Monday, October 28, 2013

[ADMISSIONS EXPERT] Ms. Alison Merzel - Thinking About Pursuing an MBA in the U.S.?

WES Student Advisor: Can you please explain the different types of business courses available for study for students considering an MBA (Master of Business Administration), especially for students considering a career in Accounting or a specialized program such as a Masters in Finance?

There are a number of options available to students pursuing a graduate education in business. The MBA is really designed for students who are looking to advance their careers in business and who are ready to assume managerial level positions. The MBA is going to provide you with a solid foundation in each of the core business disciplines (i.e. finance, accounting, marketing, etc.) without focusing in depth in any one particular area.

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However, most MBA programs offer the opportunity to choose a specialization or major and some require that you do so. A specialization can help to focus their curriculum and academic experience. Overall, the MBA is designed to prepare you to become a successful business leader across a variety of industries or disciplines.

For students looking to enter graduate school immediately following college graduation and are interested in looking to specialize in one functional area, a specialized master’s program may be the best choice. These programs may also better prepare you for certification examinations, such as the CPA. Some students will also earn a specialized master’s degree, work for a few years and then return to earn an MBA.

WES Student Advisor: Alison, in your opinion, what are the benefits to earning an MBA in the U.S.?

Well the United States is the world’s largest economy so it’s a natural choice for students who want to study business from a global perspective. There are thousands of MBA program worldwide but the majority of the highest quality MBA programs still tend to be located in the United States. In the U.S. students can expect to develop a vast global network and have access to tremendous academic and professional resources across a wide variety of fields and industries. The diversities in business topics and industries covered throughout the curriculum in a U.S. MBA program tend to give students a stronger ability to focus on areas like entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, and general management.

Furthermore, most international students are looking to hone their English communication skills and secure practical experience working in the United States, either through an internship or a job after graduation. There are also opportunities throughout the MBA program to gain hands on experience working with U.S. businesses through class projects and professional organizations if you are pursuing an MBA in the U.S.

WES Student Advisor: So how should students further narrow down a search for appropriate MBA programs in the U.S.? Does special accreditation matter?

Students should plan to apply to several schools to insure that they are accepted to one or more schools and give themselves options to choose from. The best schools are accredited by the AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). You can search that accreditation as a starting point for universities to consider. After that, there are many resources that you can use to narrow down your search. For example, several ways can be: 

  • Begin with rankings as a starting point;
  • Education USA advising offices around the world;
  • Talk to colleagues, friends and professors;
  • Request information from the schools;
  • Attend webinars or online information sessions;
  • Speak to current students and/or alumni;
  • Read student blogs and other blogs or discussion boards.

WES Student Advisor: Alison, are there scholarships or financial assistance available for international students?

Most MBA programs do offer merit-based financial aid opportunities for international students. These can include tuition scholarships, fellowships, and graduate or teaching assistantships. It is very difficult for international students to secure loans in the United States because most of the time you are required to have a U.S. cosigner. Those international students that have family or friends living in the U.S. that may be able to sign for them will be more successful at securing loans but I would say that there are plenty of merit-based opportunities. This is why performance on standardized exams and putting together a strong application is very important because these are the criteria that are considered when awarding scholarships or fellowships.

WES Student Advisor: Beyond tests and GPA, MBA programs typically require supplemental materials: what makes a great personal statement, and from whom should students get recommendation letters?

Well you can imagine how many personal statements and essays admissions officers have to read every year. Most important is making sure that you are addressing the question or questions that have been posed to you by the school in your response. You want to make sure that your personal statement or essay is honest, compelling, and personal. The essay should be unique to you and draw from your personal experiences and reflect your own character and personality.

It should also be unique to the program. It is obvious to admissions officers when essays come through as generic and look as if it could have been written for any program. Given that English is likely not your native language, it is very important to focus on strong written communication and be mindful of grammar and punctuation. I would strongly recommend that someone else proofread your essay before you submit it with your application.

In terms of recommendation letters, MBA programs prefer that you submit letters from current or previous supervisors. We are trying to assess your potential for success as a future business leader. So, we want hear feedback about your professional accomplishments to date and your ability to successful work with others in a professional environment. Therefore, ideally supervisors are the first choice although candidates do provide recommendations from colleagues, clients, individuals they have worked with, and faculty members.


Alison Merzel has been with The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business since 2005. She is currently the Director of MBA Recruiting and Admissions, overseeing the recruitment and enrollment strategies for the Full-Time MBA program and the MBA for Working Professionals. Alison holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Northwestern University and a Master of Labor and Human Resources from The Ohio State University (Fisher). For additional information, you can find her on LinkedIn at

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