A smart idea to include as part of your American business school education
You have decided to get an MBA or other Master’s degree in business. You know that getting an advanced business degree can offer you new and greater opportunities, including career advancement and higher salary potential. You have decided to study in the U.S. because you know that an American business degree is well recognized and highly valued internationally, and that leading edge American business methods and technologies continue to have a strong influence globally. You also know that studying in the U.S. can improve your English, the international language of business.
You have made a decision that will positively impact your career development. Now that you have made this decision, you want to know that your next steps will ensure that you reach your ultimate academic goal: to successfully complete business school in the U.S. and be optimally prepared to compete in an increasingly competitive global business environment.
Why focus on your ultimate goal before you start business school?
A smart business person will look first at the final goal he or she wants to achieve and second at all the steps that must be taken to ensure that the goal is achieved with the greatest possible outcome. You can approach your decision to get a business degree in the same way: first, look at what you want to achieve—to become an optimally prepared business school graduate ready to face a competitive business world—and, second, identify all the steps that will help you to become that successful business school graduate.
Some of the most important steps will happen before you begin business school. A Pre-MBA program can help guide you to ensure that your next steps will best prepare you for business education in the U.S.
How will you benefit from a Pre-MBA program?
A good Pre-MBA program will help international students become valuable members of an American business school by helping them effectively adapt to the American learning environment. They do this in many ways, the most important of which are the following:
1. Familiarize students with the American approach to education.
Surprisingly, the most important skill business school will teach you is not marketing, finance, accounting, management or any of the other functional areas of business. The most important skill business school will teach you is how to learn: how to take large amounts of information, analyze it, and make the best decisions possible in a short period of time. In fact, in today’s fast-paced, international business environment, it is becoming increasingly more important to be able to learn quickly and effectively. During their Bachelor’s degree education, American students begin the process of becoming optimal learners and critical thinkers. In the U.S., students are expected to synthesize—to bring together—information from a variety of sources and to develop their own opinions more than they are expected to simply memorize information. This American approach to education is one of the reasons that the new iBT (TOEFL) includes sections that require students to synthesize information and develop their own views, and why the GMAT (the admissions test that business school students must take) has three sections involving analytical thinking. A Pre-MBA program will help international students develop these important learning skills in English so they know what is expected of them and can perform well in American business school.
2. Help students learn about American academic culture.
There is a famous quote that says, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In other words, understand and adapt to the culture you are in so that you can function effectively. In the same way that each country has its own culture, each country also has its own academic culture. It is important to know important beliefs and practices of the academic culture in which you will be studying. Knowing what the expectations are can help to prevent misunderstandings that sometimes happen when international students bring their own cultural practices to an American environment. A Pre-MBA program can help you learn and understand important practices and behaviors including:
- How students are expected to behave in the classroom.
- How students communicate with their professors and classmates.
- How to handle conflicts and other problems with others.
- How to ask for help or other assistance that may be needed.
3. Help students develop skills they are expected to have in American business school.
The ability to express ideas clearly is necessary in an American business school environment. Students are evaluated, in part, by their participation in class. In group projects, students are often evaluated by their team members, and the evaluation is largely determined by the quality and quantity of the students’ participation. Strong writing and business research skills are critical, and students are expected to produce research papers that follow the American rules of writing. Because writing rules vary among academic cultures, international students can make serious mistakes, including plagiarism, which is considered a serious offense in the U.S., if they are not familiar with the American rules of writing. A Pre-MBA program will provide opportunities for students to learn to effectively express their ideas and opinions and learn how to evaluate others. A good program will also familiarize students with American writing and research practices, so that they are prepared to produce quality papers in business school.
Finally, a good Pre-MBA program will offer students strong advising support. Experienced academic advisors can help students clarify their career goals and assist them with finding business schools that best match these goals. Advisors can assist students with preparing strong application packages that emphasizes their strengths. Essentially, advisors can help students manage the many tasks they must complete throughout the application process.
It is important for international students to understand that the international presence they bring to an American business school can only make the school stronger. Today’s increasingly global business environment necessitates that information about the culture and business practices of other countries be part of the learning process for everyone—professors and students alike. If international students develop the academic skills and knowledge that will help them function effectively in an American learning environment, they can then turn their complete attention to optimally preparing themselves to become well-educated business professionals.
Patric Bodin is the Pre-MBA Program Coordinator/Advisor at the American Language Institute at San Diego State University, San Diego, California.