College students tend to worry more about life after graduation instead of life in school.
But for MBA students, Terry Daugherty, assistant dean and director of graduate programs in the College of Business Administration at the University of Akron in Akron; Sanjay Putrevu, dean of the Monte Ahuja College of Business at Cleveland State University in Cleveland; and Felecia Urbanek, assistant director in the graduate programs office of the College of Business Administration at Kent State University in Kent, said the experience is as important as what happens after.
“One of the things that people don’t pay attention to when they start an MBA, it’s not only the concepts you learn, but it’s also the connections you make,” Putrevu began. “The key is to always network as much as you can, not only with your fellow students but also the alumni and faculty. Part of any business school situation is two-fold.”
Urbanek added, “An MBA program is much more than just coursework.”
Daugherty said classroom time is important, but students should do more.
“Our focus has been that once you gain a certain academic achievement, what can you do additionally to add value?” he asked. “You should ask yourself, as a student, am I able to develop myself professionally to grow in ways to add that value?”
In adding value, the professionals said students can find that in relationships.
“In Kent State University’s MBA program, we encourage students to get involved in business case competitions and professional organizations, participate in study abroad opportunities and attend speaker events,” Urbanek said. “An MBA student will spend much of their time in the classroom, studying and on team projects. However, it is important for a student to balance academics, employment, family, and professional and social interests.”
As many students take their MBA courses online, Putrevu suggested they take advantage of “blended opportunities.”
“This helps them get to know their cohort,” he noted. “I implore students to attend every social networking program and events we offer. It’s about doubling up your network when you’re thinking about changing or moving forward. It’s easy to talk about things in the classroom, but it’s another to experience ideas and lessons firsthand.”
Daugherty added good students recognize that investing time and energy in experiences will help them grow professionally.
“Often times, that happens outside of the classroom in learning how to grow yourself and your abilities to invigorate your career,” he stated.
Students shouldn’t waste any time seeking out extra opportunities while getting an MBA.
“It’s important to hit the ground running when starting an MBA program,” Urbanek explained. “An MBA program is team oriented and the curriculum tends to be rigorous. By having a solid base of analytical and soft skills, building an academic support system among classmates, and getting involved in experiential learning, an MBA student has a greater likelihood of success.”
Putrevu agreed, adding students have less time to develop their skills than they would in an undergraduate program.
“Unlike undergrad where you have four years, MBAs tend to be a year to a year and a half and you don’t typically have that extended window,” he noted. “You don’t have the leeway or opportunities to make mistakes. Many times, by the time you’re coming to the MBA program, you’re thinking of why you’re doing it. There is no exploratory period.”
Extra experiences apply to life after graduation.
“You’re looking for something that will ultimately help you be successful in your career,” Daugherty said. “So, you have to be ready and have a sort of action plan on what you want to accomplish, and in return, what you want to get from the experience. In order to grow, you need to be challenged and see things from different perspectives.”
Putrevu added, “It’s important to learn from these concepts and apply them. It’s such a practice-oriented thing, so if you focus on only the academic part, you’ve missed the point of the MBA. The key is to go out there and apply it.”