From the category archives:

Post-MBA

This article is written by Keith Soranno, a GWSB Class 2014 graduate. Keith has been one of the key figures in forming the image of this remarkable class and is well known for his straightforward no BS attitudes and expression.

Going to graduate school for me was a different decision than for most individuals. Being a little older, I did not see an MBA as a way to get ahead or make more money, but rather a way to round out my professional career and to backstop against any future jobs where an advanced degree might be required. Due to this, my decision was based on cost to benefit vs. maximum benefit with cost not being as critical.

I was also working full time so it was a key to have a program that was flexible as well as close to my office. This narrowed down the choices to the 3 major schools in D.C. I was accepted to all three programs, but one was too expensive for what I calculated my payback to be on the degree. One school was too far off the metro line (this is how petty some of my criteria were). And the final school was George Washington, 4 blocks from my office, advertised flexibility to accommodate the working professional and a nationally recognized program. After visiting with the admissions group I felt confident to commit the next two years of my life and signed up.

Orientation came and went, and I settled into my first class, Accounting. Immediately, I began to question my decision to come to GW. As I sat in the first lecture listening to the teacher berate students over the most insignificant items, I thought I had been transformed back to undergrad. It was comical to listen to this teacher verbally abuse a student who had to be at a deposition in CA the day of our mid term exam. So much for flexibility, right?

This seemed to be a common theme that punctuated the dysfunction of the MBA program. Lack of cohesive leadership, apathetic teachers who were disinterested in the students professional advancement, a fragmented student body consisting of Full and Part-time students that seemed to be kept separate by the administration to allow infighting as a cloak to the real issues facing the school, and finally, an administrative group that seemed more interested in telling student why they could not fix anything and that it was their fault classes were canceled.

So what is an upset, angry and disenfranchised student to do? Well, in my case I was very lucky to have an amazing group of peers in my program who were just as upset and motivated to do something about it. So after many drinks one night at a local bar we decided that we were going to take matters into our own hands and run for roles on the MBA student organization.   We were going to unite the students, bring a common voice to the students and force the administration to listen to our needs. Sounds simple, right?

The next 12 months were filled with such highs and lows, from the dean of the business school getting fired, to creating and building a common voice for the students the entire process was amazing. What I learned about an MBA program, it is not about coming in and getting served, it is about going out and making the experience into what you want it to be. If you sit around and complain, nothing gets better, you are truly in control of your own destiny, and if you make a small effort to find people who you connect with where and what those connections will lead to is endless.

Grad School is just like life. You find some mentors you truly value their insight and opinion, and others who you wish you would never have to see again. You make connections in the strangest of places and find that strangers may become friends for life. The administration are bureaucrats and not interested in getting anything done, rather they are most concerned with protecting their job.

Overall, it opened my eyes to the world and made me realize that if I wanted anything I was going to have to go out and find the circumstances I wanted and if I could not find them, I would have to make them. While this was always something I knew, having to deal with it first hand was a good reminder and an excellent prep for my future endeavors. I do recommend going to grad school and I would recommend GW, not for the faculty and administration, but for the students and people that you can connect with. Remember though, you are in control of what you want and what you will get out of the program. If you relinquish control, you will be disappointed.

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All last week, and especially around the weekend, my Facebook newsfeed was swelling with the updates from my FB friends about their activities. This was exciting time for them – they were celebrating their MBA graduation: GW Business School Gala, GWSB Commencement, GWU Commencement on the National Mall. All the highlights I had to experience just two years ago. I know for most of them these were bittersweet  moments:  the sense of accomplishment and the sense of a loss. I did not have the sense of accomplishment this time around, since I graduated in 2012, but I sure felt the loss.

In the last two year, after my graduation already, I have stayed in touch with the continuing students of GW part-time MBA program, I also met quite a few students from the full-time Global MBA program, thanks to the MBAA board that did a fantastic job of bringing together the part-time MBA students for out of class socializing, and bridging the gap between the part-time and full-time students. I wrote about that in my post “MBAA Revolt…

So in the last two years I have been crushing their happy hours and their celebration parties, I have had good times with them and many good conversations. I have been so much around them that I was dubbed “the ghost of the MBA past” ;-) by my good friend Keith. I have made more meaningful (both in quality and numbers) connections with the part-time MBA class 2014, than I made in my own three years of MBA.

This class was, and will probably stay for a long while, the most remarkable, the most cohesive, the most proactive both in social life and academic bargaining with the shool’sy administration class in the history of GW part-time MBA program. I also wrote about that in “My part-time MBA Heroes” post.   And that’s why I had the sense of a loss: most of the people in this class have just graduated last week. No more happy hours, semester end parties, and other outings.

Thankfully most of them reside around DC area, and I hope to have at least occasional opportunities to hang out with some of them, but with busy-ness of life and other priorities after the school is done, it’s definitely going to be less feasible.

That’s why I feel like this was my graduation too, and this time it seems to be for good.

But it’s too early to say goodby just yet. I am going to publish a guest post from Keith with his perspective on the GW part-time MBA program. And he is not going to beat around the bush with niceties and political correctness BS. So stay tuned.

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Last week I went to the GW MBA Follies. This was my first ever Follies and I was really curious to see what it was all about. During my MBA years I either did not even know about specific dates when the Follies was performed or would not go under the feeling of guilt of wasting a night for entertainment when it could be better used to work on my MBA homework assignments ;-)

This year, however, I was well-informed about the upcoming Follies date. Thanks to the GW MBAA announcements and repeated postings on the Facebook group for part-time MBA students at GWSB, of which I am still a member, my curiosity was piqued up and well-sustained. As I said at the beginning, this was the very first time I would go to see Follies. So for me it was like checking out the box on my list of things to try at least once. It was also one of those things that I missed during my MBA time proper and would like to do to complement my overall MBA experience.

To be honest, I had some idea of what the Follies were like. Before going to this year’s show, I looked up a few videos of MBA Follies from other business schools, and videos of GW MBA Follies from previous years on YouTube. It was moreover interesting to see how this year GW MBA version stacks up.

I had fun and quite a bit of laughs. Since the show was produced exclusively by the full-time Global MBA students (and mostly 2-nd years), some of the jokes were more of the “inside jokes” to which the audience at large reacted with great enthusiasm, but they were lost on me. Most of the Follies, however, had more universal appeal for business school students at large:  of course, lots of swiping on the GW MBA falling rankings and the hiring prospects for the students. But this seems to be a recurring theme for GW MBA Follies. I was a bit surprised by quite extensive use of expletives in one or two episodes, but this is just a matter of personal preference, I guess.

Though I overall liked this years Follies, for some reason I think that Follies 2012 were a bit more creative and funnier. It may be just because I knew more students participating in the Follies from my elective classes last year.

You can watch a complete set of videos from this year’s GW MBA Follies on YouTube. And since I already checked out the box for attending live Follies on my check list, that’s what I am going to do in the future as well – watch online ;-) . You can start doing just that by watching one of the episodes from this year’s GW MBA Follies with Dean Doug Guthrie.

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In my post-MBA time there have been a few milestones directly connected to my MBA. First was the Graduation Gala that I described briefly in my blog. Then, of course, were  the Commencement weekend ceremonies back in May: GWSB Commencement and GWU Commencement. Sometime in July I received my MBA diploma by mail. This was all the glitzy parts that capped three years of grueling time crunch and sleep deprivation.

But as we, adults, know all so well, there is a pay time for everything ;-). For me it came on January 3-d this year when my first required payment on my MBA student loan was due. I will share some highlights of my student loan borrowing and paying history, so that prospective students could get some idea about the financial repercussions of getting MBA through part-time mode.

Of course, everyone’s situation is different in regards to how they pay or finance their MBA education. I know at least one classmate whose parents paid for the whole program. Quite a few others were receiving some tuition assistance from their current employees. Usually it was up to equivalent of six credits per semester.  Many of us, however, paid/financed our whole way through the school on our own. This was the case for me, with a little caveat. I received a merit-based scholarship from GWSB for a total of six credits (equivalent of around $7200) that was applied to my first year of program.

So here is a rough breakdown of my financial situation with paying for MBA. GWSB requires 52.5 credits for graduation. The average cost per credit over three years was about $1,280 (it started at at $1,208 in 2009/10 school year and increased every year thereafter). Therefore the total cost of tuition was about $67,200. With $7,200 scholarship factored in, my tuition only was about $60K to cover on my own. This does not include other incidental costs, such as textbooks, business cases, course packs (~$2500); supplies, including laptop, which I purchased specifically for school (~$1500); commute and parking costs (~$1000); additional costs for study abroad in France, such as flight, hotel, meals, etc. (~$2000).

So the total cost of my MBA was about $74K, of which I had to pay/finance about $67K. My goal at the start of the program was to minimize the amount of the student loan as much as I could. Therefore, all the incidentals I paid as I went, out of pocket, throughout the school. With that I had only to finance my tuition of $60k.

But I did not want to take any additional private student loans besides my government-backed Stafford loan. As a graduate student I was eligible to borrow up to $20,500 each year. In my first year, thanks to a GWSB scholarship, I borrowed only $11K. In second and third year respectively I borrowed $20.5 and $20K. That brought me up to a total borrowed amount of $51.5 K. The difference of about $9K in three years for tuition I also paid as I went, out of pocket.

If I left it as it was I would end up paying $587 in monthly installments, starting in January 2013, for the next 10 years at a fixed rate of 6.8%. But I really I did not like the idea of paying more than $500/month. So throughout my school years, and especially in time after graduation before my loan was capitalized in November, I was making payments on my loan, even though I was not legally required, whenever I had a chance. The goal was to bring the monthly payments under $500 once the required payments kick in. My effort paid off and at the time the loan was capitalized and finalized for the next 10 years I had only $43K left to pay off with monthly payments of $498. Given all my other financial obligations, it is quite manageable. I actually plan to make some extra payments towards my principal when I have a chance, to minimize the amount of total interest on the loan and reduce the payment period to around eight years, instead of ten.

So that was my breakdown of MBA costs and MBA student loan repayment. As your situation may differ slightly or significantly, you can make adjustments to your calculations, but it gives you a good ball-park figure about the costs and the ways to pay for it.

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MBA Done – Heading Back to School

February 27, 2013

I just really cannot let it go. I am becoming a GWSB fixture of sorts – a proverbial perpetual student, except I am not doing it to get another formal degree, but to pursue some of the interests through the classes I did not have time to take during my MBA tenure. In my post […]

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MBA Graduation Gift to Myself

December 12, 2012

It has been over two years already since I read Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek. I shared some of the thoughts on the book in my post The 4-Hour Workweek – Jar of Goodies from Tim Ferriss. One of the lasting impressions from the book, besides some business and career-management advice, as well as […]

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GWU Alumni Weekend – MBA Zero Year Reunion

November 30, 2012

This is a belated post on the event that took place two months ago, but since I have been lazy in updating the blog lately, I want to catch up on some noteworthy events and developments in my post-MBA life. There will be some other posts soon about the past events, since I had started […]

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Post-MBA Summer of Firsts

September 30, 2012

As I wrote back in June in my post MBA Postpartum Syndrome the issue of the newly found free time was one of the most overwhelming challenges for part-time MBA graduates. I also shared a few plans of my own that I had for the use of the post-graduation time. Now, three months later, I can […]

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