Best Advice For Online MBAs

I’m behind.

I’m overwhelmed.

I’m not up to this.

That’s a common refrain among adult learners. Deadlines get moved up. Kids get sick. Expectations change. How can professionals possibly cope with surprises?

Be consistent.

Be vigilant.

Be in the moment.

That’s the advice from this year’s Best & Brightest Online MBA graduates. Translation: An MBA isn’t just something you work on during the weekends. 


Trey Quealy, University of Cincinnati (Lindner)

“Dedicate significant time to it every single day, even if it’s just looking ahead and doing some reading or planning,” explains Anthony Duellman, a senior administrator at Marriott International who earned his MBA at the University of Maryland this spring.Once you fall behind it can be like a snowball rolling downhill, but if you stay at the top of the mountain, you’ll have plenty of time for other things, I promise!”

Trey Quealy, a P&G planner and University of Cincinnati MBA, takes it a step further. “My biggest advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program is to start off each week strong. Don’t wait until the weekend to start an assignment. Doing 30-60 minutes a night per class made my time management a lot more bearable than procrastinating until the Sunday of each assignment’s deadline.”

No matter what, adds Anthony Bonvino, don’t underestimate the demands of going back for an MBA. “Remote coursework is just as demanding with time and effort as in-person classes, writes the Santa Clara Leavey MBA. “Don’t over commit yourself at work nor anticipate that courses will be easy due their online nature.”

What are other ways that online MBAs can save time, reduce stress, and produce results. As part of the Best & Brightest nomination process, P&Q asked online MBAs to share their best advice for future business students. Here are seven of the best strategies they used to maximize the value of their MBA education.

1) Devise A Plan: “My biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to thrive in an online MBA program is sit down at the beginning of each semester and make a plan. Working full time, being a provider, and pursuing an MBA is a tall order for anyone. I was able to make it work because I made a schedule and stuck to it the best I could. Decide when your dedicated homework time is, figure out your work schedule, and most importantly make time for the people important in your life, including yourself. When life gets busy it’s easy to overlook the little things and neglect stuff you take for granted. Make sure you’re taking care of business while also finding time to recharge to help ensure you’re getting the most out of your program.”
Matthew Kirby Galliger, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

2) Bring Your Best Self: “Best piece of advice I can give: be ready for a self-awareness journey. To participate in an MBA program usually entails two things: that (i) you are ambitious, (ii) you are a high performer. You see these people often in your work environment and you probably admire them. Statistically, in the MBA, 100% of the people you meet and work with are ambitious, high achievers and have what it takes to be future leaders. Adding the cultural diversity and the limited communication channels and expressions, you have few opportunities to interact with fellow students and ensure your intentions are not misperceived. So be ready to face your imposter syndrome, insecurities, as well as your own ego. Then, work with these so that you can be the best version of yourself. Be ready to speak up, be confident, and further lift spotlight onto others, not just yourself. And, in your interactions, make sure you always assume the best of intentions from all parties involved.
Iouliana Litou, IE Business School

Shir Zalzberg-Gino, IE Business School

3) Know What You Want: “That would depend on your definition of thriving. Some people want the highest scores, some want to come out with the best networks, and some are looking to have a new experience. So my best advice would be this: ask yourself, honestly, how you want to come out of this program, what success means to you, and what you should focus on? We can’t achieve everything, so focus and precise decision-making would help you achieve your personal idea of success.”
Shir Zalzberg-Gino, IE Business School

“To thrive an online MBA program, you need to know exactly why you’re pursuing the degree and keep that goal in mind at all times. Between work, school, and personal life demands, you won’t be able to take advantage of every opportunity offered by the program. Rather than wasting your time and money or (worse) burning out, you are better off prioritizing opportunities that further your goals. My goal was to change careers (industry, function and location), and I applied this litmus test to all the decisions I made in the program. For example, while part of me (most, really) wanted to attend cool global programs in other countries, I realized that these programs weren’t going to add value for me given my goals. For other people, these programs are the pinnacle of the experience. To do an online MBA well, you need to figure out what is important to you. This will make you more successful and happier as you go through it.”
Paul Cornwell, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

4) Be Open To New Experiences: “Own your own learning and development. You will not get as much one-on-one time with the professors unless you seek it out. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to meet and learn from your professors. In addition, you must network. Join every group that you can and meet as many people as possible. Finally, from my personal experience, embrace the impostor syndrome and use it to get as much value as you can out of the content. To this day, I experience the impostor syndrome of working with so many talented individuals. Replacing hubris with an open mind to learn everything possible is the key to gaining the most value out of your online MBA.”
Richard Trietley III, Indiana University (Kelley)

“Be active. If there are leadership forums, ambassador groups, or mentors, join or apply for them as time allows.  The students in these groups tend to be the ones who want to make connections, who want to give back to the community. These are the ones you want to be connected to!”
Peter Franzen, North Carolina State (Jenkins)

Jenni Cragun, University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium

“I would advise applicants and new students to embrace all opportunities for learning in their online MBA programs. Open yourself to inspiration and growth by pursuing topics you are passionate about but also exploring topics unfamiliar to you. Through my MBA program, I discovered I love finance, I am fascinated by the complexities of the health care industry, and I have a knack for looking at data and distilling it into concrete business decisions.”
Jenni Cragun, University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium

5) Prepare Those Around You: “It is exceedingly difficult to thrive in your career, your family life, and your online education simultaneously. When you are focused on one, the others are being neglected in some way. Having open and honest conversations with your employer, spouse, and family is incredibly important. Things will not always be easy – be prepared for that reality and have mechanisms in place to refocus your attention where it is most needed.”
Brad Kohlmeyer, University of Michigan (Ross)

6) Internalize The Concepts To Make Them Your Own: “I found myself Googling, reading Investopedia, and watching YouTube videos, all in an effort to help internalize the concepts being discussed. This approach takes the feelings of “work” out of the program and instead replaces them with feelings of curiosity as you are investigating topics and material you find interesting. Focusing less on memorization of textbook material and more on the personal internalization of concepts leads to far better understanding and knowledge retention.”
Casey McLynden, University of Nebraska

7) Grit Before Glamor: “I would advise an online MBA applicant that learning and networking takes more diligence and initiative. Since lectures are asynchronous and can be covered at your own pace, you are responsible for making the time to learn the material. Also, it takes more effort to network after class – when lectures end in traditional classrooms, students tend to hand out outside in the classroom and chats take place. For an online environment, you need to be initiative-taking to engage with students, whether it is by text messaging, WhatsApp, slack or other networking apps.”
Juventino Uriarte, Rice University (Jones)




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