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Do you really need an MBA degree?

Convince yourself you need one and the admissions officers follow says Sameer Kamat, founder of MBA Crystal Ball, who was an MBA scholar at the UK’s Cambridge University.


Fri Oct 7 2011

Sameer Kamat is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an admissions consulting venture. He completed his MBA from the University of Cambridge on a double scholarship and worked in mergers & acquisitions for five years before becoming an entrepreneur. He is also the author of Beyond The MBA Hype published by HarperCollins and recently recommended by the Times of India.

As the founder of an MBA admissions consulting venture, I get the opportunity to interact with many aspiring applicants who have the top MBA programs on their radar. Despite their excellent academic and professional backgrounds, one of the most common dilemmas they struggle with is to figure out what exactly they want from the MBA experience.

In some cases, the motivation to pursue an MBA degree is the proverbial pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. In some cases, it is to get away from their current problems on the professional or personal side. For others, it’s a career change. When the desire to achieve (or get away from) something is so strong, the MBA ecosystem starts appearing like a magical environment where regular folks enter and come out on the other side as superstars. All the aspects of bschool life – the academics, the networking, internships and the career hunt – have their idiosyncratic ways of functioning. What worked for one alumnus (you’ll find many such success stories on their MBA blogs) may not work for you. And vice versa.

The stakes involved in leaving your stable job and venturing into unfamiliar territory can be high. And it’s not just the tuition fee we are talking about. It’s also the risk of quitting a role and/or an industry and heading into a field where you might have to start from scratch.

All this coming from an admissions consultant might seem counter-intuitive. And let me assure you, it’s got nothing to do with reverse-psychology. Each year, we lose a fair bit of revenue by turning away clients when we aren’t convinced about their stories or goals. So then, is it to promote my new book that focuses on the same theme? In the spirit of being transparent, (if you hadn’t already guessed it) I’d say – yes, that would be one of the reasons. But I wrote the book years before I launched my admissions consulting business. It’s taken a while to get it published, but in the current economy the message that it contains might be more relevant than ever. I have encouraged potential clients to defer or shelve their MBA plans, when I felt there were alternatives that could help them achieve the same objectives.

So before you plunge into the frenzy of application essays, take a step back, introspect and think about why you really need an MBA. Forget what you think Adcoms are looking for, what the average MBA profile for your dream school looks like and what image you should be projecting to get that little edge over your competitors. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s not so much about convincing others that you need an MBA, it’s about convincing yourself first. If you feel there are easier, cheaper and less risky paths to reach your goals, explore them thoroughly first before finalising on the MBA journey. If it can save you over a $100,000 and 2 years of your productive life, I’d say that’s a heck of a deal.

For those who’ve already dealt with these dilemmas, good luck to you as you prepare to meet your application deadlines.