Applying to or Considering a Part Time MBA Program? Read this First

Peruse any of the MBA admissions sites or forums and you’ll find that most of the dialogue is geared towards full time programs. While much of the advice translates to part time programs, clients I speak with who are interested in the latter option often rue the lack of specific resources.

As such, I thought it would be helpful to outline a few nuances to consider as you are researching and applying to part time programs.  Note that these tips are meant to be supplemental to our general advice for MBA applicants, which, among other things, is to demonstrate that you have what business schools are looking for – creative intelligence, leadership, teamwork skills, vision/innovation, and a demonstrated track record of success.

1. Acknowledge the constraints on your time

Ask anyone who has completed a part time MBA program about their experience and you’re likely to hear how it was an incredibly busy three-ish years. I recall a past manager sharing how he attended Kellogg at night while integrating an acquisition at work and helping to care for a newborn at home…whoa.  Layering coursework on top of a demanding full-time job and some semblance of a personal life is tough, there’s no getting around it. The last thing the school wants is for someone to begin their program and then perform poorly or drop out.

As such, the admissions committee wants to see that you understand the inherent challenges of an evening or weekend program. Without belaboring the point (you have a lot of other important content to include in your application!), include a nod to this in your essays or interview. Perhaps indicate an interest in one relevant campus organization instead of multiple and talk about how you will be an active contributor to it. Or, if you’ve completed coursework while working in the past and done well, be sure to highlight this. Lastly, make sure your recommender(s) communicate a sincere commitment to helping you manage both school and work.

2. Tailor your career goals

According to members of the Vantage Point MBA team who have worked in admissions for part time programs, it is important to tread lightly if you are targeting a career change.  While doing so is not entirely discouraged (unless your company is paying your way and applies such conditions), it is important to clearly understand the career resources offered by the school as well as whether it is common for students to achieve the pivot you are targeting.

More likely, a part time student’s goal is to up-level their current career trajectory or pursue a slight functional shift. Give serious thought to the specific skills you will need to develop to enable this and research courses or other resources the school offers to build them. Then, share these insights in your essays and interview.        

3. Lean into your experience

On average, part time MBA students have several more years of work experience than their full time counterparts. This is great! It is possible that you’ve already managed people or led a team, allowing you to demonstrate leadership experience instead of leadership potential. Share this is in a reflective way and with a growth mindset. Maybe you made some early missteps that you learned from and have made you a better leader today?

Ultimately, one of the primary things the admissions committee is looking to glean from your application is how you will contribute to their community and to the classroom. With a more localized applicant pool (generally speaking), it is possible you work in a similar industry or even for the same company as your potential peers.  As such, it is critical to outline a skill set or perspective that is uniquely your own. Do some soul searching and determine exactly what sets you apart. It doesn’t have to be purely professional – a unique upbringing and / or formative experiences that have shaped your perspective are absolutely fair game.   

Our team has extensive experience coaching applicants to the top part-time MBA programs. If you would like help crafting a compelling application, click here to request a free 30-minute consultation.

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