Online MBA programs are a viable option for ambitious people seeking to fit higher education into their busy lifestyles. The University of Scranton’s flexible program made it possible for Kelly F. to get her advanced degree in 14 months, while juggling full-time work and also building a house with her husband. The Denver-based marketing professional excelled by crafting her own schedule. “When I think back to being in school in the more traditional way, the rest of your schedule flows around your classes. This is sort of the opposite,” she says.
Florida-based Michael S., a College Admissions Manager and father, also thrived in The University of Scranton’s MBA program while maintaining a 50-hour work week, with frequent business travel. Michael had also received his Bachelor’s degree online, and his strategic approach to his MBA studies helped catapult him over the finish line. If you’re planning a similar path, here are five tips from professionals on acing an online MBA program.
1. Prepare for success: Speak with key contacts beforehand
Talk to a student or recent graduate to get a realistic perspective that you may not hear from the school. After doing so, Kelly reprioritized her to-do list. “Most people were working full-time; hearing about how [they] accomplished it makes it less daunting.” Connecting with the school’s technology department also saved both Kelly and Michael time. They were set up with internal communication tools before classes began. “I vocalized what I needed and wasn’t trying to do everything independently, because I knew they were there to help me,” Michael shares.
David C., a Business Analyst in Florida, identified his supporters in advance. “Make sure those people understand how important school is to you” and “empower them with the tools to motivate you when you need help,” he adds.
2. Be more flexible when it comes to learning
Online terms tend to be shorter, requiring a more intensive focus. Kelly maximized The University of Scranton’s eight week terms by focusing on areas in which she felt weaker. Michael changed his learning style after finding that memorizing alone didn’t work. “In undergrad I stayed up until three [a.m.], cramming for exams. This was different. It’s more subjective learning. Try to apply the principles to your real life. It will help you retain the information.”
After graduating in 2013, Michael carried his learnings in innovative management into his new role. “My employees were more thankful that I did this Master’s than I was, at first. I became more of a leader, less of a micromanager.”
Deb L.— a current MBA student, returned to academia after retiring from a 28-year corporate career. After a stressful online exam experience, she reevaluated her test-taking strategies. Now she pre-calculates her time per question and returns to questions that she’s unsure of at the end.
3. Find out what makes you feel organized and motivated and commit to it
Both Kelly and Michael relied on separate school calendars to keep up with their deadlines. Kelly applied the same concept to her study space in her mother-in-law’s basement, where she lived while her home was under construction. “If I can be successful doing my program out of my mother-in-law’s basement, then I think anybody can do it, anywhere!”
Deb is a big fan of working anywhere and everywhere—from her family room to hotels. She stays focused by finding “a quiet place to take exams with a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.”
4. Make time management a priority
Being a fast reader, Deb thought that she’d need less time to complete her homework. But she was urged during the admissions process to take class guidelines seriously. By crafting a time management plan using helpful tools like her course schedule, she stayed on track. “It worked out great most weeks. Without the advice, I would have underestimated the time commitment,” Deb explains.
For Michael, who often studied after his son’s bedtime, implementing a time management plan helped him balance school and family time. He calculated the hours he spent doing classwork, assessed deadlines, and committed to focusing on coursework at least three days a week, for about three hours at a time. This allowed him to “still have a little bit of fun and a date night every Friday with my wife.” To stay motivated, David rewarded himself with small presents after each semester. His graduation treat was a celebratory trip to New York.
5. Network both on and offline
When connecting with professors in person is not an option, knowing their online office hours is key. Kelly took multiple courses with professors that were relevant to her career, which helped foster networking opportunities.
Michael also found this network helpful. “In undergrad I was kind of teaching myself. For my masters, it was more of ‘We’re here to assist you and help set you up for success.’” Being strategic with group work was also important to David. He did research on LinkedIn before selecting group partners, which “made getting to know them easier.”
Both Kelly and Michael have both maintained connections with their classmates, meeting for dinner and even toasting each other’s successes over Skype. They also attended their class graduations in person to meet the supportive professors that cheered them on.
A Master in Business Administration from The University of Scranton provides more than just a line item on a resume; it is an opportunity for career advancement, networking, and overall self-improvement. The flexibility of an online program caters to organized, ambitious professionals seeking to improve their capability and marketability in the workplace while managing full time employment and family commitments. To learn more about the program, click here for details.