Is an MBA right for you? Is it the right time?
Before you even dive headlong into the process, you want to determine if getting an MBA is worthwhile for you. You want to weigh the pros and cons, why it's the right time, and how an MBA will help you accomplish your future career goals. Not only is this helpful in your decision to apply, but it's also commonly asked in interviews and essays. It's not easy to walk away from something you've spent several years or even a career doing. Additionally, potentially walking away from a reliable source of income is not an easy decision, and if you're married, it's something both of you have to be comfortable with. You also want to consider what type of program you would like to pursue. A full-time MBA isn't right for everyone. Maybe in your case, a part-time MBA would be more conducive to your lifestyle and interests. It's all about making the right decision for you and your family. You have plenty of time to make your decision and do research.
Deciding on what school is right for you
Once you have decided you want to apply and you have an idea of what type of program you want to enter, you can start looking at schools. The biggest criteria you should have is fit. Fit something you want to emphasize in interviews and in your essays. Look for schools that fit what you're looking for academically and have the culture you're looking for. Location and tuition benefits are important too, as well as reputation. Hundreds of schools out there are really hungry for vets in their programs. Part of it is because we have leadership skills and experience that most applicants don't have. Some is because they're getting guaranteed tuition money from the government. However, when you graduate, your school's name and reputation will carry a lot of weight. At top-tier business schools, they take great pride in developing their students and providing them with the best career services out there. It's a fact that top companies come and recruit at the top schools searching for the best talent they can get with the limited recruiting resources they have. You don't see this at lower tier schools. Many lower-tier schools have weaker career services and some may not have them at all. It's definitely part of the criteria the US News and others use to rank schools. Many of us made an Excel spreadsheet and listed a lot of information: rankings from three different sources, yellow ribbon benefits, major programs of interest, application deadlines, and class profile statistics. Over time, trim the list down to the handful of schools to which to apply.
How should I prepare for the GMAT?
We recommend to prepare for and take the GMAT even if you're not sure if you want to go to business school just yet. It's been a long time since you've taken a standardized test and the GMAT is a strange animal. If your base offers some prep courses, that may be the way to go; however, for many, a lot of prep work was done independently. We recommend the prep textbook that GMAC publishes and I also used Kaplan and Princeton Review prep materials. The GMAT is a computer adaptive test, something I had never experienced before. If you're old school and prefer paper exams, the computer test format may take some getting used to. The Kaplan book actually came with a CD that had a question bank of practice questions and two full-length exams. Once you schedule an exam date, GMAC gives you the opportunity to download test prep software which gives you practice questions in a variety of difficulties and question types, and two full-length practice exams, in the exact format as the actual exam. The GMAT is expensive to take (somewhere in the neighborhood of $250) but you can get reimbursed for your first test as active duty military. There may be a testing center on your base, and you can pick up a form from them that you send to the DANTES test center to get reimbursed for one exam. All of your scores are good for five years, so even if you're not ready to take the plunge into school at this time, you can bank your school for later when you're ready. Refer to mba.com for more information on the GMAT.