Essential Advice For Online MBAs From Those Who Have Been There & Done It

Some of the essential advice online MBA grads for prospective online MBA students

Some of the essential advice online MBA grads for prospective online MBA students

You know what’s ahead of you. They’re going to come at you from every direction. Classes and case studies. Team projects and proctored tests. Conference calls and business trips. Urgent demands and tight deadlines. Late nights and working weekends. That’s an MBA program when you’re working. Limits and tradeoffs – and the guilt that comes with missing out on family and being less than perfect.

“This is real school, not merely continuing education,” says Owen Ellis, a medical director in Colorado who earned his online MBA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst this spring. “Be prepared to meet deadlines, take tests, and generally add a second job to your life.”

A second job? Not quite. However, thriving in an online MBA program requires a combination of strategy and stamina. That’s what enabled the University of Arizona’s Roberto C. Llano to navigate the push-pull between work, school, and family.Be organized, be proactive, and be engaged,” he tells Poets&Quants. “Work in groups and spread the work among members. Communicate and understand the time limitations of other students. Stay focused, and never give up!”

Arizona State’s Lindsay Scherer

How do online MBAs find balance – and even an occasional seven hour night of sleep? Each year, P&Q asks the top-ranked online MBA programs to nominate two graduates to represent them among our Best & Brightest MBAs. As part of the nomination process, these top students offer advice to applicants who are following in their footsteps. From monitoring your health to setting expectations, here are the ten best pieces of advice from the Class of 2019.

1) Take Risks: “Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from taking assignments or roles where your skills are weakest, particularly in group assignments. This environment is where you can utilize peers’ skills to refine your own. If you only do parts of the assignments, you’re already confident doing, you’ll lose out on a substantial amount of any MBA program’s value.”
Lindsay Scherer, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

2) Get Your Home Life In Order: “Lean on your support system at home and your fellow classmates. Your classmates are going through the same experience as you are. You know what they say: misery loves company! Jokes aside, it has been inspiring watching my classmates! They have just as much responsibility as I do (if not more). It can get tough when everyone at work is going to happy hours and all your friends are posting Instagram stories of themselves at music festivals. The people closest to you know why you’re doing what you’re doing and they want you to succeed. All you have to do is keep your head in the game.”
Spandana Lakkamraju, Indiana University (Kelley)

“If you’re married with kids, create a solid foundation at home so you have the required time available to focus on your courses. My wife Sarah had already completed her MBA before I started at UNC, during which time I looked after our children when she studied. She offered to do the same during my MBA, usually three weeknights and most Sundays. I’m grateful that I never had to worry about cooking or putting kids to bed on those days.”
Jaap Veneman, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

3) Plan Ahead: “Get familiar with the different courses and their requirements early in your program in order to best plan course workload around other commitments. For example, since I chose to take two classes at once, I tried to pair a more quantitative classes with a more theoretical class to avoid having two classes with heavy reading at once.”
Danielle Milá, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

University of Maryland’s Terri Jarboe Farri

“Choose electives and research assignments that interest you. They may not at first appear to have applicability to your work, but if you are interested, you can learn a lot. The first elective I took focused on international exchange rates and it turned out to be a fascinating class. This sparked my interest in other global business courses, which since have had a great deal of impact on my understanding of the global defense industry – something useful and applicable in my line of work.”
Cassidi Reese, University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium

4) Stay Healthy: “Last, take care of yourself. It may seem impossible but make time in your routine for you. Exercise, relaxation, hobbies, etc. will keep you mentally sharp and energized.”
Eric Hensley, Auburn University (Harbert)

“Time management is so important. Turn off your cell phone and social media for periods of time so you have less distractions and can be engaged. Those time-suckers will still be there when the program is over.”
Terri Jarboe Farri, University of Maryland (Smith)

5) Use Your Time Wisely: “Manage your time as best as you can. If you sit in the car for more than 30 minutes a day, download the lectures to iTunes and listen to them while you commute. If you travel for work, use the plane rides, to keep up or get ahead on lectures. You cannot afford to fall behind.”
Juan P. Lopez, University of Florida (Hough)

6) Support Your Peers: “The way I see it, getting an MBA is all about learning to become a future leader. Working together in teams not only helps you become that leader but uniting as one team, helps you get through the MBA stronger. Kelley makes sure we work together on our assignments in teams for almost every class we take, so we have the support of one another. Getting an MBA is a team sport, we come as solo players on an all-star team so we can leave as MVPs into our respective fields.”
Spandana Lakkamraju, Indiana University (Kelley)

“Give of yourself without regard for what you will get back. Having a cohort that gives selflessly of their varied expertise results in a synergy in the group that is greater than the sum of its parts. While you may be strong in one part of the program, there will come another topic where someone else is the expert and you will need to lean on them for help and growth.”
Kurtis Williams, USC (Marshall)

7) Don’t Fall Behind: “Stay on top of the assignments and be proactive in completing your work.  The online format can sometimes lend itself to procrastination, especially when everything is on your own time. It can be really easy to slack and let life take over but setting a schedule and executing it, helped me to ensure that I could give an adequate amount of time to every assignment.”
Samuel Speet, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Michael E. Silverman, M.D., Jack Welch Management Institute

8) Don’t Rush the Process: “You want to complete your MBA quickly. However, you also want to ensure you are enjoying the experience and maximizing the learning opportunities from fellow students and the online course material.

When I first began the program, I started by taking two classes per term. And while I excelled in my courses, I didn’t feel like I was absorbing the content efficiently. I knew I would graduate more prepared if I slowed down, so I started taking just one class per term. Also, it left more time for me to experience the other elements of the program, like local networking events set up by other students and alumni. These are fun events!”
Michael E. Silverman, M.D., Jack Welch Management Institute

9) Work With Your Boss: “Keep your manager at work aware of your participation in the program, so that he/she can understand your school schedule and help you to prioritize work activities accordingly. Also, communicate to your manager and team of your learnings from the classroom and actively practice the skills that you are developing. This will not only help you to master these skills, but it will also allow you to shine in front of your management, as you demonstrate your improved managerial competencies.”
Ariel Prochowski, Penn State (Smeal)

10) Check Your Ego: “The best piece of advice I have is to come with an open mind and you will learn just as much from your peers as you will from your classes. My team has been instrumental in my growth throughout this program, and I know it is because everyone has valuable experience and strengths to bring to the table. Make sure to check your ego at the door, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn and achieve.”
Alejandro Lozano, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

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