The UK is one of the most popular destinations to study for an MBA thanks to its reputation for academic rigour and exposure to excellent job opportunities.
From how to narrow down your school, where to live, planning a study schedule, budgeting, socializing, and looking for work after graduation, we get important advice from Cranfield's Agalby Perez and Warwick's Matt Cooling.
Agalby graduated from Cranfield University's full-time MBA last year and joined Westmill Foods as a Commercial Manager for their Chinese Agency Brands.
Matt is on Warwick's Distance Learning MBA and is currently a Business Development Manager at Cisco, focusing on the retail and automotive sectors. He also writes a highly informative blog about his MBA experience which you can check out here.
How to pick a school
Choosing where to go for an MBA will inevitably be influenced by things such as your background and your career ambitions. Agalby comes from the Dominican Republic and chose to do her MBA at Cranfield School of Management because she wanted to work in the UK afterwards.
She had a background in the FMCG industry, having worked with the likes of Nestle and Colgate Palmolive. Cranfield has a reputation for preparing students for careers in the FMCG industry, so it was the perfect transition for her.
Matt's decision to pursue a distance learning MBA was based on the flexibility it gave him in managing his personal and work life. He already spent a large proportion of his time working from home and was familiar with collaborating virtually with colleagues. He also wanted a chance to meet with students and network physically, which the Warwick MBA provides through study groups and the 'Warwick Week', which allows students to meet in Warwick for lectures, group exercises and networking.
Deciding where to live
Matt didn't need to worry about this as he already lives in Leeds.
Agalby, however, was new to the country, and the British way of life in general. Cranfield is in the countryside and so if you love nature, have a family with small kids, like outdoor activities, or learning in an intimate environment, then it's ideal! Agalby's advice on deciding where to live is to take into consideration whether activities you need to unwind are available. You would need to look at what the university, city or town can provide in terms of social activities and determine whether they match your interests.
Shared living spaces were also something new to Agalby. She had to get used to having people around all the time, and sharing bathrooms was a huge adjustment! She did mention the advantage of picking up social skills such as communicating without offending people.
How should you plan your study schedule?
Matt gives some very detailed advice on fitting study around a busy work and family life on his blog. When coming up with a study schedule, Matt feels that it's important to keep it personal. People might find that they study better at different points in the day, in different settings (around people or in private, or in noisy or quiet environments). He also highlights having a strong support system, in his case, his employer and his family.
How often should you socialize?
Agalby found interactions with people and socializing really easy at Cranfield. Her cohort became her family and Cranfield became a home away from home. She advised people who might be shy to find activities that make it easier to meet people. Of course, too much socializing can also be an issue. The Cranfield MBA involved a lot of group projects and assignments so it was easy to fit social engagements around study but you had to be careful not to allow one overrun the other.
Hidden costs to incude in your budget
The cost of living in the UK is quite high even with special discounts available for students. Normally, universities provide rough estimates for incoming students to work with but often students overlook additional costs such as travelling during breaks, field trips, and a variety of adhoc extra-curricular activities. For instance while Agalby was at Cranfield, some of the activities she took part in that she hadn't budgeted for included the MBA Regatta, trips around Europe with friends and the MBAT tournament. Additionally, if a student decides to stay on to look for a job, they have to finance things like new clothes for the interview and living costs until they start earning again. All hidden costs that can shoot up very quickly!
One thing to consider when looking for work
Agalby feels that working in London gives you an edge as opposed to working in any other city in the UK. She said international students who really wanted to enhance their CVs must try to work in London. She advised physically moving to the city to look for work from there and not remotely.