15 Biggest Myths About Executive MBA Programs

MIT Sloan’s Jen Braly

6) Myth: You can do it all, get all A’s, excel at work, contribute equally at home, and not make any tradeoffs.

Reality: “You will succeed, just not at everything, in the same way, at the same time. In the past, I thought I could do everything well, even if they occurred simultaneously. What I found instead is that when you make tradeoffs, you must let the people know that they will be impacted and why. They typically are more forgiving and understanding when you are simply upfront about the conflicting priorities.”

Jennifer P. Braly, MIT (Sloan)

7) Myth: Business School is incompatible with being a mother.

Reality: “When I started my executive MBA my daughter was only three months old. It has been far from easy and the effort required is enormous. With commitment, support from your close circle (family/friends/company) and passion, everything is possible. I encourage all women and especially mothers who want to study to do so and to believe in themselves, it will make them grow personally and professionally.”

Edurne Benito Antolín, IESE Business School

8) Myth: It’s Just Too Hard.

Reality: “My challenges were the untested ideas and notions I used to carry in my head, sometimes coming out as excuses I would say to myself. Chief among them is the idea that it is tough to balance work, school, and personal life. You can’t do it all by yourself. In reality, it is about how you prioritize things – not everything is essential and requires your full attention. At work, I suddenly discovered new ways to delegate and found a team that was willing to step in. This also allowed me to train and encourage my team members to take on more responsibilities. Once you find your rhythm, try to optimize and stick with it. You need an excellent study group to help with efficient studying and combined learning. Learning in EMBA is a team effort. Lean on the complementary skills of your team members. I thought going back to school many years after my Bachelor’s was going to be difficult, but my experience has been quite the opposite. I learned better and understood things much better as I was able to relate it to my world, and thus had a superior educational experience this time around.”

Rojo Mathai, Rutgers University

U.C.-Berkeley’s Lisa Rawlings

9) Myth: I don’t belong here.

Reality: “This belief initially gnawed at my confidence and I was shocked to hear how widely it was shared was among my classmates. While the work was very demanding, it was doable. Fortunately, because of the relationships we’ve built, we serve as reality checks, accountability partners, and sounding boards for each other, which provides immeasurable support.”

Lisa Rawlings, U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

10) Myth: Business School is all quantitative.

Reality: “It is a two-year dose of accounting, finance, and economics. In reality, business school curricula also include critical learnings outside of quantitative analysis, with the most important for me being HR.

For my part, I was very surprised to discover how much law school prepared me for business school (they are very similar in that you need to build a factual case and persuade a decision-maker around some kind of framework or standard).”

Chris Bellotti, Texas A&M University (Mays)

11) Myth: The commitment is only a couple of hours per week.

Reality: “I was told from a graduate of the program that you only need to work about three hours a week on the weekends to prepare for class and exams. Wrong! I had to work almost nightly to stay ahead and perform well in this program. It was definitely more challenging than I expected.”

Harry Stafford, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

12) Myth: You are going to need a preparation program.

Reality: “I was relieved that the first several months were baseline information to get everyone on the same “sheet of music,” which set me up for success. The program also ended up being a huge transition springboard for me from the military into business.”

William “Prime” Hall, USC Marshall

Cornell University’s Brendan Wyker

13) Myth: The learning stops after the classes end.

Reality: “I think a lot of people enter programs like this thinking it will be a self-contained experience. Some people may think that all they have to do is take a few courses and they’ll become better at business. Real learning doesn’t come from someone lecturing at you. Don’t expect wisdom to be served neatly on a platter. Take the time to reflect on the material and review what the professor had in mind when they formulated the syllabus. There’s usually a higher-level lesson that only becomes clear once you’ve seen the entirety of the course. The same goes for the MBA program as a whole. Then take what you learned back to your business and see how you can put it into practice in your own way. If you really want to get the most value out of a program like this, realize the MBA doesn’t end once you’re done with classes.”

Brendan Wyker, Cornell University (Johnson)

14) Myth: Graduate school is much harder than being an undergrad.

Reality: “I think many people view graduate school as more difficult than an undergrad degree. I actually think the learning is less difficult and more fulfilling than getting your undergrad because you have been in the workforce and now have context for the material you’re learning. You’re not studying for exams – you’re studying to learn and apply the material. The real difficulty is in managing your time and schedule.”

Carl Douglass, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

15) Myth: You’ll need a lot of stiff drinks to get through the program.

Reality: “All of our liquid consumption wasn’t brown. We were all much too tired to party with bourbon every night after class. We preferred the good old black stuff – lots and lots of coffee!”

Rebecca Findlay, Michigan State (Broad)

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