[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Over the last few weeks, a number of Stratus clients have “changed horses midstream” so to speak in that rather than attending a full-time MBA program, they have recalibrated to go to business school part-time, or identified a different academic program – like a Masters in Finance, operations, or data analytics — that would enable them to reach their goals.
Sometimes an applicant will self-initiate this change of course, in other instances, the admissions committee may re-direct. One reason is that you just landed your dream job, so you can’t imagine giving it up to attend business school full time. Or maybe, you are only now reckoning with what a full-time program will really cost you in terms of tuition, living expenses, and lost salary. Also, what may drive your thinking – particularly if you have already been rejected by a few schools – is that if your dream of attending a top program is to be realized, it may only be possible by choosing a part-time or Executive MBA program. Flexible format MBA programs are notably more forgiving of softer GPAs and GMAT scores than their full-time counterparts. The reason being is that the average GMAT score and GPA is likely to be lower, sometimes substantially lower, for the part-time program than the full-time program. Of course, check each programs’ guidelines related to switching programs as they differ across universities.
Following a different path midway through the application process will mean different things depending on the school. Some schools make it very easy to change your application from full-time to part-time. Conversely, other schools may not allow such a change if you have already been rejected by the full-time program. Berkeley-Haas EWMBA — one of the most respected part-time programs — has an official process for making such a change. Other schools are not so lenient. UCLA has a different perspective in that they don’t allow such a transfer for rejected applicants. In real terms this means you have to wait a year.
Some schools take a completely different approach. They proactively review the pool of rejected applicants to the full-time program to identify great prospects for the alternative programs. At many schools – Columbia, USC, and Duke come to mind — rejected applicants receive a note like this one, either along with their ding or in an unexpected email shortly after being denied:
… Based on the strength of your professional background, years of work experience and personal profile, the Committee thinks you might be a better fit for our Executive MBA program (EMBA).
Of course, the hidden message is basically:
If you want to go here, your only chance is likely the part-time program … and, by the way, if you apply to the part-time program we will likely let you in.
Other schools even take it a step further by recommending an alternate program that is not an MBA. For example, at Stratus we just had a client who, while rejected by the MIT Sloan MBA program, was directed to the Master of Applied Science in Supply Chain Management. While a far different program, given that client is focusing on a career in supply chain, it may effectively accomplish some of the candidate’s learning and relationship-building goals. Examples of some great programs that do just this include the NYU Tech MBA, its cross-town rival the Cornell Tech MBA, Tepper’s Master of Science in Product Management, and a particularly cool program at Texas, the Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization (MSTC). Similarly, Masters of Finance programs seem to be sprouting up everywhere, including at such luminaries as Wharton, Columbia, Haas, and MIT. Though if you want to go to a great program with top faculty and a location that can’t be beat, check out UC San Diego’s program: yes, it is that good. With the explosion of complementary Masters programs in things like data analysis, finance, information technology, product development, we will likely see more admissions committees encouraging candidates to consider a different degree program.
So what to do? First, gauge your own interest in an alternative degree or a part-time MBA program. Maybe an alternative Masters will accomplish for you all that an MBA can in terms of developing specific expertise in a discipline that you love, and building a network for the future. Similarly, a part-time MBA program may allow you to get into a top-ten MBA program rather than the top-twenty or even top-thirty programs that you are headed towards. One point to note for both of these strategies, is that all of these programs will give you access to the alumni network of a great university and its benefits, and at the end of the day you’ll have an MBA from a top program on your resume. No matter what, it is always important to take a pause at the beginning of the MBA process to recognize that there are many paths to success, and not all of them must be through a full-time MBA.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]