Written by Angela Wolf, GWSB MBA alumna 2010
I had the pleasure of taking several GW MBA classes with Vitali throughout 2009 and 2010. And I was happy to see him in a lounge in the MBA building between classes one day in December 2010, completely out of the blue. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and he asked how things are going and how much longer I had before graduating.
Graduation was top of mind at the time because I had a week left and only a couple more finals standing in my way. When I told him about my week countdown, he was very surprised, I could tell. Then I explained how I did it. If you’re wondering, yes, I am the girl he spoke to in the December 2010 post “Part-time MBA – Turbocharged!” The following is the story of how I chose GW’s part-time MBA program and how (and why) I did it in 16 months.
I’d known for about 5 years before starting at GW that I wanted to get my MBA. In fact, I took the GMAT 3 years before applying. It was always one of those things I wanted to do but never pushed myself to actually start the application process.
The year I decided to apply was possibly the worst year I could have chosen- the year after the economic collapse when there were ten times as many unemployed candidates applying for MBAs. Back then it was very frustrating, but looking back I know it all happened the way it did for a reason.
I had been living in DC for almost 4 years, and I was more than ready to move. I was burnt out at work and not happy in the dating department (if you know DC, you know that’s not uncommon for a single 20-something female). All I wanted to do was quit my job, move to a different city, and get a full-time MBA at the top-tier school. But things didn’t line up the way I’d always planned, and I’m actually happy they didn’t.
At the time my sister was already a year into her part-time term at Kellogg, and half of her classmates had lost their jobs. I realized I should hold on to mine as long as possible. So, part-time programs became my focus, and I knew I had to make it quick if I was going to do it with a job I wasn’t happy with and a city I wanted to leave.
Given my situation, I had two choices, George Washington and Georgetown. The reason I chose GW over G-town was two-fold. For starters, Georgetown didn’t give merit scholarships to part-timers. 1 point for GW. Georgetown also had a rigid 3-year program with very little flexibility, whereas GW had options for taking international residencies worth 9 credits, online courses, doubling up on courseloads if you wanted, etc. My goal was to finish in 2 years (all I thought I could handle at my job), and Georgetown couldn’t offer that. Point 2 for GW, and that’s the game.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had several good friends and a roommate who went to Georgetown and loved it. It’s a great program; it just didn’t fit my biggest need: flexibility. I had also heard some great things about the professors at GW, which turned out to be true in most cases. In the end, I may not have gotten the very best school name on my diploma (although I am very proud to have gone to GW), but I am 100% happy with the education I received and the opportunities afforded to me throughout my time at GW.
I started the program expecting to maintain a rigid focus to study as much as possible and finish quickly. I didn’t expect to have much of a social life, but I was happy to find some very cool classmates that enjoyed forming study groups and going out after class. In the end, while I had to sacrifice a lot of my social life, I still had a great time with GW and non-GW friends, which is a balance I learned is critical to maintain if you want to keep your sanity throughout the program.
I also had a really good advisor who helped me figure out what courses I needed to take to finish in 24 months. And if you’re wondering, one of reasons I was able to finish in such a short time was the job I had at the time.
At the time, I sold medical equipment to physicians, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Although I drove throughout a five-state radius throughout the day, I took time to read chapters and complete assignments between calls. I soon learned how to organize my days to be efficient in selling and offer at least an hour or two for studying. I also worked from home sometimes on Fridays, which really gave me a lot of flexibility. Looking back, if I would have had the office job I have today (where I am tied to a desk 10-18 hours a day and don’t even have time to go to lunch), I would never have been able to finish in two years.
One of the things I knew I wanted to do while at GW was to take advantage of at least one of the really cool international residencies that I’d heard about during my pre-application research.
Just two months into my time at GW, I applied for an international marketing residency in Dubai during the two weeks between the fall and spring “semesters.” Because I was a marketing undergrad and had worked in marketing off and on during the 6 years since college, I was able to test out of the marketing pre-req’s for the international marketing residency. That meant I could earn 6 credits between the first and second semesters at GW, and by the end of spring 2010, I was more than halfway done with my course load.
I took a TON of classes in the summer, and I mean a ton. I think it was something like 12 or 15 credits. I was constantly stressed, but I did manage to get out a couple times a week. I also took a Chile/Argentina international residency in the fall of 2010, which helped accelerate my program faster than I’d expected and allowed me to graduate in December 2010 after only 16 months. That’s how I did it.
Speed is certainly not the most important goal of an MBA program, but it was one of my priorities given the situation I was in. Did I sacrifice any of my MBA experience by cutting it short? Yes, I probably did. But, I still managed to meet a lot of incredible people who helped me really enjoy DC during my last year and half, and I still keep in touch with most of them today even though I now live in Chicago.
Continued:-Part-time MBA in 16 Months – 5 Lessons Learned.