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Get Your M.B.A. Part-Time Part 8

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The right time to apply is when you feel the education and developmental experiences that come from an M.B.A. program will benefit you the most. Most M.B.A. programs recommend several years of work experience-with a usual minimum of two years-before applying, but today's average age of about 28 is just that, an average. Those several years provide a background of experiences and observations such that you will more fully appreciate what you learn in the M.B.A. program. You'll also be able to contribute to the learning of your cla.s.smates when you share your experiences in cla.s.s discussions; likewise, you'll learn from their experiences. Your professional accomplishments during those years also provide admissions committees with a demonstrated record of achievement. As business is very much about producing results, admissions committees screen candidates rigorously for their proven ability to have an impact on the organizations they work for. Expectations for the length of work experience for part-time applicants are somewhat less demanding than those for full-time programs, as candidates will continue to gain experience while they are going to school.

As mentioned earlier, individuals have very different goals when it comes to furthering their decisions about education. The objective is to ensure that your goals are aligned with the M.B.A. program you choose to apply to and attend. Will the M.B.A. program you're considering help you reach your career objectives? Several years after graduation, your performance on the job is the most important factor in career success. These are some of the questions to ask yourself as you're determining whether you should apply to full-time or part-time programs: * What is the profile of the students who are in the program? Will I feel comfortable there? Will I feel challenged there? How important is the diversity of cla.s.smates' background to my learning goals?* What is the regional reputation of the school? The national reputation? The international reputation? If your life goals are to live in the same region as the school, you may not value the international reputation as much. If, however, you want to have maximum career flexibility and mobility, national and international reputation is important.* What is the reputation of the faculty in the program? Are they available to students in office hours?* What career services does the school provide? What are the placement statistics of the school, both in salaries garnered by their students and in the companies their students join?* Am I ready for an M.B.A. program? What do I want to do after I get an M.B.A.?* What are the strengths of the school's curriculum? How flexible is the curriculum in terms of course choices?* What is my employer's policies regarding tuition reimburs.e.m.e.nt for the M.B.A. program?

Most admissions committees use the entire application to get a sense of a candidate, so you can't really say if any one element is more important than another. At Michigan, we believe we are about identifying leadership talent, and leadership comes in many forms. So we look at all aspects of an applicant's experiences and accomplishments as we review an application.

The most important thing to remember is this: What you are trying to do in the application is convey-coherently and concisely-a sense of who you are, where you've come from, where you hope to go, how you think an M.B.A. will get you there, and why you think there is a particularly good match between for you and the M.B.A. program to which you are applying.

We require four essays in our M.B.A. application; applicants have the option to answer more than four if they think the information presented will enhance their package. The best advice regarding the essays is to spend some time to do some introspection on possible ways to answer the essay question. When you've written your first draft, ask yourself a few questions. Does this essay answer the question? Is it written in a clear and concise manner? Does it convey important information about my goals, accomplishments, ability to lead others, and personality that will help the admissions committee know me better? Where appropriate, do I back up my statements with good examples?

Do: * Apply to schools that you're really interested in and that you feel are a fit for you.* Apply to a range of schools that fit your needs so that you have several options to consider; some students only apply to one or two schools and that can be a limiting strategy, given the compet.i.tiveness of the application process.* Apply in the earlier decision rounds.* Visit the school and talk to as many current students and alumni as you can.* Think deeply about where you are in your career right now, where you want to take your career and how the M.B.A. can help you achieve that transition.

The value of the M.B.A., as demonstrated through placement statistics, has risen. The use of technology has also increased in M.B.A. programs. The Executive M.B.A. has grown in popularity recently and generally attracts an older M.B.A. student with more experience and corporate sponsorship.

University of Michigan Business School does offer a Global M.B.A. to executives in selected companies in selected countries. The Global M.B.A. is an online M.B.A. program that uses technology extensively. In our regular M.B.A. programs, technology is used in a variety of ways to enhance the educational experience, such as: * Web-enabled cla.s.ses, which allow more flexibility in the scheduling of cla.s.ses* Websites for individual courses, in which professors can post cla.s.s notes and students can review problem sets* M-Track, the Business School's Intranet site, in which students can view job postings, network with alumni, and bid on interviews* E-lab, which serves as a research and teaching center on e-commerce and provides an incubator for developing e-business products and services Broadly speaking, the Internet has revolutionized the M.B.A. degree because it has revolutionized business. Therefore, every M.B.A. course must consider how the use of technology has changed the fields of accounting, marketing, strategy, operations, business law, and so on.

Glenn Berman, Director of Admissions, Rutgers University Graduate

School of Management From my perspective, the value of the part-time M.B.A. has not changed dramatically. While changes in format, schedule, and mode of delivery may be required in order to meet the mobility and increasing time constraints of members of this segment, the demand for this degree remains strong. For many candidates, the full-time option is not viable, as family, personal, and professional responsibilities do not permit full-time attendance. As most part-time candidates are already employed, an M.B.A. adds value to their professional resume and increases their value to their current or future employers.

For part-time candidates, the "right time" to go for an M.B.A. has many interpretations. At Rutgers, our typical part-time applicant is in his or her early to mid-20s and has had at least two years of full-time work experience. However, many part-time M.B.A. students begin their programs right out of college at schools that do not require prior work. In this instance, the "right time" is best defined as when the candidate finds a school and program which offers a curriculum and schedule that works and when he or she believes an M.B.A. program can be pursued successfully along with employment and other responsibilities.

In addition to wanting a program of quality with an excellent, experienced, and professional faculty (characteristics sought by most M.B.A. candidates), part-time candidates are generally most concerned with availability of programs they want to study, along with convenience and flexibility in cla.s.s schedules. If the current employer offers tuition a.s.sistance of some kind, recognition and approval by the firm (usually the Human Resources Department) of the quality of the program in question is also important.

At the Rutgers University Graduate School of Management, we review and consider the entire application submitted by the candidate. This includes academic success (completion of a four-year bachelor's or equivalent, GPA, GMAT), work experience (resume), essay, and letters of recommendation. Each element has an effect upon the outcome, and a strength in one area can often serve to provide balance for one in which the applicant was not as strong.

Here's some general advice to those considering a part-time M.B.A.: * Apply as early as possible. Don't wait until the deadline to send in the application.* Be realistic in your choice of inst.i.tutions. Apply to schools within your academic reach. Research each inst.i.tution in which you have interest. Review the profile of the previous years' entering cla.s.ses (average GPA, GMAT, years of work, etc.).* Compare programs and choose those which will best prepare you for your intended career or help you grow within your current company or industry.

Currently, we do not normally require interviews for applicants to our M.B.A. program. Occasionally, a particular program or scholarship opportunity may mandate an interview, or we may ask a candidate in to provide additional information about his or her application. The key to successful interviewing is preparation. Know everything you can about the inst.i.tution, the graduate school, and the program. Be prepared to answer questions about why you want to attend and, if offered admission, what strengths and qualities you would bring to the program. Finally-although this should be obvious-dress professionally and be prompt. Treat the admissions interview as you would a job interview.

Although Rutgers does not currently offer any distance-learning M.B.A. cla.s.ses, it may do so in the future. I believe that offering some courses online can be very beneficial, especially in the case of a part-time working student.

CHAPTER 16.

What the Students Say It's all well and good to be informed from the professionals at business schools, but the picture would not be complete without hearing from the students as well. What is the climate really really like? What have they appreciated most about their experiences at school? Will they miss it? Has is proven useful yet? When reading the essays submitted below, consider that the author may one day be sitting next to you in a cla.s.sroom or in your living room reviewing a cla.s.s project. like? What have they appreciated most about their experiences at school? Will they miss it? Has is proven useful yet? When reading the essays submitted below, consider that the author may one day be sitting next to you in a cla.s.sroom or in your living room reviewing a cla.s.s project.

With that said, here's what current students and recent alumni have to say: Carmen Saleh, M.B.A., The University of Michigan Business School As I recently sat through the commencement exercises at the University of Michigan, I reflected on my M.B.A. experience as a part-time student. Two years earlier, I had enrolled in the program while working as an internal change management consultant for a large marketing services company. I negotiated a flexible schedule with my employer that allowed me to scale back my hours to roughly 30 a week so that I could increase my academic load and finish faster. Although this flexibility had financial repercussions (i.e., no tuition reimburs.e.m.e.nt, a smaller salary), it did afford me the opportunity to finish in two years, take elective courses during the day, and increase my involvement in club and leadership activities. Although my strategy may not work for all students, it was perfect for me. I was able to progress in my career and apply the skills I learned to my job all while finishing in two years and enjoying the program every step of the way.

Many part-time students view obtaining a graduate degree as a means to an end: They plan on remaining with their current employer, so they grudgingly go to cla.s.s with only one goal in mind-to get the degree. I did not want my M.B.A. experience to be like this. One of the reasons I chose the University of Michigan's program is because of the opportunities it offers from both a social and networking perspective. I quickly became involved in the Consulting Club and the student government, for which I held leadership positions in both. As the president of the student government for part-time students, I implemented numerous programs that improved communication among students and facilitated a new student's transition into the program. For instance, I created an Amba.s.sador Program in which current and recent graduates of the part-time program offer advice and guidance to new or prospective students. They, therefore, serve as amba.s.sadors of the school and the program. As a vice president in the Consulting Club, I worked to improve the relationship that consulting firms have with part-time students. Now, more consulting firms are marketing recruiting and educational events specifically to part-time students. Outside of club activities, I also attended many guest speaker events and conferences. These events at the University of Michigan, which draw influential business people from around the world, were truly top-notch and definitely impacted the quality of my education. These are the types of out-of-cla.s.sroom events that all M.B.A. recruiting brochures preach about but that Michigan truly delivers on.

A big reason why many students return to school is for the opportunity to make a career or job transition. Having recently gone through recruiting season, I was thoroughly impressed with the quant.i.ty and quality of the companies recruiting on campus. Before entering the program, I knew that obtaining an M.B.A. degree would open doors for me, but I never imagined the full extent of that opportunity until I was bombarded with invitations from firms from around the country. Many part-time students worry that companies will not be interested in them since they pursued their degree while working, but this is not the case! Those I spoke to were impressed that I worked and went to school concurrently. Part-time students have sacrificed a lot to obtain their degree, and companies recognize and reward that.

Obtaining a graduate degree on a part-time basis has its challenges. At times, you will feel like you are being pulled in a million directions. It is up to you though to balance the demands of work, school, family, and community. Although this may be difficult at times (i.e., recruiting season), it can be done with good prioritization and time management skills. Don't get me wrong: There will be occasions when you need to take a day off of work to study for an exam or give up those Red Wing tickets to meet for a group a.s.signment, but in the end, it will be well worth it. If you do decide to pursue an M.B.A. degree, my advice to you is to make the most of your school's program. Get involved, network with everyone you meet, and last but not least, have some fun!

Ivy Epstein, M.B.A. Candidate, The Langone Program: A Part-Time

M.B.A. for Working Professionals (New York University's Stern School of Business) When I decided to apply to Stern, I was ready to take on the commitment of an M.B.A. program, but I didn't want to be a full-time student again. I wanted to continue to pursue my career so I would have the ability to apply the new knowledge and skills I gained in the cla.s.sroom to my job on an everyday basis.

Not only did I know that I only wanted to go to business school part-time, but the only school I applied to was NYU's Stern School of Business. The part-time program is formally called The Langone Program: A Part-Time M.B.A. for Working Professionals. I'm very proud to be a student at Stern, the part-time business school consistently ranked number one in the nation. At Stern, I'm not only getting an excellent education, but I've also become part of a community and am developing long-term relationships with the people in my cla.s.ses and study groups. There is a tremendous sense of support; everyone here is dedicated to learning more and helping each other succeed in learning together, which enhances the experience.

Since starting the program, I have gained a greater sense of confidence, and I feel that my employer views me in a new way because I am pursuing this degree. But to use a metaphor, to me, the overall M.B.A. experience is like cake: The academic challenges, the community and network of people and the opportunity for leadership are the core of the experience; what comes after my time at Stern, my future career potential, is just the icing. I'm here for the M.B.A. experience.

I think back to my first day, sitting in Schimmel Auditorium with all of my soon-to-be cla.s.smates, thinking, "Who am I going to be here? How will this experience change my life?" That day, the possibilities seemed endless, which was so exciting.

In addition to the high academic quality of the program, I think one of the aspects I value most is its flexibility. The program is really geared towards working professionals. Cla.s.ses are not only held in the evenings and on weekends, but mini-intensive courses can be taken during school breaks. Also, services for students are available when we're on campus during the later hours, and online communication makes everything possible. Although I haven't taken a course that formally incorporates distance learning, alternative course delivery systems are being used to enhance the experience and make the program even more accessible to students who work. For me, email and the web are critical for the teamwork and projects required by the program.

After completing three semesters, I can say that I wish someone had given me some guidance to help me better prepare for business school. Having learned some of the things the hard way, I'd like to offer some advice.

* First, start eating well as soon as possible. You'll need the energy.* Practice working in groups and learn to enjoy it. It becomes a way of life, and it truly brings value to the learning and working experience.* Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize . . . down to the minute.* Take advantage of your M.B.A. experience. Get involved in your community because it can truly be rewarding.* And remember, you're a student now-again. Flash that ID and take advantage of the discounts!

If you're looking for a tremendous experience to grow both intellectually and personally and are ready for the commitment that this type of experience will require, an M.B.A. may be right for you. I'm happy to say that I know it's right for me.

Maureen Oates, M.B.A. Candidate, Boston University Since I started my M.B.A., I've taken on a new role as manager of training and development. I'm working on a leadership development program using a lot of the content from my courses. Last summer I had the opportunity to guide our executive team through Michael Porter's "What is Strategy?" article that was drilled into my head in my first cla.s.s. (Michael E. Porter is the C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the premier authority on strategy and compet.i.tion. His article "What is Strategy?" appeared in the 1996 Harvard Business Review Harvard Business Review and is essentially required reading for all M.B.A. students.) This year I'm helping to facilitate the long-term strategy-planning process. I've had a lot of opportunities to do new things at work and expose people to new ideas. and is essentially required reading for all M.B.A. students.) This year I'm helping to facilitate the long-term strategy-planning process. I've had a lot of opportunities to do new things at work and expose people to new ideas.

I am also incredibly organized now. I try to be ruthlessly efficient. Today, everything-exams, papers, team meetings, dates with my husband-goes into my Palm Pilot so I know exactly what my responsibilities are at work, school, and home.

The most significant change in my life, however, is that I think differently now. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wonder how we can alleviate the bottleneck in the process (and sometimes find out it's me!), service our internal and external customers more effectively, position ourselves more successfully in the marketplace, or create a richer culture and environment for employees. I dream of Porter's 5 forces models, find myself referring to customer intimacy and the 7S model on a regular basis, and can even bear financials . . . very scary.

As far as the marketability of the M.B.A., I don't think a degree by itself gets you anything, whether it's full-time or part-time. It's what you do with it-how you carry yourself, present yourself, think and a.n.a.lyze things-that makes a difference. Knowledge in a vacuum or in your head is not much, but knowledge applied to a situation to create an impact is what matters.

My first day of school was pretty amusing. I had my book, parking pa.s.s, course packet, and so on, but I didn't bring anything to write in-no paper, no pen, nothing. The thought didn't even cross my mind. I had to quickly run to the bookstore to scrounge up a notebook and was sweating by the time I made it to cla.s.s.

The M.B.A. program has definitely met my expectations. I wanted to gain a broad understanding of business principles, and I have. The funny thing I found out is that I already knew many of them-maybe not in depth, but I knew what they were. My company is great about exposing its employees to marketing and financials, making sure we all understand topics like our revenue recognition model. It gave me a leg-up walking into the program.

I also have an incredible network today. I can pick up the phone and call any one of my professors and get connected to leaders in particular industries. I feel very fortunate to have those links.

My advice to prospective students is get your support group on board. My boss was all for it, my friends and coworkers were thrilled, and my husband was, and still is, incredibly supportive. (In fact, he now edits most of my papers.) It's tough, though. It's not a piece of cake, and it takes a lot of initiative and drive to get the most out of the program and try to balance your life. It took me until my second semester to really get in the groove and learn what I needed to know to be successful, and now I'm cruising. In fact, this spring, I ran the Boston Marathon on top of everything else.

I'm plowing straight through my courses so I'll be finished in less than three years, but I'm doing that for a reason. As I like to say, "I don't want to get a glimpse of the 'good life,' or I may never go back to school." I've had to miss a bunch of nights out with my friends, and I've studied right through date night with my husband. But when you finish a case, a paper, an exam, or a presentation, and you really know the content inside and out, you feel great. You feel even better when you use your learning at work the next day, week, or month. This is what you need to remember.

Although I don't have any kids, I'm told that getting an M.B.A. can be compared to childbirth. There's a buildup, although you're never quite prepared. The pain is temporary, but very real, and once it's done you have this lasting imprint. Some day I guess I'll find out if that's the truth, but not before I get finished with school!

Michael R. Slade, M.B.A., Dolan School of Business (Fairfield University) The first issue the part-time M.B.A. candidate needs to address is at the office. Obviously, one's supervisor must be made aware of the time demands placed on a graduate student, but he or she also needs to understand the level of course work support required, in the form of survey requests, student visitations, and company financial and product data. (Many of these support issues will not only improve the student's performance, but it will promote the company corporate image as well.) If a lack of support is found, I think it is time to leave the company. My advice, in that situation, would be to get out as soon as you can and find a M.B.A.-friendly employer.

I would also advise the part-time candidate to determine if the business school offers a tuition payment plan that will accept your company's reimburs.e.m.e.nt structure without requiring the student to provide the tuition upfront. This is an excellent opportunity to minimize finance charges on frequently used credit cards. Add up what is saved in finance charges over a couple years, and it can easily equal a well-deserved graduation vacation.

During my graduate school career, I do not remember hearing a fellow student state that he could not keep up with the part-time program and needed to switch to a full-time status. In fact, if a student would like to expedite the completion of the program, many schools offer accelerated semesters that include trimesters, intersession courses, and summer courses. Completing your master's program in two years is not unheard of-I personally completed each of my M.S. and M.B.A. degrees in approximately two years by always taking two courses per semester and luckily always having courses available during the summer sessions and intersession. One of my fellow cla.s.smates followed a very similar M.B.A. program of study and also completed his M.B.A. part-time in roughly two years. It's a rigorous but clearly obtainable goal. On average, I am sure most students take between three to four years to complete the program part-time. Regardless of the length of time, I have found that most M.B.A. graduates feel, in retrospect, that their time was extremely well utilized, and they typically feel like it went by so quickly.

Most graduate schools of business are clearly geared towards the part-time student. That is, most business schools structure their graduate course offerings based on evening and weekend cla.s.ses. In addition, many of the course registration and student information bulletins are posted online to keep the student informed about course availability, university events, and support resources. If the school has a staff that advocates the use of the Internet for communicating university activities, this is a tremendous benefit to the part-time student.

Fairfield University does a great job of keeping their students well informed. Almost on a weekly basis, Colleen from the School of Business would electronically mail course offerings, inquiries regarding student interest in special interest courses, conference offerings, and updates about the graduate student a.s.sociation. This frequent communication tends to keep the part-timer tuned in to campus activities and thus maintains a bond or relationship with the university.

A benefit of a part-time M.B.A. program is the opportunity to integrate courses with work projects. Certainly, many of the M.B.A. concepts taught in graduate school are quite current. You can take courses with subject matter which is coincident with new or ongoing projects. When the graduate student has the opportunity to apply those concepts immediately on the job, it literally make both tasks easier while possibly justifying the high cost of tuition.

I believe the use of team-based projects opens up the learning process. Team projects obviously broaden the a.n.a.lysis process to account for multiple opinions, talents, personalities, and solutions. They also promote time management, presentation skills, team dynamics, and genuine cross training. Some of my most memorable activities include the different phases of team projects.

Using case studies offers the graduate student the opportunity to investigate real-world cases and experiment with newly found technical and management skills. While working with other students, you genuinely get the opportunity to understand the different opinions and problem-solving techniques, as you stretch the limits of your own ideas and talents.

One of the initial hurdles of the part-time M.B.A. program is the first day. The first day is typically spent in a financial management or accounting cla.s.s. In these courses there is a clear pecking order: Those who have a strong background in these disciplines are the most vocal with regard to answering all of the questions, since many of their cla.s.smates have never taken the cla.s.s nor read the book. Obviously, these are the most sought after study partners. And a part-time M.B.A. candidate must establish effective study partners, usually within the first couple cla.s.s sessions. You need to learn how to acclimate or transfer your free time to graduate studies (thus eliminating leisure pursuits) and understand the culture, rhythm, and character of the student body. A cla.s.smate of mine refers to this activity as "face time." How well one handles this period can greatly simplify the next couple years of your graduate school life.

One characteristic I found quite favorable when forming my study team was experience: Cla.s.smates who have completed prior graduate work clearly understand the effort and time demands of a successful student. Also, team up with those who have a clear purpose and time frame for completing their degree program, since the M.B.A. program consists of a rather broad subject matter, and the level of work is academically very challenging and typically requires a three- or four-year commitment.

I also recommend seeking out students with a broad skill set. That is, include in your core group members with, say, finance, marketing, technical, and operations backgrounds. Gathering knowledge in different areas clearly is a great help as you work through the M.B.A. program.

Would I recommend pursuing a degree part-time? I, for one, repeatedly received acknowledgement for the effort necessary to complete my degree work while handling my family and career responsibilities. Typically this recognition was understood to represent maturity, goal setting, responsibility, and strong time-management skills. When a prospective candidate is considering the tremendous effort necessary to complete a part-time M.B.A., he or she should remember that the extra effort might represent greater value to an employer.

Regarding the marketability of the M.B.A. program, now that I am in a corporate environment versus plant operations, I have found that essentially all of the middle-and upper-management promotions have been awarded to those with M.B.A. degrees. It is reasonable to believe that career opportunities for M.B.A. graduates are quite strong at one's present company as well as in the open market.

In the real world, those who expect to lead a business into the future will have completed their graduate degree. The bottom line is to perform well at work and obtain additional graduate training that can be applied to your career.

John MacKay, M.B.A. Candidate, Fordham University Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to pursue an employer-sponsored, part-time M.B.A. in Finance at the Fordham University Graduate School of Business. This experience has been both challenging and rewarding, and has changed my entire outlook on the business world, while at the same time opening many doors which would have been closed to me had I not undertaken this effort. I highly recommend part-time M.B.A. study to any business professional interested in expanding his horizons and enhancing future career prospects.

I decided to enroll on a part-time basis for financial reasons. As far as I was concerned, borrowing to finance high tuition and living costs in New York City would have had a negative impact on my future financial security. My employer was willing to sponsor me for M.B.A. study through a program wherein I pay the tuition up front, and then am reimbursed based on my performance. While this plan was an additional challenge to my part-time study, it proved to be a motivating force throughout.

In addition, I felt strongly that a part-time M.B.A. would allow me to apply what I was learning to a professional context, and to glean more out of the experience than if I were to simply stop working and study full-time. In my current position, I have been able to apply both managerial and financial techniques learned in cla.s.s to my work environment. I feel that a part-time degree is more marketable than a full-time degree to prospective employers for the simple reason that learning is enhanced when it is immediately applied.

When I initially began my program of study at Fordham University, I was concerned with several issues. I wondered if I would be able to handle the additional workload imposed by the program and still perform well at work. I saw the M.B.A. as a major, long-term, life-changing commitment that would limit my social life as well as my mobility. Also, I worried about the backgrounds of other students and how compet.i.tive the environment would be. I found that the solution to these concerns was discussing them with other part-timers. This helped me to allay my fears of failure as well as to realize that other students were in fact allies, not compet.i.tors. By developing relationships with fellow students, I was able to learn who the best professors were, and how to gauge the number of hours I would need to devote to the M.B.A. outside of the cla.s.sroom. I would suggest to any new part-time student that seeking out other students with similar backgrounds and interests is as important as devoting a substantial amount of time to studying.

There are several pieces of advice I would like to share with both prospective and new part-time students. First, it is important to attend a school's orientation session before beginning the application process. Some schools are more committed to part-time students than others, and it is important to establish this on day one.

New students should take advantage of automatic course waivers and placement exams. I was exempted from three courses in which I had excelled at the undergraduate level. Many M.B.A. programs offer waivers from courses if the student did well in the course and took it within a recent time period. For students who have been out of the undergraduate arena for a long time, the placement exam option is often available.

Also, I would suggest that students start out by taking two courses in the first semester. This will allow time to adapt to the challenges posed by nighttime study. However, if able, I recommend moving up to three cla.s.ses per semester. This is a serious decision that depends on the student's ability, as well as his or her work schedule and social obligations.

It is also important to make sure that your employer and coworkers understand the extent of the challenge you are undertaking-but don't expect too much sympathy for challenges you have willingly imposed upon yourself. When I began the program of study at Fordham, I was fortunate enough to have an immediate supervisor who knew what I was experiencing, as she had pursued a part-time M.B.A. at the same school. You will have to leave work on time on school nights, as lectures tend to be jam-packed with information, and missed cla.s.ses definitely have an impact on both learning and final grades. Your employer needs to understand this.

Finally, if your employer is reimbursing you after you pay the tuition to your school, I recommend that you get a credit card sponsored by an airline mileage program. I paid tuition on my credit card, and acc.u.mulated airline miles that I was able to apply towards much-needed vacations during the program.

I highly recommend part-time M.B.A. study to any businessperson interested in expanding his or her horizons. However, I cannot stress enough that pursuing an M.B.A. while working is very challenging, and only you can determine if your perceived future benefits of M.B.A. study outweigh the sacrifices you will make. Best of luck!

Dawn Taketa, M.B.A. Candidate, Haas School of Business (University of California-Berkeley) I weighed the pros and cons of attending business school at night very carefully before applying. My career was just taking off; I was asked to lead the project team to develop online stores for Gap Inc. During my first semester at Haas, I launched online stores for GapKids and baby Gap; in the following year, I took on additional responsibilities for the launch of the Banana Republic online store and Old Navy online marketing website. Just over a year into the M.B.A. program, I helped lobby for the creation of a new department that would focus on the customer experience, which was inspired by my Compet.i.tive Strategy cla.s.s. Knowing that I would be taking on so much added responsibility, I understood that returning to school would be difficult. I was also convinced that I could apply much of the theory directly to my line of work.

Since all of my work experience had been at one company, I decided on an evening program to broaden my horizons and expose myself to new business situations. The Evening M.B.A. Program at Haas was a perfect match for me. I wanted a top-notch education, and I wished to continue working. There were so many exciting things happening in our online business, and I wanted to be a part of it. But I also had heard about the energy and excitement that Haas had been generating around entrepreneurship and high-tech fields.

The Evening M.B.A. Program has truly exceeded my expectations. I had always heard that one of the most valuable aspects of business school is the people you meet. My cla.s.smates brought a wealth of knowledge to the program, and, through conferences and events sponsored by the school, I have been able to tap into an amazing network.

What's more, I was able to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to study business in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Ghana. The International Business Seminar (an elective) consisted of about four weeks of presentations by expatriates from each of the countries that were living in the San Francis...o...b..y Area, and by the student themselves-the goal being to understand the history, culture, and economic conditions of each country prior to our trip. Then, 30 students and two professors were off to spend two weeks to meet with Haas alumni working in these countries. Many of these alumni had returned to their native countries and therefore brought an interesting perspective to our conversations . . . one that you could never get from reading a book or newspaper.

We were exposed to flowers and broadband in Holland, speech recognition software and the European Commission in Belgium, and personal-care manufacturing and gold mining in Ghana. Many of our hosts were eager to pick our brains, as we brought a wealth of experience in areas ranging from high technology and e-commerce to finance and marketing. The trip exemplified all that is wonderful about being in a part-time M.B.A. program: the excitement of taking part in a learning environment while being able to apply new skills and knowledge in real time.

Juggling a family, career, and school is a small price to pay for the opportunities that the program has helped me discover. The Haas program provides a.s.sistance-ranging from transportation to a.s.sistance purchasing textbooks-to help students keep up with their hectic schedules. I also found that my company has been very supportive; they saw the benefits immediately from my contributions. For example, I worked on projects directly related to online marketing in both my Business and Public Policy course and the International Business Seminar. By integrating my experiences at work, home, and school, I was able to make new business connections and friendships.

It has been quite an experience so far and I expect that I will really miss the program when it is over, believe it or not!

CHAPTER 17.

The M.B.A. at Work By now, you've heard opinions and advice from current and former B-school students, school officials, and, most likely, various people in your own life about your pursuit of a part-time M.B.A. Perhaps you've enrolled in a program that's perfectly tailored to your needs, you've secured means for tuition, and you've purchased and skimmed through all your textbooks. You're on top of things-but are you? Are you prepared to weather the changes that will inevitably enter into the picture?

It cannot be stressed enough that attending school while maintaining a full work schedule is a daunting task. It may be tempting, especially in the beginning, to let your responsibilities at work slip a little. You must remember that, even though your company may fully support your decision financially and emotionally, they are in a business and you are their employee. Your first and foremost responsibility during work hours is to them.

So, imagine yourself rushing out the door at 5:00 for a Futures and Options midterm as your boss stops you in the hall to request additional doc.u.mentation for a presentation scheduled for 8:00 the following morning.

Imagine a professor refusing your Business Law final booklets because they were written out in pencil. (This actually happened to me. In the accounting department where I worked, we wrote everything in pencil. Apparently, at the beginning of a cla.s.s I was late to, the professor had mentioned that all finals should be written in ink.) Imagine not having any vacation time left but needing days to finish two research papers that are due next Monday.

Imagine colleagues giving you the evil eye for constantly being on the phone with your cla.s.smates or for always leaving early on Mondays and Wednesdays.

I think by now you are getting the general idea: The bottom line is that there is no way to please everyone. Accept the fact that you will need to juggle many priorities and handle difficult situations. Just remember to be true to yourself.

Perhaps, however, after an honest introspection, you have decided that the life of a part-time student and full-time employee is not beneficial or feasible for you. Or it may be your company that has put the future of your M.B.A. degree in jeopardy-perhaps they need you to be available more consistently, or they have restructured their tuition reimburs.e.m.e.nt policy. In situations such as these, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to choose between work and school.

HAVE FORESIGHT.

When I first started my M.B.A. program, most of my fellow students were enrolled part time as well. Interestingly enough, as my studies progressed, I noticed this ratio change. Why? There were several reasons. First, some found the program too rigorous and decided to complete their degree on a full-time basis. The second reason was the surge of mergers and acquisitions in the financial arena in the late 1980s that left many of my colleagues and cla.s.smates out of work. Lastly, some students decided to run off and make their fortune by hooking up with a dot-com or starting up their own business.

When you start your M.B.A. program, don't necessarily a.s.sume that you will complete your degree on a part-time basis. As we mentioned earlier, a very important question to address when applying to graduate school is whether you are able switch your status without needing to apply to the full-time program.

There are other precautions you can take as well. Career counselors recommend that M.B.A. students meet with a counselor early in their educational career. Do not make the same mistake that many students do by using the counseling center only when it's absolutely necessary. Too many part-time students wait until either they have lost their job or they are concerned about their job security-and by then it may be too late to effectively make a campaign for their employment prospects. Even if you are happily employed at present, make an appointment to introduce yourself to a member of your school's career services staff. You never know when their resources will prove useful!

Long-Term EffectsNo one can predict what the future will hold, but you can research schools and programs carefully so that you are adequately prepared for a successful professional life and not just the next step in your career.

OUT OF WORK, NOT OUT OF OPTIONS.

What can you do if you find yourself suddenly out of work once you have begun the part-time M.B.A. program? First, don't panic. Identify your options and realistically determine which one is right for you. There is no correct answer; everyone's situation is different. Before evaluating your options, you should consider the following: * The number of credits remaining until you complete your degree. The number of credits remaining until you complete your degree. Does your school allow you to take time off or transfer to a full-time program? Does your school allow you to take time off or transfer to a full-time program? * * The length of time it will take you to find a job at your level. The length of time it will take you to find a job at your level. Unless you are in a very specific market with highly marketable skills, the more experience you have (or the higher level you are at), the longer it will take to find a new position. Unless you are in a very specific market with highly marketable skills, the more experience you have (or the higher level you are at), the longer it will take to find a new position. * * Your financial circ.u.mstances. Your financial circ.u.mstances. When a.s.sessing your monetary situation, don't forget to include your cost of living. In addition to school, you will still have to pay your monthly overhead (rent, electricity, and job-searching expenses, for example). How much money do you need to complete your degree, including the incidentals, such as books and activity fees? How much disposable income is available to you, like savings or severance funds, if applicable? How credit-worthy are you? Are you eligible for loans (bank or personal), financial aid, credit cards? How long can your savings support you? What is your threshold for finding a new job? When a.s.sessing your monetary situation, don't forget to include your cost of living. In addition to school, you will still have to pay your monthly overhead (rent, electricity, and job-searching expenses, for example). How much money do you need to complete your degree, including the incidentals, such as books and activity fees? How much disposable income is available to you, like savings or severance funds, if applicable? How credit-worthy are you? Are you eligible for loans (bank or personal), financial aid, credit cards? How long can your savings support you? What is your threshold for finding a new job?

Once you have determined the above, you can consider your options. You can (1) continue your part-time program while searching for a new job; (2) take time off from your schooling to search for a job on a full-time basis; or (3) complete your degree full time.

Keep Your Options Open"Completing an M.B.A. program while retaining a full-time job is a significant challenge. Fordham recognizes that students' personal and professional lives are constantly evolving, and therefore we allow students to change their status from part time to full time, or vice versa, enabling students to seize opportunities as they present themselves."- Kathy Williams Pattison, a.s.sistant Dean of Admissions, Fordham Graduate School of Business Graduate School of Business Continuing the Part-Time Program You have weighed the alternatives and determined that maintaining your part-time status at school is the best way to approach your new situation. You will need to rea.s.sess your finances and your job prospects.

Financial Implications If you find yourself out of work due to cutbacks or downsizing, you may be ent.i.tled to a severance package. Depending on the length of employment with your company, a severance can be a substantial amount of money that you will be able to apply towards your studies. If, on the other hand, you're in a position where you are unable to meet your current financial obligations in addition to footing the bill for school, student loans are available to a.s.sist you make ends meet. Visit the M.B.A. Loans website at www.salliemae.com, or make an appointment to meet with a dean at your school to discuss alternatives. Work-study programs or tutoring are a few options that may be at your disposal.

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