However, the biggest transition for EMBAs often involves hitting the books again, often after a 10- to 20-year absence. For Kevin M. Smith, a Coca-Cola executive who earned his EMBA from the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech University, returning to school to do homework and prepare for tests was “a shock to the system, especially during the first semester.” The University of Florida’s Jonathan D. Tenenbaum experienced similar adversity. “Getting back into the ‘school’ mentality after some time off was difficult, and being able to juggle all of the responsibilities properly was challenging, especially at first.”
The University of Pittsburgh’s Jackie Dawson came to business school with deep professional knowledge – in certain areas. “While I am very comfortable with some subjects such as statistics, human resources, and information technology, I was less comfortable with marketing, financial management, and accounting,” Dawson tells Poets&Quants. “Thanks to helpful professors and a reliable and collaborative study group, I have gained the confidence to take on tough subjects.”
Academically, EMBAs also strain under the weight of opportunities available to them. Derek Herrera, a special operations officer and Bronze Star winner who earned his MBA from UCLA this summer, was accustomed to working autonomously. However, he sometimes found it difficult to prioritize. “I think the hardest part of business school is deciding how to allocate your time, because that is by far the most precious resource and because there are so many positive things you could choose to occupy your time with.”
Columbia Business School’s Jolly Mazumdar discovered that the wealth of opportunity created a psychological effect. “Business school exposed me to an unfathomable number of possibilities. One of the hardest parts for me was the task of choosing – sifting through the vast opportunities, getting past internal conflicts between what I wanted and what was feasible, and honing down on the one path that is truly aligned with my desire and expectations. Also, the feeling of wastefulness or insufficiency that comes with the realization that one could be doing so much more than their current roles and responsibilities can be a little distracting and hard to accept.”
EMBAs found several ways to cope with the time crunch and tradeoffs inherent to business school. Steven Mark Ettinger, who worked as a the director of clinical operations for the Penn State Heart & Vascular Institute while studying at the Smeal College of Business, encourages other EMBAs to “never stop asking for help” and “to stop making revisions” after they think that they’ve done their best. And Gregory Fortner, a 2015 EMBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, warns against skipping steps and taking short cuts.
However, when it comes to wrestling with the demands, the University of Virginia’s Jennifer Schretter takes a small-picture approach. “Take one day at a time, prioritize, and always keep your goals and rationale for such life decisions in mind. It is a challenging process, but all you can do is your best. Education prepares us, work gives us purpose, and family gives life meaning, for which there is no substitute.”
Like Schretter, IE Business School’s Dulce Altabella Lazzi believes the rewards far outweigh the hardships. “Business school has a significant opportunity cost, from both a financial and time points of view. Life, as one knows it before attending business school, has to be ‘placed on hold.’ Therefore, it is critical to make the most out of it so that every single second invested is truly worth it.”
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