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Is an MBA Worth It for Me? The Top Three Things to Consider

by Vantage Point MBA, Dec 15, 2023

If you’ve begun to consider whether to apply to business school, you likely have a multitude of questions swirling in your mind. Where should I apply? Will I get into a program I’m excited about? And, perhaps most importantly, is an MBA worth it for me?

As you undoubtedly know, applying to business school and earning an MBA are a huge investment of time and money. Particularly if you plan to attend a full time program, the uncertainty of stepping away from your current job in pursuit of a post-MBA goal you think sounds appealing can be terrifying.

To help put structure around the decision of whether to pursue an MBA, here are the top three things we recommend you consider:

#1 – Cost
Although pursuing an MBA is an investment with an attractive ROI in most cases, it’s important to consider how much it costs and plan how you will pay for it.

When you think about the cost of business school, your head likely first goes to tuition and living expenses. So, how much are we talking, exactly? It depends. A top full time MBA program will run you $250,000+ across the two years you are in school. If you fund it yourself, a part time MBA program will cost roughly $150,000 and an executive MBA program will be in the $200,000 range.

Beyond tuition, it’s important to think about some of the ‘extras’ you’ll want to take part in during your business school tenure, like travel. Some travel is purely discretionary, like schoolwide ski trips and summer tours around Europe with new friends. But FOMO is real (and intense in an insular campus environment) so be realistic about whether you’ll want to jump at these opportunities.

Other travel, however, is not quite discretionary. Many programs offer (or even require) global coursework that involves immersive travel to the area of the world you are studying. Additionally, executive MBA programs and part time MBA programs that are not in the city where you live require you to travel to campus at regular intervals and may require you to cover your own lodging.

Lastly, as referenced earlier, if you will be leaving your current job to attend school, there is the risk involved with that as well as the forgone salary during the two years of your MBA.

#2 – Timing
When we say timing, we’re actually referring to two different things – first, how much time you’ve spent working when you apply, and second, how much time you have between when you apply and when you would like to enroll. Both will inform which type of MBA program is the best fit for you and, ultimately, whether the degree makes sense for your circumstances.

Regarding the first element of timing, your age and/or work experience, it’s important to consider where you fall relative to the class profile of the programs and program format (i.e., full time, part time, or executive) you are targeting. Not only do your chances of admission increase if you roughly fall in line with the published class average, but these statistics land where they do for a reason. Full time programs skew younger because they provide the most value for those who are early-ish on in their careers. There tends to be a lower opportunity cost involved with younger candidates stepping away from the workforce for two years and there’s also generally more salary upside post-MBA for these candidates, who may use the degree to pivot toward a more lucrative career.

The other timing-related consideration has to do with the application cycle for different programs and program formats. For the top full time MBA programs, many applicants start working on application components (like taking the GMAT, visiting campuses, etc.) at least a year before they plan to matriculate. At the latest, applications for these programs should be submitted in January or February of the year an applicant plans to begin classes (which would occur in the fall, so 8-9 months). The lead time between application submission and matriculation can be shorter for part time and executive MBA programs. In other words, it’s important to consider the specifics of your situation when determining what programs to target and even whether an MBA makes sense for you in the first place.

#3 – Goals
The final, and perhaps most critical, thing to considering your answer to ‘is an MBA is worth it for me?’ are your career goals. We can’t say this enough, you must clarify your personal and professional goals BEFORE you pursue an MBA, not during or after.

The first reason is that having well-defined and realistic, yet ambitious career goals is critical to a compelling application. You simply won’t be admitted to a competitive program without this.

And, if you think about it, the adcom’s rationale is aligned with your own. To get the most out of business school, you need to arrive on campus knowing the knowledge you want to acquire, skills you want to build, and types of people you want to network with. Two years (in the case of full time programs) go by in a flash and there simply isn’t time to take every elective or interview for every job. If you step foot on campus without a direction, you may not end up accelerating your career and may end up without a job offer upon graduation – not what the school, or most importantly you, want.

If you simply want to take a break to figure out what you really want to do or are seeking an escape from a job you dislike, further reflection is required before you move forward. The same goes with applying because it will satisfy someone else’s expectations of you (i.e., your parents, partner, or boss). Because life is short – investing time, money, and energy into something you’re not passionate about is not ‘worth it’.

So, what are some ‘good’ reasons for pursuing an MBA? Oftentimes, applicants want to pivot careers to something more personally meaningful to them. They may also like the path they are on, but want to accelerate their trajectory or move from ‘doing’ to ‘leading’. Some even dream of starting their own business one day. Each of these objectives can lead to an answer of ‘yes’ to the question ‘is an MBA worth it for me?’ and they may also inform the type of program that is best for you (i.e., a part time or executive program may be a better fit for a ‘career accelerator’).

If you think your answer is ‘yes’ to the question, ‘is an MBA is worth it for me?’ and are ready to apply, let’s chat! Click here to request an initial consultation.