“You can’t have it all.”
That’s what Carissa Staples heard when she was considering business school. Something has to give. No matter how hard you try, you’re going to fall short somewhere. When you do, you’ll have to make some gut-wrenching choices.
Less time and more demands. Late nights and missing out. Tradeoffs and half-measures. Prospective EMBAs hear all the horror stories. On the surface, they were intimidating for Staples, a senior IT manager at Land O’Lakes who aspires to take that next step. After joining the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, Staples found the reality to be far different than the myths she’d been fed.
“I learned to think differently and leverage my strengths to be more strategic with managing time, prioritizing at a different level, and learning to trust and delegate more broadly,” she tells P&Q. “These adjustments afforded me the opportunity to make space in my career development, personal relationships, and academics to hone in my skills. I was able to participate fully in all aspects of my life during the challenging EMBA program.”
Yes, an executive MBA will change your schedule, but it will hardly wreck your home life or career. And the Class of 2021 would know. For the past 2-3 years, they have learned to adapt, delegate, and endure. In the process, they became better managers, parents, and mentors. This spring, P&Q reached out to over 100 EMBA graduates from 49 top programs. One question we asked: What was the biggest myth about going to school?” From rocky marriages to long lectures, here is what graduates say were the biggest misconceptions about the EMBA experience.
1) I Don’t Belong Here.
“The imposter syndrome is real, but ultimately, the sentiment is inaccurate. Everyone who works hard, sacrifices, and has the courage to go back to school while working fulltime definitely deserves to be in the program.”
Christine Lum Lung, Yale SOM
2) I Need A Quant Background To Survive In Business School.
“If you do the work and aren’t afraid to ask for help, you cannot just survive…but excel. When I began to consider business schools, I had not had a math class in 20 years. I majored in English and History in college and I have never had to do more than the most basic of arithmetic for my job. Was I a little overwhelmed on the first day of Statistics or Finance? Absolutely! Was there help available for me and did it help? Also, absolutely! Don’t fear the quant.”
Mary McKinney Flaherty, University of Chicago (Booth)
3) I Must Plan For The Perfect Time To Go Back To School So You Can Succeed.
“I had toyed with the idea of an MBA for years, and always delayed because it “wasn’t the right time”. There will always be reasons to not do something; it is much more important that you take action and commit accordingly. Opportunity does not always wait for the perfect time and circumstance. One of the biggest takeaways would be that graduate and business school are what you put into it, it’s a big investment of your time and money, so make the most of it.”
Tracey Volz, Cornell University (Johnson)
4) I Can Learn Everything Online Without Going Back To School.
“The differentiator is the structured format with in-person/live discussions with an entire class of executive students as opposed to discussing on online forums. The networking and life-long relationships that you develop with your cohort and the school is invaluable. I just cannot see the networking piece working the same with an online degree.”
Srinivas Gade, Emory University (Goizueta)
5) I’m too old to do this!
“Regardless of one’s age, going back to school is always a daunting task; one that makes people wonder if they can still make it in a classroom and learn new things. This is certainly something I thought about and something well-meaning colleagues pointed out to me as well. I can attest that while going back to school has its challenges and forces one to reprioritize things, it is not only do-able, but is an amazing experience. Unlike the first go around, going back to school is a much more conscious decision; one made because of a deep desire to do it. This makes it a cherished experience.”
Aatif M. Husain, Duke University (Fuqua)
6) I Won’t Have Time For Anything Else.
“While it’s true that you have to be very intentional about how you spend your time, I found that going back to school actually introduced a lot of new opportunities to socialize with really interesting people that I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. You may fall way behind on your favorite TV shows or podcasts, and there are definitely occasions that you won’t have time for them, but you don’t have to become a recluse when you go back to school.
William Todd, Georgia Tech (Scheller)
7) My Marriage Will Break Down After I Start School.
“While it is, of course, a challenge to have less time for the family (and for yourself!), the wonderful, positive side of this has been seeing my husband take a more active role with our children, becoming closer to them in the process.”
Natasha Müller, IESE Business School
8) I’ll Be Sitting Through Boring Four Hour Lecture
“Class time in an executive MBA is totally different. You’re learning, listening to your classmates give interesting feedback from their experience and industry, as well as breaking in to competitive groups to give a presentation in under 30 minutes. The executive MBA is totally different than just ordinary lectures in my previous degrees. It’s an enjoyable challenge!”
Sunny Kumar, INSEAD
9) I’ll Need Significant Business Experience To Be Successful.
“I have had the privilege and honor to work with cohort members from various backgrounds – doctors, engineers, military veterans, federal employees – and have learned a lot from each one. With or without a business background, each person brings a unique perspective that is valuable and insightful. I have been able to learn a tremendous amount from all my cohort colleagues, and this has been a truly enriching experience for me.”
Kabir Mulchandani, University of Maryland (Smith)
10) I Already Own My Own Business.
“Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you can’t learn more or better ways to do things. I figured out really quick the changes I needed to make with my company and I learned which things I was doing were correct. It is nice to test your thinking against great minds to get your company to be the best it can be.”
Daniel Stetler Thorpe, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
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