Choosing the right MBA program can be a daunting task, especially as business schools continue to revamp their offerings to fit the changing professional climate. Michael Malone, associate dean for the MBA program at Columbia Business School, shares his thoughts on the current MBA admissions process and the future of business education.
What advice would you give students trying to figure out which type of MBA program is right for them?
Students who are choosing a business school need to do a good self-assessment. Think about where you are in your professional continuum and then look for an MBA program that has elements that will help you become a more well-rounded business professional. For example, Columbia Business School is well known for emphasizing the importance of developing leaders who can create opportunity in any environment.
Leadership is such an important priority for us that it is the first course our incoming students take as part of their orientation. The course called "Lead: People, Teams, Organizations," allows students to begin developing and practicing leadership skills from their first steps on campus, and these are skills that will stay with them both inside and outside of the classroom.
How do you think MBA admissions requirements have changed and evolved over the course of the last few years?
MBA admissions committees have gotten increasingly sophisticated over the past several years with regards to how they evaluate candidates. Being a strong GMAT taker and having a good GPA used to be plenty, but now they only get you initial consideration. More focus is placed on the strength of your experience level and recommendations, and how much you are able to connect your professional goals with the schools that you're targeting. All of these factors come into the mix in a very different way than they did years ago.
How much should students be concerned with their undergraduate GPA when it comes to MBA admissions?
Your undergraduate GPA is important but students shouldn't overthink GPA in terms of its relative weight. GPA is only one indicator of how successful a student may be. There are so many other factors that admissions committees will consider. Students should focus on how they can be well-rounded and how they can connect their professional goals to that of the school. That's something we look for here at Columbia because we believe a candidate with holistic successes will thrive in our community and in every corner of the global business world after graduation.
What are some of the biggest changes you foresee with the MBA and how it is applied going forward?
Integration and specialization are two key trends that you'll see in MBA education over the next several years.
Columbia Business School was one of the first schools to create a fully integrated case into our curriculum, and more business schools are beginning to offer integrative cases where students can get a big picture of what went right and what went wrong from an accounting standpoint, from a corporate finance standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, and so forth.
Specialization is an area in which schools are increasingly competing for resources and top candidates. MBA programs are able to differentiate themselves by recognizing and playing to their relative strengths. For example, if a business school has a strategic advantage by being connected to certain industries, connecting those relationships to curriculum and culture are ways that schools can stand out for candidates. Being centered in the global hub of business, New York City, Columbia Business School has deep roots and connections in industries such as finance, retail, media, and technology as well as entrepreneurial communities within the city's Silicon Alley.
How do you think the MBA is evolving and will continue to change in an increasingly globalized world?
As business schools recognize the importance of integration across disciplines, the MBA experience will evolve, and you will see a lot more crossover within classes and between classes so that students are coming out as well-rounded professionals. This is something that we're very proud of at Columbia because this interdisciplinary work begins right in the core curriculum where we have faculty members and industry experts coming together to teach traditional areas in an innovative fashion. The faculty members are finding that they are invigorated by this, and our students are finding different ways of looking at business issues because of this cross-disciplinary approach.
What is the biggest change in thinking you'd like to see with regards to the MBA for students?
The biggest change that I see with MBA education moving forward is a focus on enlightened leadership and intentional decision making. These are two elements that I feel strongly are going to differentiate the next generation of leaders. Where I believe that we at Columbia Business School are spending our time is to help students both with the curriculum and in co-curricular activities to develop a framework for how they make good decisions so that they are leaving organizations better than they found them. This creates an immediate and lasting impact on the business world and society at large, something our students and alumni are doing every single day.
What advice would you give to a student applying to an MBA program now?
Be thoughtful about who you are and what you hope to gain from the MBA experience. An MBA degree is most valuable for those who know exactly how they would like to use it.
Want to learn more about the application process? Check out our MBA Admissions section for tips on applying, information about the GMAT, and more.