Some decisions can be made and implemented quickly - you can often choose a new car, a new place to live, or even a new relationship rather impetuously and have it work out just fine. For the returning student, however, the process of deciding, applying to business school, and then earning an MBA is seldom simple. It has to be done with a great deal of forethought and awareness of the considerable sacrifice required.
For mature women and men alike, there are many things to consider before upending your life to pursue an MBA. First, be sure you really need one. It is silly to waste your time and resources being "retooled" in an MBA programme if your career goals could be accomplished just as easily by taking targeted courses, getting more training and supervision through your employer, or using your connections to enter a different field or organisation and move up. If you are trying to determine if an MBA is really the key to where you want to go, find ways to network with people whose lives and career goals are similar to yours. You might discover that a variety of routes could lead you to your desired goal.
Ten tips for returning students
- Be sure an MBA is the best route to where you're going - don't embark on a trip until your destination is clear.
- Make your own decision, using a blend of logic and intuition.
- Be a discerning customer - ask hard questions about which programmes best meet your own specific needs.
- Learn to market yourself - don't launch the campaign until you're ready.
- Be sure your support system is in order - at home and at work.
- Review your skills - technical, quantitative, written and oral. If you're not really ready to do well yet, take an extra year to polish those skills.
- Measure your confidence level - if it's weak, consider counseling to learn how to manage your anxieties and self-doubts.
- Get your life in good shape before you begin - paying attention to nutrition, exercise, relationships, and all the other things you'll need to sustain you.
- Ascertain your own most effective learning style (from your own self-assessment or more formalised measurements, such as the Learning Styles Inventory or the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory) and design routines and study regimens that best fit your style.
- Find a group of friends/colleagues right away; collaboration is the key to succeeding and staying healthy through one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have.