As decision time neared for her MBA enrollment, Anjali Shahani was leaning toward the MBA Evening Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. She was originally pursuing a part-time program to retain her position at the highly coveted World Bank Group. Like any good researcher, she attended information sessions and joined various club events—all of which provided her new insights that shifted her plan.
“I’m generally passionate about what I do and active in my community,” says Shahani. “I decided if I was going to be a part of Georgetown, I wanted to be an active member. Participating in extracurricular activities—although not impossible—is definitely more challenging when you are combining studies and a full-time job. I realized I would not be able to fully commit to both, plus maintain the balance I wanted in my personal life.”
That epiphany led Shahani to enroll in Georgetown’s Full-time MBA program—a decision she feels was best for her professional and personal goals. She will graduate as part of the McDonough Full-time MBA Class of 2017.
Her story exemplifies how important both school research and a dose of soul searching can be in identifying the right MBA program for you. For many, simply deciding to pursue an MBA is a triumph, followed by a careful process of narrowing down a list of multiple schools to the one that fits you best.
But even after you have selected a school, choosing between full-time or part-time studies can be one of the biggest decisions MBA candidates make.
“I took my time,” says Leslie Ogden, a member of McDonough’s Evening Program Class of 2018. “I fully researched both programs and carefully considered what I want my career to look like and where my passion lies.”
After applying and being admitted to a full-time program at another top-ranked U.S. business school, Ogden opted for McDonough’s MBA Evening Program, which is now ranked fourth by Bloomberg Businessweek. Studying part time would enable her to keep a full-time job as an assistant vice president at her political advocacy organization where she has experienced strong professional growth and personal fulfillment—something she decided was vital to her.
Matt McElhare made a similar discovery in his own MBA considerations.
“The idea that the Evening Program allows additional time—as a three-year program instead of two—was very appealing,” said McElhare, a member of the Class of 2016. “The extra three years of work experience [obtained while completing the degree] has allowed me to apply what I’m learning in real time and to continue to grow.”
Like others in his cohort, McElhare found that both programs offered the same quality education and the opportunity to still consult for an international company through the Global Business Experience—something that is rare among part-time MBA programs. Plus, the opportunity to retain his job at Jacobs Engineering Group also significantly reduced the opportunity cost associated with obtaining his degree.
“The Evening Program curriculum mirrors the full-time curriculum, and the program office does a great job of making sure that the same incredible professors teach modules in the daytime and in the evening. The Evening Program also has the same access to the MBA Career Center,” he says. “But for me, maintaining an income throughout the program tilted the scale in favor of the Evening Program.”
How best to strike a balance between working toward an MBA and continuing to progress in your career can differ from candidate to candidate, but most agree that McDonough’s location played a huge role in their decision making. The intersection of business and policy in Washington, D.C.—and in particular at Georgetown McDonough—was a big factor for many.
“Not only does my professional network continue to grow every day by virtue of living and working in D.C.,” says Ogden. “But just by being in this program and going to class, I’m meeting incredibly talented individuals who I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to know.”
At the school’s MBA Career Center, top global companies host on-campus events, often thanks to the strong network of 180,000 Georgetown University alumni. In addition to lectures, roundtable discussions and networking receptions, student leaders also coordinate Career Days that offer students a sample “day in the life” for different industries. And then there are Career Treks to various employers—either in the nation’s capital or to sites in global hubs like New York, San Francisco, London and Hong Kong.
Prospective students mulling over a full-time versus a part-time or evening MBA program also are wise to factor in their own on-campus ambitions. Many know before they even apply that they will join student government and other extra-curricular clubs or teams, while others find unexpected opportunities along the way. McElhare, Evening Student Government Association (ESGA) vice president, said that ESGA has created resources to allow evening students to dial in via a conference call to mid-day MBA club meetings so that evening students can participate.
At McDonough, that may include any of more than 40 student-run cultural, interest-based, service, recreational and student government organizations—from the Georgetown MBA Entrepreneurship Club or Women in Business to the Outdoors Club or Georgetown Wine Society.
For Shahani, the final decision to go the full-time route was based on logic that evening program candidates can appreciate, too: Being able take advantage of all that Georgetown has to offer, but above all, gaining a quality education.
“My classes, although very challenging, are also entertaining and fun! I visited other universities, but I only applied to Georgetown,” she says. “It was my first and only choice, and I was very lucky to be accepted.”
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