Congratulations! You’ve made a good choice to pursue your MBA at Fisher. An MBA will help you develop the skills to succeed in a wide variety of situations, and Fisher is a great place to do it, bringing both academic rigor and real-world experience to the mix.
But attending as a ‘working professional’ is a little bit different from the traditional college experience. I’ve tried to address here some of the issues that are unique to the WPMBA experience.
In most cases, the professors that teach the core classes in the WP program do not teach the same classes in the full-time program. That may mean that the class content is very different, particularly the Marketing and Organizational Behavior curriculum. If you have flexibility during the day, you may find a better fit taking the full-time version of the class. Talk to other students to see what they though of various classes to help you decide.
Don’t take this to mean that there is anything wrong with the WPMBA professors; they are fantastic. I only want to emphasize that you have choices most people don’t realize they had.
GPA and Level-of-Effort
People like to say that GPA doesn’t matter much for an MBA, particularly if you have good work experience. But keep in mind that the extra effort it takes to get an A will also help you get the most out of the class and fully develop your skills.
On the other hand, only you can decide what your priorities are. You also have a career and possibly a family. Seeing baby’s first steps, or a family vacation, may be more important than the several hours it would take to raise your B+ to an A-. Similarly, if you work long hours or travel you should set your expectation appropriately. Just make sure your teammates have a clear understanding of your priorities.
On the third hand, you should take the challenging classes, that may be outside your personal comfort zone. You should do so even if you fully expect it to reduce your GPA – the learning and experience is more important in the end.
WPMBAs do not have a ‘major’ as such. This is because we take fewer total credit hours, which translates to fewer electives. This makes it all the more important to find and take those classes, seminars and experiences that offer the most enrichment. Several classes have travel as part of the curriculum, some even international. Some classes give you the opportunity to learn from a very skilled practitioner in the field. You can supplement this with participation in some of the many clubs and communities of practice at Fisher (more on these below).
Competing with the Full-Timers
As I advised above, you should seek out and take the most challenging classes available, taught by the most exciting professors. This means that you will be in classes with full-time MBA students (‘Day Kids’) doing the same. Since classes are graded on a curve, you are competing with them, and they have the advantage of having more time available. Additionally, professors that primarily teach classes during the day have different expectations of how much time you should spend on papers, reading, etc, so their assignments may be more time consuming.
Accept the challenge and grow from it. Breaking even in a lopsided competition is its own victory.
Honors, Awards and Opportunities
If you are like me, you don’t spend much time on campus. This means you may miss knowing about the clubs, societies and activities available. Many of them confer special honors in the from of cords worn during graduation and can make for good conversation topics during a job interview.
Go to a Fisher graduation ceremony and listen to the awards and honors that are bestowed. You may find that an activity that sounded kind of interesting is even more compelling if you get an honor cord for it.
Similarly, there is recognition for various forms of leadership and for academic achievement. Find out about them. It may turn out to be easier than you think to pad your resume.
Social Activities and Networking
You may find it difficult to get away from work during the day for the social activities that Fisher College organizes. Similarly, you may find it difficult to break away from your family for evening activities. But it will serve you well to get to know and interact with your colleagues outside of class.
One option, more or less peculiar to WP students, is a standing meet up at the Varsity Club Thursdays after class. Even if you don’t drink, it’s a good opportunity to get to know people.
Another is the Marginally Below Average golf outings for WP students and alumni. Even if you don’t golf well, its a fun time – just let me know when you are teeing off so I can get out of the way.
Lastly, once you are eligible, make sure to get the student season football tickets. It’s a great deal at $170 for 5 home games.
Also, make sure you are on Linked In to connect with your classmates and professors.
Placements, internships and career counseling are a bit more low-key in the WPMBA program because of the assumption that we all have jobs already. However, in informal polling, I have found that about half of WPMBA students intend to change employers or even fields when they graduate. So just know that there are services available if you want them; contact the career services office. Special for WPMBA students is Career Beam, which caters more to established professionals and can help you create a killer resume, research potential employers and decide what you want to be when you grow up.
So welcome to the club, I hope to see you around.