MBA Admissions Decisions: Should You Go Full-Time Or Part-Time?

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Full-time or Part-time?

When I was applying to b-school, I contemplated part-time vs. full-time, and one of my best friends, Colleen, had to make the same decision at the same time.

Ultimately, I decided to attend the full-time program at the University of Michigan. Colleen decided to attend a part-time program at the University of Michigan. We shared 60% of the same classes, 40% of the same professors and even had a class together (Michigan offered, at the time, courses where they reserved half the registrations for full-time students and half the registrations for part-time students). Since that time, they dramatically changed the full-time curriculum and it is unlikely that we would overlap now like we did then. However, I graduated two years before Colleen with a unique internship, an opportunity to begin a new career and a lot of debt. Colleen advanced quickly with the company that hired her upon our graduation from college and graduated without debt because her company sponsored her education. We both have the same degree.

Now as an consultant and as a former Admissions Director and Dean of full-time, part-time and EMBA programs, I lend you my insight and guidance from the other side of the table in this brief analysis of programs.

Full-time programs: Traditional full-time programs are the media darlings of MBA programs. A school’s reputation relies mostly on its full-time program rankings. They consume the largest portion of the school’s budget, and they rarely make revenue for a school. More than 90% of all scholarships and fellowships are dedicated to full-time students. Full-time programs are perfect for career-changers in the 23-30 year old age range that can afford the opportunity cost of leaving work to immerse themselves in education and experience. If you choose this experience, you will feel like you are an undergraduate again with clubs and activities, but the workload will be greater. You will have access to on-campus recruiting (I always recommend you conduct your own off-campus job search in parallel with on-campus recruiting), company presentations, fellowships and scholarships and a lot of fun. Full-time students prioritize the job search and school. Family often gets the short stick, but there are typically resources to support a spouse. If you are single, it’s a great opportunity to form a romantic relationship. My grad school roommate found the love of her life in our core operations course.

Part-time programs: Part-time programs are the cash cow of MBA programs and have to live in the shadow of their smaller full-time counterpart. They take very few resources, but they often share the same faculty as the full-time program. Many professors would rather teach at night or on the weekend to lighten their teaching load and dedicate their days to research. Schools will also complement the faculty with adjuncts in part-time programs. Aggregated, the part-time applicant pool is not as competitive or as diverse in terms of admissions as schools typically receive fewer applications, and they are limited to their immediate region and the industries that dominate that industry. Furthermore, schools have the capacity to serve at least as many and often more students than their full-time counterpart.

As much as schools say the quality of the full-time students and the part-time students are the same, the quality is dependent on location and how that location generates applications. Bigger cities have an easier time of attracting great applicants to their part-time program and can maintain higher quality standards, but full-time programs generate applications from around the globe and it’s much easier to pick and choose candidates for admission.

Part-time programs are perfect for the 24-35 year old career enhancer, but rarely serve the career changer. Part-timers typically do not have the same access to comprehensive career services as full-time programs because company presentations and interviews are typically held during the day. At one school for whom I worked, we dedicated one career services staff member to all of our professional programs (part-time, EMBA, on-line) serving over 1000 students and 5 career services staff to the small 200-student full-time program.

Part-time students can often get full or partial sponsorship from their company lessening the financial burden, but do not typically have access to fellowships or scholarships from the school. It typically takes students longer than 2 years to complete a part-time program and part-time students prioritize work first, school second and again, family gets the short end stick. Part-time students often feel like the stepchild of the full-time counterparts.

EMBA programs: EMBA programs are also lucrative for schools, but they typically are not as large as full-time programs, and schools charge a premium to attend an EMBA program. They are perfect for students in the 30-year-old to 42-year-old age range that have been supervising employees and that have the support of their executive management to attend a program because executives view these students as fast-trackers in their company. These programs are typically held every other weekend and offer no fellowships or scholarships because schools expect the student’s company to sponsor the student partially or completely. EMBA students typically prioritize work first, family second and school last. While EMBA students may cross from technical supervisory roles to business supervisory roles in their companies, EMBA programs do not cater to the career changer only the career enhancer. Schools take care of their EMBA students for their tuition premium. However, these students rarely interact with either the part-time or full-time students, but bond well with their cohort and the faculty.

Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One - Download your copy today!


Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Related Resources:

• Ace the EMBA
Tips for Applying to Part Time MBA Programs
• The MBA Family: A Roundup and Overview

Do Stanford GSB Grads REALLY “Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World.”?

Check out Stanford GBS zone page!Episode 3 in our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants: Stanford GSB’s motto.

Who wouldn’t want to change lives, change organizations, and change the world?  Right? For Episode 3 in our Big Brand Theory series, I set out to prove that Stanford GSB admits, transforms and graduates students who accomplish great feats.  I wanted to demonstrate that Stanford GSB students, faculty and graduates lived GSB’s brand.

I’ve always been a big proponent of Stanford GSB (even when they had classrooms and desks that reminded me of my high school).  Regardless of their old environs, the Knight Center makes their facility live up to their students and their program.

I love the vibe when I walk onto Stanford’s campus.  I love the fact that their students have infinite access to Silicon Valley.  I love that the faculty turns their electives over so frequently that the course catalogue reads like a fresh new book each year.  I love the questions Derrick Bolton asks on his application.  In fact, I love Derrick (don’t tell my husband).  I do believe Derrick has done a great job in selecting some of the smartest people I know.  My clients who have gained admission to Stanford surprise me with their intelligence, talent, accomplishments and ideas.  They are futurists who can see beyond the horizon, but they still need me to plant the seed for their ideas to grow into great essays and interviews.  Regardless, I love my clients too (my husband already knows that fact).

Stanford GSB Alumni: Famous and Infamous

However, when I looked at Stanford GSB’s list of “notable” alumni, I only saw a handful of game changers.   The list is similar to those I see at other schools with notable founders, CEOs and investors like GM’s first female CEO, Mary Barra, Acumen Founder Jacqueline Novogratz, Charles Schwab of Charles Schwab, Nike’s Phil Knight, Ultra-investor Vinod Kosla, Atari’s Nolan Bushnell, KPCB’s Brook Byers; notable authors like Tom Peters and Jim Collins; and “famous celebrities” like Alex Michel (Alex Michel, really?  Do “reality” TV participants count as celebrities? More importantly, does anyone really watch The Bachelor?).

Stanford has also has its share of CEOs and a handful of leaders who have been heavily criticized like former BP CEO, Lord John Browne who was forced to resign, not because BP’s Texas City, Texas plant exploded under his watch or because he commissioned Deepwater Horizon that also forced his successor’s resignation, but because a newspaper “outed” him when he lied under oath about his boyfriend/male escort. Lord Brown cut costs for financial gains and as a result, he changed BP and also the Gulf of Mexico.

Go Deep and Authentic for What Matters to You Most

So how can you present the fact that you will change the world for the better?  Stanford asks two questions that I know Derrick and his team really take to heart.  My clients typically struggle with “What matters most to you and why?” The latter part of this question being equally, if not more important that the former.  This question requires a tremendous amount of introspection and if done well should show that you have the heart to change the world.

It requires you to know yourself at a very personal level and share that self-awareness with an admissions committee.  It’s not easy, and the best essays I’ve seen on this topic have knocked the wind out of me.  Several have made me cry. It is a dig deep into your soul question.  Derrick is a very smart and authentic individual, and he wants to get to know what drives you.

I begin brainstorming this question with clients by asking them for what they would give their life.  At that point, you already know it will be an intense brainstorm.  Often I hear, “family” or “helping others,” which can fall into the trap of discussing work. I ask my clients to frame this into a one- word value, and then I begin to peel away the layers until we find something deep and raw and revealing. After this digging, my clients also understand why they feel this value is most important to them.

Most of those clients have gained admission to Stanford GSB.  Some have not. The application is a complete picture and while you have revealed something raw to the committee, you may have other flaws in your application.

Why Stanford: Reveal the Capacity to Effect Change

Or you may not demonstrate in your “Why Stanford?” essay that you have already or have the capacity to change lives, change organizations, and yes, change the world.  If the first question is about heart, the second question is about intent and ability.  Do you intend to initiate change and have the talent to make it happen?

You really do need to think beyond the horizon for Stanford and make certain that you know why you need the Stanford MBA for you to create change: Jacqueline Novogratz did it; Vinod Kosla did it; and of course, Phil Knight did it. You just need to “just do it” like them. Swoosh.

Register for our free webinar: Get Accepted to Stanford GSB!

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Related Resources:

• Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• Understanding Stanford GSB’s Take On Demonstrated Leadership Potential
• Stanford GSB 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Applying For Your MBA Through The Consortium: Best Deal In Town

Download our 'MBA in Sight: Focus on Management" guide, today!Our consultants receive a lot of questions from clients about applying to MBA programs through The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.  I’ve heard myths flying around that applying to one (or more) of the 18 Consortium schools through The Consortium’s application is disadvantageous.  But as the former director at two Consortium schools, I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth — provided you meet the Consortium’s minimum qualifications.

Though the requirements, the schools, and the corporate partners have changed over its 49-year history, the Consortium is not only the best deal in town; it also gives Consortium members an alumni network that expands throughout the 18-member schools.

Initially, The Consortium provided opportunities for young African American men to have a fair chance at rising up the corporate ladder via the MBA. Later, the Consortium added Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and women to its mix.  Membership came along with the fellowship.

However, after the Supreme Court decided on the Gratz vs. Bollinger and Grutter vs. Bollinger cases, the Consortium opened up its doors to offer membership to selected applicants that further the mission of The Consortium in providing inclusion of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in business.  Members and fellows do not have to belong to these groups. Thus, membership is no longer race-based, but rather mission driven.  Applicants must also demonstrate the ability to succeed in an MBA program.

Like the undergraduate Common Application, candidates can apply to up to 6 Consortium schools with only one application for a fraction of the cost the candidate would incur applying to each of these schools separately.  The catch:  the candidate must rank order the schools.  Having just attending a Consortium recruiting event, the Admissions representatives on the panel suggested that candidates rank order the schools from the most preferred to the least preferred.  However, in order to obtain a fellowship, I believe there is a strategy involved in the ranking.

To be sure, Consortium membership assures the candidate of access to the orientation and corporate partners.  In fact, many candidates receive internship offers prior to the start of school.   Membership, however, does not guarantee admission to the schools of choice, nor does it guarantee a full-tuition fellowship.

To summarize the benefits:

1. One application for up to six schools at one low cost.

2. Access to vast alumni network of 18 schools that includes mentorship from Consortium alumni (formal or informal).

3. If selected as a member, access to corporate sponsors at orientation

4. If selected as a fellow, full tuition and stipend

To learn more about applying through the Consortium and the strategy behind the rank order, please contact me for a free consultation.  Moreover, Accepted will offer Consortium applicants a special coupon code for 10% off all purchases of $2000 or more for services to help you apply through the Consortium. The best deal in town just got even better.

Download your copy of Navigating the MBA Maze
Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.


Related Resources:

5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid In Your MBA Application Essays [Free Guide]
• The Consortium: Diversifying B-School and Corporate Management [Podcast]
• Approaching the Diversity Essay Question

Books To Read Before You Begin Your MBA Application

Check out our very own MBA Admissions for Smarties by Linda Abraham and Judy Gruen!I’m certain everyone knows that before you apply to business schools, it’s a good idea to read The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist and Bloomberg-BusinessWeek to familiarize yourself with the jargon and the stories you will be discussing while in school.  I also believe its a good idea to read about MBA programs and the strategies experts suggest before applying to said programs.  For the latest in Bschool gossip and the best admissions tips, subscribe to this blog and keep an eye on Poets and Quants.

While I’ve seen a lot of books out there on the MBA admissions process including our very own MBA Admissions for Smarties by Linda Abraham and Judy Gruen, I think it’s important before you apply to schools to find inspiration outside the narrow walls of “MBA admissions.”  I’m hoping these books will get you thinking and tickle the left side of your brain when so many MBA applicants are right-brained thinkers.


The Five Levels of Leadership – John Maxwell

Talent is Overrated – Geoff Colvin

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson


Great by Choice – Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

Inside Apple – Adam Lishinsky

The McKinsey Way – Ethan Raisiel

Creative Thinking:

Jumping the Curve – Nicholas Imparato and Oren Harari

The Art of Possibility – Rosamund and Benjamin Zander (catch Ben’s TED talks too)

The Singularity is Near – Ray Kurzweil

Creative Confidence – Tom Kelley

And if you can’t get away from your right brain try:

The Art of Persuasion – Bob Burg

Competitive Advantage – Michael Porter

The Essays of Warren Buffet – Warren Buffet and Lawrence Cunningham

Regardless of what you read, it’s important to read before putting pen to paper or finger to key. Using books as your muse for your business school essays will enable you to dream bigger and engage your own reader…the admissions committee.

Download your free copy of "5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in your MBA Application Essays" now! Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.

Related Resources:

Navigate the MBA Maze
Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
• MBA Admissions According to an Expert

MBA Letters Of Recommendation

Offer to do things like pick up dry cleaning or groceries, walk the dog, or drive carpool to make time in your recommenders’ schedule to write the letter

Offer to walk the dog to make time in your recommenders’ schedule to write the letter.

Selecting your recommenders takes a strategy. I like to begin with the basics: Who, When, What, Where, and How. I also like to suggest that you waive your right to access it. The waiver makes the recommendation more credible to the admissions committee.


Who are the best people to address the questions the schools are asking? Who are the best people to affirm what you say and also add information that you don’t have the chance to include in your essay? Many schools ask for supervisor. While it is best to ask your supervisor for the letter of recommendation (and ask if (s)he can write you a strong letter of recommendation), there are times when you just can’t ask a supervisor for a letter. If you find yourself in that situation, you’ll need an explanation.  For example, “I asked my mentor to write my recommendation because she knows my leadership, drive and work ethic better than anyone else I know.” Or, “I’ve asked a former supervisor to write my recommendation letter because asking my current supervisor would jeopardize my current project/promotion.”  Or, “I’ve asked a supplier to write my recommendation because my supervisor has only been on board for one month and I’ve known my supplier for three years.”  Regardless, develop a strong relationship with your recommender prior to “the ask.”


It’s best to ask your recommender to write the letter at least 6 weeks prior to your anticipated date of submission.  Everyone will face delays, so make allow for them. Six weeks should give your recommender enough time to

1.  Review your preparation materials (see what).

2.  Meet with the recommender for the request (in person if possible).

3.  Meet again to give the packet of information that you will provide.

4.  Meet again to answer any questions the recommender has for you.


Many schools ask similar questions, but it is best to use the unique e-form each school provides the recommender and answer the questions the school asks. You will add the recommenders’ information on your application, and the school will send your recommender a link. Many of these documents can be written in word and uploaded as a .doc, .docx or pdf.

Regardless of how the letter is delivered, you need to give your recommender a packet of information to use to help him or her answer the questions. Often the questions will ask about your leadership in relation to your peers or when did your recommender offer you criticism and how did you receive the criticism?  This latter question has been problematic for many recommenders.  I suggest that the recommender think about the question in a different way.  Rather than thinking about a weakness, think about a time the recommender “offered the candidate advice and how did the candidate act on that advice.”

A letter of recommendation is not your annual review; it’s your recommendation.  Your recommender may even ask you to write the letter and (s)he’ll sign the letter.  You need to stand your ground and say, “the school really wants your honest perspective, and I would be so grateful to you for your original work.”

However, you can coach your recommender by providing a list of the schools to which you are applying and why, a copy of your resume, your goals statement, and items you would like to your recommender to cover like your achievements or items that you can’t cover in your essays, but your recommender can elaborate on your affinity for paragliding or your talent with the cello (this is your packet). You can also ask your recommender to highlight achievements that may counteract a negative – like your communications skills if you have a low verbal score or a quantitative achievement if you have a low quant score.  I know when I write letters for my former students, having this information will remind me of the great things that the student did for the school or for me.  It gives me the launching point to tell a story and all the statements a recommender makes should be backed up with evidence (a story) to make it more interesting and hammer home the point of the recommendation.  Many recommendations also offer grids.  Your recommender should be honest, but I must say that if my candidates fell below the top two categories, it sent up a red flag.


If your recommender says (s)he doesn’t have the time to write the recommendation, I’ve suggested my clients book a one hour appointment (after they give the packet of materials needed to write the recommendation) and then call the recommender and say, okay, I’d like you to use this hour to write my recommendation.  You can also offer to do things like pick up dry cleaning or groceries, walk the dog, or drive carpool to make time in your recommenders’ schedule to write the letter.  Regardless, they need at least one hour of quiet time to get this right.


If your recommender says that (s)he can’t write a strong letter for you, you need to find another recommender.  If they enthusiastically say “yes!” make the task easy for the recommender by giving the recommender the packet to which I referred in the “what” section.

Please contact us if you have other questions regarding your recommendations and good luck.

Natalie Grinblatt Epstein By , an accomplished consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.


Related Resources:

• MBA Letters of Recommendation that Rock – an ebook
• Recommenders And Recommendations
• Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes