Written by Angela Wolf, GWSB MBA alumna 2010. This is Part 2 of the post. Continued from Get the Most from Part-time MBA in 16 Months.
Now down to what’s important… what did I get out of the program. One of the biggest lessons from the program is that and MBA doesn’t necessarily teach you what to think, it teaches you HOW to think. I loved most of my classes (except Finance, wow), but what I really learned from the courses was how to take a problem, analyze it quickly and comprehensively, and create a creative and effective plan to solve it.I was sick of “cases” by the time I finished, but I can appreciate now how all the case studies improved my problem-solving skills. I use those skills and lessons every day.
I was also surrounded by very intelligent and ambitious people who knew what was going on in the world (esp in politics, a benefit of going to school two blocks from the White House). Many of them made incredibly insightful comments and asked excellent questions in class, which pushed me to better understand how the cases we were studying fit into the real world of politics, business, and the craziness that is real life. I still remember some of those questions and try to apply them to problems I face at work and in life these days.
One of the other things I loved about GW especially was the diversity of the student body. Not only were there people from many other countries, but I was able to interact with people with jobs I never thought I’d encounter at business school. Many people worked on the hill or for government agencies; there were also military veterans, tv producers, physicians, and of course a slew of consultants.
I loved hearing peoples’ stories and learning about their backgrounds. And one thing we all had in common– the bond that kept us emphetic towards one another throughout each class and each group project– was that we all wanted to be there so badly that we dragged ourselves to evening classes after long, hard days at work. We knew there were several more hours of thinking and studying ahead, but we were determined to be there and get our business degree even while holding a full-time job. That’s what I loved about my part-time MBAers. They had so much weight on their shoulders by going to work and school at the same time, but they were dead set on making it happen.
I could write much more about my experience as a part-time GW MBA student, but instead I’ll wrap up with a few suggestions for anyone considering a part-time MBA program at GW or at any school for that matter.
1. Know your priorities. Is it program reputation, scholarships, flexibility, international travel opportunities, social opportunities? Pick the top one or two, and as you research programs, make sure your application choices support those priorities.
2. Set clear expectations before beginning. Yes, you’ll have to sacrifice a lot of your social life, and you’ll want to set that expectation with significant others, friends and family as well. Yes, you’ll have late nights with little sleep and have to go to work in the morning. Be sure you understand WHY you want an MBA before you begin, and keep that in mind during the rough times.
3. Take time to enjoy yourself. At orientation, a few of the alumni told us they actually had to schedule social time into their week. I thought they were crazy. Couldn’t they grab dinner on a Friday night and not feel bad about it? In fact, depending on your work situation and your courseload, you will probably have to put social time on your calendar. It’s not as easy to get out and have fun as one might think, especially when you have three papers, two tests, and a group project due next week. But it’s critical that you DO put it on your calendar or else you’ll burn out after a while, and that’s no good for you, your groupmates, or the ROI you want to receive on your investment.
4. Take advantage of the study abroad programs and the other ways to spice up the program. I loved how easy GW made the study abroad process. I never thought I’d go to Dubai, but I was able not only to go but to offer marketing advice to some billion dollar corporations during an international marketing residency. Such a cool experience. Don’t let your program end without trying at least one cool experience you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try if you weren’t getting your MBA.
5. Finally, be proactive in making connections with your MBA peers. Networking is such a huge part of the MBA process and a major piece of the ROI you’ll receive. Even as a sales rep, I don’t love networking; I’m not gonna lie. But I did make a commitment to myself to reach out and meet new people while I was there and not get too isolated in my studies. By doing so, I met some of the coolest, smartest, and most diverse people I’ve ever met or ever thought I’d meet. I went to Saudi Arabia with one a year ago, and I’m going to Columbia next month with another (both locals of those countries).
MBA was a cool experience that taught me a lot and certainly gave me the boost on my resume that helped me move to the next level in my career (Marketing & Business Development Manager), but the relationships I made throughout the program are what made the program far exceed my expectations. The ROI was absolutely worth the investment, and I’d do it over (the same way) in a heartbeat.