their decisions at this key time in their life that paved the way for their future successes.

Studying at least one role model is not just good to boost your morale and inspire you, but it will remind you that you are more than capable of achieving all that you intend to if you take the right steps to prepare yourself.

Pick up from the library or purchase a copy of a prep material book in a subject you need work on.

If your background is not business, math, or science it can be difficult to dive into business studies. To help facilitate the transition, a lot of students take time during the summer or during their breaks to brush up on some old math concepts and learn some basic statistical concepts.

I have found that the materials students use to study for AP tests in Math and Statistics are great for preparing for business classes in college. There are a great deal of prep materials for students in college or post college to pick up and peruse. You may even find your campus offers certain discounts to purchase these materials if you ask your career center or business school advisor.

An even more targeted approach would be to pick up the exact textbook from a course you will be taking and get a head start on the material so you have a strong start and not such a steep learning curve to circumvent.

Look online to see videos for certain math concepts performed on paper or in a classroom setting.

There are many websites which students can use to review their calculus, algebra, and geometry concepts with practice problems and detailed solutions. There are certain courses online students can audit or take free of charge to enhance many other quantitative skills.

Community colleges also offer summer enrichment programs for those who prefer a classroom setting in person. In fact, if you want to brush up on a specific mathematical or statistical concept, you can look at the online non-profit, Khan Academy, which has pre-recorded video tutorials for students at no cost to you.

As great as these resources are, a college education and obtaining a degree are the ultimate accreditation you can receive for your hard work as a student.

Quantitative studies can be very exciting when you have a confident approach to tackling them and have good inspiration and guidance along the way. Happy studying!


Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.

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Preparing for Business School When You’re in College

December 3, 2014

by Kaitlyn Lannan

Many students want to prepare themselves for a career in business, but don’t know where to start or how to make the best use of the options available. Here are some ways to prepare yourself for the experience of business school while still in undergrad:

1. Some schools, such as Harvard Business School, offer specific programs for undergraduate students that guarantee them admission into business school. Harvard’s 2+2 program involves students applying while still undergraduates, working for two years, then entering the business school for another two years.

Ask your academic advisor if your school has any similar programs to this, as it is a great way to take a lot of the stress out of applying for and attending business school.

2. Another similar to this is the Yale School of Management’s Silver Scholars program, except applicants apply in their senior year of college and immediately enter business school after undergrad. If you are looking to advance your career as quickly as possible, this might be a good route for you.

3. Take advantage of your school’s business school. Even if there is no undergraduate business school at your university, many schools such as Northwestern offer certificates through the business school that undergraduate students can complete.

Completing one or two of these certificates can also help you to strengthen your applications to business schools later on.

4. Enroll in a business school’s summer program. Some schools, such as Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, offer short summer programs like the Tuck Business Bridge Program, meant for students to get a taste of what the business school life is like. Additionally, these programs often only last for a few weeks, so there would still be time to complete an internship over the summer.

Even if you are years away from applying to business schools, there are still many steps that you can take to advance your prospects now. Good luck!

Kaitlyn Lannan is a junior at Northwestern University. She is majoring in economics and communication studies and plans on attending business school in the future. Her dream job is becoming the Chief Marketing Officer at a Fortune 500 company. You can find Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynLannan.

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Why Pre-Meds Should Consider Business

November 3, 2014

by Siobhan Bauer

Learning skill sets from business is something I think can be extremely valuable for pre-med students. It took me two years of taking rigorous science and math classes as a pre-med to finally recognize that something was missing. Below are the three main reasons why I think exploring careers in health management/administration or at least gaining an understanding of how businesses function is important for pre-medical students.

I want to preface by saying that I have no intention of devaluing the roles of the medical professionals. Rather, I hope to open doors for other students like myself who were under the impression that doctors are the only ones who help patients.

Reason #1: Hospitals are businesses.

It is a straightforward idea, but one that is often overlooked. Boiled down, hospitals are businesses with the goal of saving lives. They seek to provide adequate medical resources, train health care professionals, and help everyone that walks through their doors. They too have mission statements, 5, 10, and 15-year plans, budgets, and they are always striving to finds ways to provide their customers the most effective and efficient health care.

An undergraduate who gains experience in a business setting is preparing themselves well for a future in health care, because you can’t practice medicine without the surrounding support. This structure comes down to the management and administrators who ensure the business is running so that doctors function at their peak.

Some pre-medical students may end up owning their own practices in the future, and having even a small background and understand of how businesses function will prove very valuable in time!

Reason #2: Health care reform impacts patients AND their physicians.

The past three years have fielded lots of debate about the future of the American health care system. When the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, it was the most major change to American health care in recent years. While its affects are still playing out, the next couple of decades likely will bring more changes to how health care will function in the United States.

This could include changes in the ways hospitals and doctors charge for their services, who can access services, and many other factors.

Do yourself a favor and take an undergraduate economics course! The language of health policy and insurance can be very dense, but giving yourself time at least learn about the language of economics will lead to a greater understanding of how changes in the economy will impact health care and a career in medicine.

Reason #3: Business teaches teamwork.

I know it may be one of the more cliché things to point out, but I don’t think it is any less important to remember! Hospitals have executive boards, human resources departments, financial departments, and PR and marketing people who are there with physicians and nurses to bring the best care to the patients in their hospitals.

All hospitals, health care facilities, and primary care offices are comprised of functional units that work together to carry out an objective: helping patients get better.

The individuals on the management and administrative side help create and support an environment that allows the doctors work at their best, and provide the maximum value for patient. There are very few instances when you go to the doctor and you only interact with just one person – and think of all the people behind the scenes who make it possible for the doctors to do their jobs!

Similarly, when you take business courses, they are often group-project-oriented including presenting business proposals or long-term financial plans. These courses help develop the skills required for working functionally in a groups.

A lot of times when you ask a student why they want to become a doctor, they say, among other things, that they want to help people. This is a valiant reason, but who is to say that the doctors are the only ones helping patients?

Over the past couple of months I have come to understand that the job of helping people fight illness does not solely belong to the physicians, and that skills acquired from being in the business field most surely have a place in the practice of medicine.

Siobhan Bauer will graduate in 2016 from the University of Washington in Medical Anthropology. Siobhan plans to pursue an MBA with a career in health care or hospital management.

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The Marketability Factor of Pursuing an Advanced Degree

April 28, 2014

by Daria Burke

Since the economic downturn of 2008, the choice to pursue an MBA has been hotly contested. With the economy on the rebound, MBA applications are on the rise according to Bloomberg Businessweek. And while it’s true that business school is potentially one of the greatest investments in your career you could make, you have to first understand if the MBA is right for you. After all, the return on investment can only be optimized if you fully understand the value proposition.

I pursued my MBA with the goal of redirecting my marketing career from professional services marketing and business development to brand management and product development in prestige beauty. I knew that making a career switch with no background in fashion or beauty might prove challenging, so I leveraged the MBA to make that transition. In 2006, I enrolled in the two-year, full-time MBA program at the New York University Stern School of Business.

“Getting an MBA doesn’t entitle you to anything – even if you pay [more than] $100,000 to get it,” says Nicole Lindsay, founder of DiversityMBAPrep.com and former admissions director at the Yale School of Management. “[However, it’s] about opportunity. It’s an all-access pass to the relationships, knowledge and skills that can propel your career forward. Once inside you have to position yourself to seize the opportunity.”

A top MBA program will offer four key opportunities:

Career Flexibility

An MBA offers expanded career options. Whether you are seeking to enhance existing functional knowledge, shift from one functional area to another within the same industry, or change both function and industry, business school is a great place to develop or deepen subject-matter expertise. Many people leverage the MBA to reinvent themselves, establish a new professional brand and switch careers, typically without having to completely start over in terms of salary and responsibility.

Leadership Development Experience

Top MBA programs traditionally excel at preparing future business leaders through multi-disciplinary education, focusing on leadership and organizational management, creative problem solving, and finding one’s voice. More than ever, MBA candidates are pursuing careers that allow them to do well and do good, making a measurable impact on society in some way. Business school students (particularly those in full-time programs) have the opportunity to lead organizations and projects, engage high-profile business leaders and co-create their MBA education by helping shape curriculum and the overall student experience. While at NYU Stern, I led the Luxury & Retail Club, which allowed me to manage a team of peers, and through our efforts, help establish Stern as a destination for top luxury and retail talent.

Access to an Amazing Network

In addition to the career flexibility an MBA offers, much of the long-term value lies in the network. For students, the alumni network provides perspective on optimizing their time at school, on potential career paths and on general post-MBA life. Post-MBA, the network is part of your brand, facilitating future career moves and access to many senior executives who share your alma mater. Now that I’m an entrepreneur, I see the benefits of the NYU Stern network everyday.

Enhanced Earning Power

An added benefit of increasing your job prospects is increasing your earning potential. Post-MBA salaries often vary by industry and by function, but according to the Financial Times, female graduates of the world’s top business schools earn an average salary of $126,000 for and men from the same programs earn $136,000 on average. This is roughly 50% more than their pre-MBA average salaries.

Benefits aside, an MBA is not for everyone. While I’m a huge proponent of going to business school when it makes sense for you, I do not believe you should pursue it at any cost. It’s a controversial stance to take, but not all MBA programs are created equal. Many would happily take your money then struggle to support you as you recruit for the most coveted post-MBA positions. I find it more difficult to defend the ROI of a business school that isn’t in the top tier. Traditionally, top MBA programs serve as the most critical pipelines for producing business leaders. You can’t compete for those opportunities if you aren’t in the consideration set. I’m not saying that it becomes impossible, but if you choose not to attend a top business school, your options, access and network often become significantly diminished.

The first step is to evaluate your short- and long-term career goals. Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? Do you already have functional expertise in your area of interest?

You must understand and be able to articulate (to yourself and others) the role an MBA will play in your long-term career strategy. If you studied marketing in college and are looking to transition to digital marketing, an MBA may not be the best use of your time and financial resources. Instead, you may want to seek opportunities within your company to develop digital experience. Or perhaps there are online marketing classes you could take to enhance the marketing knowledge you already possess.

Source: Black Enterprise

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Strategies for Paying for Business School

April 14, 2014

by Melanie Lasoff Levs

If you’re serious about getting your MBA, you need to get serious about planning for business school financially. Start saving money, settle for your old car for a couple more years, put off those big purchases, consider negotiating a low-interest loan from a family member. Also, become very familiar with these basic education funding mechanisms:

Loans

To be eligible for any federal loans, students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Federal Stafford Loans for up to $18,500 per year have variable interest rates. The government will pay all the interest on the loan while you’re in school if you demonstrate financial need. If you are eligible, the Federal Perkins loan will pay up to $6,000 per year and is interest-free while you are in school. Many schools also offer their own loan programs.

Corporate Tuition Support

Some companies will pay for their employees to pursue a part-time or executive MBA program, or even a full-time program. Check your HR office to find out about educational benefits.

In-School Scholarships/Fellowships

Most business schools also offer need-based and/or merit-based scholarships or fellowships, including Forté Fellowships. Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth considers all students who apply for financial aid for scholarships. The school is also a member of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and awards scholarships to select students through that program. Harvard Business School’s HBS Fellowships are awarded based on need, and 46 percent of the class of 2006 received a Fellowship their first year, according to the HBS website. At Yale School of Management, all students are automatically considered for a long list of merit-based scholarships no separate application is required.

Outside Scholarships

While schools recognize the cost of education and provide extensive resources, there are several venues for outside scholarships. Many school websites list resources for scholarship searches, including FastWeb, FinAid, and the American Association of University Women. There are scholarships for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and others for international students such as Rotary International and the International Education Financial Aid. For more financial aid ideas, check out the Financing Your MBA section of MBA Central.

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