Next up in our series of featured MBA bloggers is Vit of the blog, Part-time MBA Degree in DC. Please enjoy Vit’s thoughtful answers and use them to help you make your way through the MBA admissions process.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to college and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?
Vit: I was born and grew up in the now non-existent country – Soviet Union/USSR. And this is where I received my undergraduate degree in English and Education. I actually got my University diploma in the year when the USSR ceased to exist, in 1991. I know, for most of the readers it may sound like ancient history. But it will also give you an idea of what an atypical MBA candidate I am.
I came to the U.S. with my family in the late 1990s, and this is another partial explanation of how I am ending up getting the MBA in my mid-forties.
Accepted: How did you choose George Washington University School of Business? Why did you feel it was the best school for you? Did you only consider part-time programs? Why?
Vit: I came to this country by invitation to work for a non-profit organization located in the Washington, D.C. area. So this was where we settled and lived ever since. Given my age, family, and job situation by the time I decided to pursue an MBA, the only option I had was part-time. So I had to choose among the D.C. business schools.
There are four MBA programs in D.C. area that are consistently featured in most national and global rankings: American University, Georgetown, George Washington, and University of Maryland.
I applied and got admitted to GW and UMD. It was a somewhat hard decision to choose between the two and settled on the former, because the UMD Smith MBA at the time was in top 30 and GWSB was somewhere in the 50s range according to the BusinessWeek rankings. Whether we like it or not, rankings do play a significant role in MBA recruiting game and employers’ perception of the candidates.
In my MBA preparation phase I attended information sessions for all four schools, and later attended open houses and classes in three of them. These visits gave me a feel for each school and were a significant factor in my final decision on the school.
So in spite of UMD’s higher ranking I eventually chose GW for the following reasons:
- I liked the fact that the part-time MBA at GWSB is located on the main campus. This gives you better access to the faculty, administration, school events, etc. UMD has three satellite campuses for part-time MBA programs around D.C., none of them are on the main campus. Also, having three programs means that the school would have to hire more adjunct instructors, which in turn means that teaching quality could be less consistent.
- I appreciated the bigger diversity of the GWSB student body. There are many representatives from consulting, government, non-profit, military, international backgrounds. In UMD, part-time programs are heavily dominated by IT professionals. Since I am in IT already, I wanted to have more exposure to different industries and backgrounds.
- GWSB part-time MBA has a flexible mode where you can take as many or as few classes (subject to a 6 credits per semester minimum to keep your part-time status) as you can pull out based on your day job workload and other circumstances. You also have great flexibility on the order of the classes that you take, with the exception of just a few core courses that have prerequisites. The UMD part-time MBA has a cohort system for its core classes that last for about 3-4 semesters. I generally like the idea of cohorts, because it gives more opportunities for developing meaningful lasting relationships. However in part-time mode I really came to appreciate the program flexibility I have at GWSB. For developing relationships, you have to work a bit harder though.
Those are three main reasons, and as an additional sweetener I received a merit-based partial scholarship from GWSB for my first year. Since I pay my way through the school without an employer’s help, this was an important factor too.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Vit: I usually do not like to play favorites and name something as the only best, or the most favorite. So my answer will be broader.
I enjoyed all my electives, even if to various degrees, since I was the one to choose them based on my interests and the feedback on the specific professors from my classmates and ratemyprofessor.com.
One pivotal class I had was “Consultative Processes” – an elective introductory course to consulting. The rich material, outstanding guest speakers, and relevant cases helped me a lot in the transition from my former employer to my current job, and much better position in my career trajectory overall.
Even as a poet in the business school sometimes struggling with quantitative courses, I still enjoyed very much economics, especially micro. I also liked statistics. Go figure!
My most anticipated class is the one week Study Abroad program in France this coming March.
Accepted: Are there any things in particular you did before starting b-school that made the transition back to student life easier? (Like taking a math course to brush up on your skills, move to your new location a few weeks early to settle in…)
Vit: Please, keep in mind that I had 18(!) years between my undergrad and the start of MBA. It was also conceptually different educational system in the USSR compared to the U.S. graduate level. So, there was a steep learning curve in more than one dimension. Nevertheless, I would say that my preparation for GMAT that lasted for about 6 months prepared me for long and late study hours. This turned out to be an important exercise in preparing for the MBA.
Accepted: How does living in D.C. contribute to your b-school experience?
Vit: I mentioned earlier that I lived in the D.C. area ever since I came to this country. I don’t know different, but we have always liked it here.
GWSB has a tagline “In the Center of It All.” And this is really true for our overall experience at school. We have access to many speakers, professionals who have stake and have intimate knowledge of many events that form our nation and the world. For example, there was invitation to the lecture with Ben Bernanke speaking just this past week. At the end of March the GWU is hosting Clinton Global Initiative University and opportunities to take part in it has been open to our Business School students.
Admittedly, as a part-time student I cannot get as fully immersed in all what is going on at the school and university level because of the day job and family constraints. Still I try to selectively participate in the events organized at later afternoon/evening hours. And the full-time students have much better opportunities for these activities.
Accepted: Do you have any advice you’d like to bestow on our current MBA applicants?
Vit: It’s general advice I’d give to anyone, and it is equally relevant for MBA applicants. I think it is attributed to Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” I have seen this work in life so many times, that I am surprised I still have to remind myself about it almost daily. 😉
Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience?
Vit: I am an educator by my undergrad training. I often have an urge to share something new I learned. Also, I would not be a business school student if I did not think about the monetization potential of blogging. However, if the monetary aspect was the first or the only motivation, I would have given up blogging long ago, because so far it is has not been a commercially viable enterprise.
Finally, it is like keeping a diary, its public version anyways. I already have fun looking back at some of my earlier posts.
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