10 Best Pieces Of Advice For Online MBAs

For many, education is a solitary exercise. They read and research, scribble notes, and memorize facts. Over time, they learn to frame issues, identify patterns, and devise solutions. In recent decades, education has increasingly followed the model popularized by business. Here, practitioners work in teams that bind functions, levels, and locations. In the process, these teams tap into a variety of experiences that only make their work more relevant, complete, and lasting.

To put it another way…

If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.


Indiana University’s Allie Pearson

Allie Pearson learned the value of this proverb as an online MBA student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. An Assistant Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble, Pearson was accustomed to working in teams to market products like Luvs and Herbal Essences. At Kelley, Pearson found a true community…and reaped unexpected benefits.

“In an online program, your classmates live all around the world and participate in a variety of industries,” she writes. “Their anecdotes, perspective, and knowledge are incredibly helpful to getting a broader view of the business world and a taste of what it’s like to work on projects far different than the ones on your own work plan.”

Shared expertise is just one benefit to the online MBA’s team-driven approach. In Pearson’s experience, the support of her classmates was equally valuable. That’s why she counsels MBA applicants to appreciate the peers learning along with them. In the end, these classmates will play a big part in their success.


“An online MBA is difficult,” Pearson admits. “It’s not just because of the coursework rigor, but also because you’re choosing to balance it with your career, family, hobbies, etc. It is invaluable to have people in your corner to help you through it. Friends help with confusing assignments, recruit you for team projects, and cheer you on when you feel like you’re under a pile of work. It also works vice versa: you’re able to help and cheer for your new friends too. When we all work together, the workload becomes far more manageable. We learn more by teaching each other and asking each other questions, and we all deliver higher quality work. For example, in my operations course, we had to manage a factory simulation that was running 24 hours each day for a whole week. Let’s just say if my classmates hadn’t patiently provided the coaching that they did, my factory would have quickly been out of business.”

Poets&Quants recently published its 3rd annual Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Class of 2020 story, which honored 52 highly-accomplished MBAs from the Class of 2020 at the most highly ranked online MBA programs. As part of their nominations, these students were asked the following: What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? From time management to setting expectations, here are the 10 best nuggets of advice from this year’s Best & Brightest.

University of Maryland’s Leland Naslow

1) Set Expectations: “Get your entire team on board before you even start. Pursuing an online MBA program as a working professional is grueling at times and the total support of your inner circle is the key to keeping it moving when doubts start to surface. Special shout out to my amazing wife Nataly and our entire supportive family.”
Leland Nislow, University of Maryland (Smith)

“One thing that has helped sustain me over the past two years in this program is the understanding and support of my family. Getting them on board and sharing the workload around the house has enabled me to make getting my MBA a top priority. One tactic I have used is to set aside one day a week [usually Wednesdays] where we can have a night together as a family. I don’t schedule team meetings and I ensure that any work I need to do is completed before or after this day. This routine has allowed me a nice pause mid-week to rest and be able to spend quality time with those that are on this journey with me.”
Robert Bussey, Penn State (Smeal)

2) Ask The Right Questions: “Take the time to answer critical questions before you even start your program:

    • Is graduate school really what you want next and will it help get you where you want to go or is there an alternative solution?
    • Is now the right time for a graduate program, and how much time can you dedicate to it? How will you make space for this in your life?
    • What are your requirements or constraints? Budget, location, flexibility, academic focus, networking, travel, and more may all impact your choice.
    • How will you change your current life and lifestyle to support the added responsibilities of graduate work? Do you have a support system or solution in place to fill in any gaps (care for dependents, coverage at work, etc.)?”

Celina Rosita Tousignant, Syracuse University (Whitman)

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