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Iva Peneva is Candidate Management Lead at Access MBA and Premier EMBA. Her experience spans HR administration, customer service, and education advising. For the past six years her career has been dedicated to guiding professionals from around the world aspiring to grow as business leaders, through MBA or Executive MBA studies. Currently, she leads a team of orientation experts who match prospective business school applicants to the best schools and connect them for private meetings to achieve their career goals.

When is the right time for MBA candidates to start researching their business school options?

We recommend candidates dedicate between 6 and 12 months for researching. During this period, they can actively look up different business schools and make the right investment choice. This is the first and most important step – finding your soulmate business school.

What should prospective MBA students consider to find the best programme and business school?

That’s an important question. Once you make the decision to pursue an MBA, you should be very open-minded about exploring diverse opportunities. However, when researching you should be very clear about your own needs and preferences and aware of other people’s bias or point of view. Each business school has a unique energy and microenvironment that can suit you better than anyone else. A prospective MBA applicant should trust their feelings and that’s why one-to-one meetings with school representatives are so important.

What makes a school the right match for a student?

Well, that’s my favourite question. The right match means that both students and professors feel comfortable and work together in a creative and productive way. Of course, this doesn’t exclude challenges, but when you feel supported, the journey is more worthwhile and enjoyable.

How do personal meetings with admission advisers from different schools help students select the right programme?

Personal meetings with business schools’ admissions advisers are important to get first-hand information and details on aspects of the MBA experience that are important to you. However, these meetings are not just about the programmes and admission criteria. Admission officers can give you direct feedback on your MBA profile, strengths and competitive advantages, but also on areas to improve before you apply. This valuable advice from people involved in the admission decision-making enables you to make an informed decision about your application strategy and to improve the quality of your application.

Hear more insights from an MBA expert with vast experience in helping professionals find their best business school opportunities.

How can prospective students get in touch with and meet grad school representatives?

There are various ways to get in touch with a business school representative. A common, but not necessarily the easiest way is to approach the admission office of each shortlisted school directly. Attending business school events is another opportunity. However, both ways are time-consuming and overwhelming in terms of organisation and follow-up. This is why the most committed prospective applicants choose our personalised services, as we take care of securing private meetings with all the best-matching schools. MBA seekers only need to create an online profile with their qualifications and MBA preferences, and choose an event date at a convenient location or online.
All the matching to the right schools and scheduling of private meetings will be handled by our experienced candidate managers. Then the MBA candidates need to join the meetings and make a great first impression by showing they have researched the school’s website in advance.

What makes a student eligible to apply for a particular school?

To be eligible for MBA programmes, candidates need to have a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent and at least three years of full-time work experience after graduation. The common age range is between 24 and 32 years for those interested in full-time or part-time MBA programmes. More experienced candidates who are interested in Executive MBA programmes are required to have at least eight years of full-time work experience and a minimum of three years in a managerial role. Of course, this should not be taken as a rule for each school, as there are many exceptions and the years of work experience can vary widely.

What do admissions committees look for beyond the eligibility requirements?

Admission committees really count on the individual’s interview and/or essay or personal statement. Through this approach they can get a real sense of how well the applicant fits the programme.

What does it take for you to decide which schools are the best match for a student?

Our team really knows the business schools’ offerings and requirements in depth. We not only exchange information before each event; we travel to meet the admissions teams in addition to regular phone calls and online meetings. In this sense, we are very familiar with the student profiles they are looking to attract. On the other hand, we have a thorough candidate management process to identify the top preferences of each MBA seeker. Thus, when we understand the expectations of both sides – the schools and the candidates – matching comes almost naturally.

What do MBA seekers ask you most often during a school orientation session?

The most common questions are about the funding and scholarship options. This is absolutely normal, considering that the MBA is a very important investment in their future. The diversity of sources of funding enables applicants to make their best-matching schools affordable. In addition to balancing their budget, scholarships also improve the return on investment (ROI). We also advise prospective applicants on how they can improve their chances of being awarded a scholarship, as these are always competitive.

How many candidates and from how many countries have you advised so far?

I haven’t counted all my orientation sessions, but for the six years I have been working, they must certainly be in the hundreds. I am focused on MBA and EMBA orientation. I am lucky to have the opportunity to advise MBA aspirants in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.

What is the most challenging and most rewarding part of your work as an orientation consultant?

I can think of one challenging situation that happens frequently, and that is when a candidate comes with a particular school in mind but doesn’t have the necessary experience, for example. Sometimes candidates don’t understand how strict the admission criteria are and why. This is exactly the role of an orientation consultant: to explain the details and offer the best options.

The most rewarding part is when you see a candidate coming out of the One-to-One room smiling and inspired, as well as thankful for you matching them to great schools.

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