Archive for October, 2012

Choosing an MBA Program That Best Fits Your Career Aspirations

Two years ago, when I made the decision to earn my MBA, I spent a lot of time debating whether to earn the degree as a full-time student or through a part-time program.  The two options had their pros and cons, and I eventually decided on CSUF Mihaylo’s part-time MBA program.  But prospective MBA’s aren’t limited to just full-time or part-time programs; seasoned business veterans can earn an executive MBA as well.  The right choice for each individual comes down to his or her current career situation and future career goals.  I’ve provided some of the important features of each MBA program in an effort to help prospective MBA students make an educational decision that fits their career goals.

Full-time MBA: Full-time MBA’s require a student’s full commitment to the program, often for two years (a brief description of one-year programs is also provided below).  Most programs require students to stop working and focus completely on their studies.  These programs usually span four semesters, and require students to spend one summer working on an internship.  In the classroom, students focus on their core courses in year one and then specialize and select electives in year two.  Full-time MBA programs tend to accept students from a variety of backgrounds in order to encourage student collaboration and increase their exposure to a variety of life and business experiences.  These numerous backgrounds also help with networking, and when combined with most programs’ extensive career services these features help students obtain post-MBA employment.  And the reason most full-time MBA students earn the degree is to enhance their post-MBA employment.  For some students, their employer will help pay some or most of a student’s tuition.  That financial assistance then requires the graduate to commit to several years of post-MBA employment at the company, but typically after the student is promoted to a higher management role.

Some universities offer full-time one-year MBA programs.  These accelerate programs move extremely fast (students earn a degree in 11-16 months, compared to 20+ months for a full-time program).  Internships are not normally a requirement for this type of MBA program, due to time constraints.  Students pursuing the one-year MBA benefit from the improved opportunity cost of earning the degree quicker (they spend a shorter period of time away from their job not earning an income).

Part-time MBA: The part-time MBA, like the one I’m enrolled in at CSUF, is dramatically different from a full-time MBA.  Part-time programs are structured to fit around work schedules, so students can work and then attend evening classes once or twice a week.  The programs don’t require internships, and career services can be limited to those found in full-time programs.  Part-time programs are most popular with career enhancers who have already developed strong network connections.  For me, CSUF’s part-time program fit within my limited budget and allowed me to continue working while developing my professional skills.  I felt I have developed a strong network through my own efforts, so I was confident in my ability to compensate for the features a part-time MBA may lack when compared to full-time programs.  In my mind, I’m getting what I pay for – an MBA program that is significantly less expensive than a full-time program, but one that offers less extensive features than a full-time program as well.  Therefore, I knew going into the program I’d have to network and job search more on my own; CSUF wasn’t going to get everything squared away for me.  Students need to be aware of these differences before making the decision to earn a part-time MBA.

Executive MBA: These MBA’s are tailored to business executives who want to improve their management skills and move up their company’s career ladder.  Companies often sponsor their executives by paying their tuition, but (just like full-time MBA students) their employers expect several years of service from their MBA investment.  Executive MBA programs require participants to meet on Fridays and Saturdays (usually all day) so employers must provide flexibility and allow for the necessary time off.  Executive MBA programs move extremely fast, and participants often can’t even miss one class period.  Participants have to commit to working extremely hard, as Executive MBA programs require one to balance work and MBA commitments.  Students with families must also weigh the effects on their loved ones, and ensure they fully understand the commitment they’re making to the program and their careers before diving into the MBA.

Prospective MBA students have a variety of degree options available to them that they can tailor to fit their needs.  It is extremely important that students weigh all the pros and cons earning an MBA, because each degree requires a firm commitment to educating and improving oneself.  Relationships and career prospects can suffer if students don’t fully prepare themselves for the challenge of earning an MBA.  However, students that effectively research all their options available and weigh the opportunity costs of each program will likely find the MBA program best suited to help improve their management skills and advance their career goals.

Are you thinking about pursuing an MBA in the future?  Which program do you think best fits your career situation and future goals?  Or do you have questions about CSUF’s part-time MBA program?  Leave your questions or comments in the Comments section below, or tweet me @OrangeCountyMBA.  I’d be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about earning a Mihaylo MBA.

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You Can’t Buy Your Way Into Business School

Have you ever wished you could simply purchase completed MBA group projects to turn in, or hire someone to take tests for you?  A recent SF Gate article states you can now lighten you MBA application workload by purchasing previous applicants’ admission essays.  As helpful as that may sound, I can promise that pursuing that strategy when applying to business school will bring you problems.

Wordprom was founded by two MBA’s (one from Standford and one from Berkeley), and the company provides MBA with previous applicants’ admissions essays.  The service allows interested parties to search for essays based on specific criteria, such as the applicant’s school, gender, graduation year, and even the admissions round the application and essay were submitted.  An essay costs about $50, and a portion of the sales is returned to the author.

I’ll admit, paying someone to essentially write a draft version of my admissions essay sounds great on paper.  But there are three important reasons why using this service is a terrible idea:

1. The essay doesn’t tell your story.  If you purchase a Wordprom essay and use its ideas and structures in your own essay, you’re not telling your personal story in your voice.  One of the essays’ purposes is to give the admissions counselor an idea of who you are, through the personal story you share.  To me, it’s as if you simply bought an MBA Essay Mad Lib and filled in the responses.  It’s not you telling your story; it’s just a paper sharing some details about your life.

2. Buying an essay may mean you aren’t ready for business school.  One of the expectations MBA programs have of their students is that they can effectively communicate.  This means they can share complex ideas with professors and classmates in both written and spoken formats.  If someone wasn’t confident enough in their abilities to write an effective application essay, it’s unlikely that confidence would appear after being accepted into a program.

3. Schools consider it cheating.  Case in point: UCLA’s Anderson School of Management rejected 52 MBA applicants last year after discovering plagiarism in their essays.  The school ran the essays through Turnitin.com which raised the flags with the applications.  Since the essays available for purchase from Wordprom are papers previous applicants had written, it’s no surprise they were uncovered by UCLA.  Applicants should assume schools will always do their due diligence, and that includes screening essays for any possible signs of plagiarism.

Here’s the bottom line: take pride in your background, experiences, and abilities when applying to business school.  Use the essays to showcase your writing abilities and paint a more complete picture of who you are.  Admissions counselors are looking to see whether applicants will be a good fit in the MBA program and whether they will contribute to the graduate school experience.  Don’t sell yourself short and fill-in a cookie-cutter essay.  Find your voice, share your unique perspective, and put your best foot forward when starting out on your MBA journey.

Have you used Wordprom or a similar service when applying to business school?  What are your feelings about buying portions of an MBA application?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below, or tweet me @OrangeCountyMBA.  I’d love to hear what you think!