Five MBA tips that will save money and time
We asked five experts their advice on how to get the best experience for your MBA tuition fees
1. How to do an MBA… and still have a life
“MBA classes, projects and papers demand much of your brain but little of the rest of your body, so make sure you find ways to exercise and fit in other personal interests that allow you to take a break from the stress and mental focus,” advises Tara Case, an MBA graduate of Durham University Business School and now chief executive of Ways to Wellness. “If possible, look for ways to fit that in when you’re not otherwise able to be productive.”
There’s no getting away from the fact that studying an MBA is a large commitment, says Dr Daniel Prior, director of the executive MBA at Cranfield University. “The people who tend to do well have dedicated time for their MBA studies, and have the support of their family, friends and employers. This then empowers them to focus their energies appropriately – but it implies that time management is critical.”
There are also flexible study options available, such as distance-learning programmes, which allow students to study anywhere, any time, without needing to attend a course in person, points out Dr Kodwani, head of the Open University Business School.
2. How to save money on MBA fees
Many business schools offer early-application discounts and scholarships – whether internal or externally funded.
“Making sure you highlight your managerial experience, academic achievements and future plans will put you in a stronger position to be awarded a scholarship,” says Dr Julie Hodges, associate dean for MBA programmes at Durham University Business School.
“Distance-learning or online MBAs are often a slightly cheaper way to obtain the same or a similar qualification, and will allow you to keep working throughout your studies, although you will need to be very self-motivated to study successfully in this way.”
Other routes you might explore include a Senior Leader Master’s Degree Apprenticeship (mapped to the MBA), where the Apprenticeship Levy will cover the fees, or other employer sponsorship models.
Dr Kodwani says: “Some universities offer prices per module rather than for whole qualifications, which can help spread the payment over time. Some universities also offer fully online free learning resources through MOOC [massive online open course] platforms, such as FutureLearn, that can be assessed and count towards the MBA.”
3. How to get accepted on an MBA
Preparation is key to gaining entry to a highly ranked MBA programme, as there will be keen competition for places, warns Dr Hodges. “Ensure you have the essential supporting documents required by your chosen institution, which may include a CV, your degree transcript and certificate, professional or academic references and perhaps an English-language test.
“Most schools will request a formal interview with you prior to offering admission. Before this interview, think carefully about what you can offer if selected – for example, your professional work experience, your academic achievements to date, your motivation towards both the MBA and the school, what you want to achieve from your MBA and your future plans.”
Some applicants will need to sit the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). “I’m not a fan of standardised tests, but the discipline required to score decently on the GMAT tested my resolve and how much I wanted to pursue an MBA,” says Alex Quah, an MBA student at ESCP Europe, London.
4. How to use an MBA to change career
It’s reckoned that more than half the workforce wants to change career. This figure goes up to 72 per cent for 25- to 34-year-olds, according to Standard Life research. If you’re one of that group, then bear in mind the value of professional qualifications in helping you make the leap.
Good MBA programmes and business schools offer great opportunities for networking with fellow students and alumni, says Dr Kodwani: “The peer-to-peer conversation and mentoring programme involving MBA alumni can be a powerful networking platform that can facilitate career change.”
It’s not unusual for a close cohort of MBA students to share career opportunities with each other, adds Dr Prior: “Social events are good opportunities for networking, as are the group-based tasks that you will encounter throughout the programme.”
Many programmes also offer an alumnus or professional as a mentor throughout the course and beyond. “Most MBA students focus on getting good marks and little else,” says Case. “That’s important of course but, if you’re looking to change careers, it’s perhaps even more important to make sure that you take advantage of other learning and development opportunities, such as personal and professional development, networking and extracurricular sessions that might expose you to potential career paths.
“Choose assignment topics, too, that allow you to develop your knowledge of areas and sectors that you might want to move into, so that you can take full advantage of any serendipitous conversations or opportunities.”
5. How to use an MBA to gain a promotion
Before applying to any programme, Dr Hodges recommends that you speak to your line manager, HR department, senior colleagues and others in the type of role you would like to be promoted to, so you can find out what skills, learning and practice you’ll need. This research will enable you not only to judge which MBA programmes may be right for you, but also to liaise with your company and line manager about any support they can offer.
This will help make sure that the programme is built into your development objectives at work, particularly if you are planning to study part-time.
“A key part of these conversations is showing your employer how you’ll be able to apply your learning from your MBA straight into practice in your current role, so the company will benefit immediately from your learning and experiences,” Dr Hodges says.