Should You Get an MBA? Part 1: Part Time Programs

We are entering a two-part blog series focused on going back to school to get your MBA. This week, we have two women participating in a local part-time MBA program. Next week, you'll hear from Lisa Clinton, currently a full-time MBA student. 

The two part-timers you'll hear from today are two women I met in college at Gustavus, Stacey Tigges and Taylor Drenttel. 

Stacey Tigges

Stacey Tigges

Name: Stacey Tigges (ST)

Where do you live? Saint Louis Park, MN

How old are you? 27

Where did you go to college? Gustavus Adolphus College for undergrad and now Universtiy of St Thomas for my MBA

What is your Secret Food Obsession? Queso Dip

What is always in your cup holder? A water bottle

Taylor Drenttel

Taylor Drenttel

Name: Taylor Drenttel (TD)

Where do you live? In the vibrant North Loop where coffee and cocktails can be found on every street corner. It’s important to stay hydrated.

How old are you? 26

Where did you go to college? Gustavus Adolphus College

What is your Secret Food Obsession? Bacon - which is not a secret. I’m very vocal about my food obsessions.

What is always in your cup holder? Ice cold pop - my dentist appreciates my business.

What made you originally decide that you wanted to go to grad school?

ST: Going to grad school was something that I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do, but a few years after undergrad I had a manager who highly encouraged me to start early and not wait because life would only get busier.  Having someone push me towards it was a large factor in me ultimately deciding to go for it.  I am very glad I started when I did.  

TD: I continually have a desire to learn. I think deepening your knowledge serves as a great foundation for whatever career path you choose. While I still don’t know what my career path will be or what I want in my dream job, I want to ensure I’m prepared for any opportunity that will get me closer to that dream career.

How did you decide between going part-time versus full-time?

ST: It wasn’t a huge decision for me, I never really considered going full time.  I was, and still am, paying off my undergrad loans so losing an income while taking on additional student loans seemed too overwhelming.  I also enjoyed my job at the time and didn’t really want to leave the workforce to try to re-enter later. 

TD: I continue to have valuable experiences at my current employer and would like to be able to apply what I learn in the classroom to my job. Unless you’re looking to completely change employers or career paths, I would recommend attending part-time.

What were the steps you had to take when applying for grad school?

ST: Before I officially decided to go back to school I researched my options.  I knew I wanted to go part time, and knew I wanted in person classes so that narrowed down my options to a handful of local schools.  I ended up applying to the U of M and St Thomas.  Both required taking the GMAT, so I spent a few months studying for that and took the test in December.  I applied in January, which included a few essays, a couple recommendations, and my GAC transcript, and was accepted into both schools shortly after.  The biggest steps are deciding where you want to apply, taking the GMAT, requesting recommendations, and completing essays.  The requirements for full-time or online programs may require more or less. 

TD: I updated my resume, requested two letters of recommendations, submitted my undergraduate transcript, and completed my application, which also included responses to three essay questions. I also completed the MBA math course. Instead of taking the GMAT or GRE this option was available to those who have at least four years of work experience.

How did you decide where you wanted to go for grad school?

ST: I knew I wanted a part time program because I did not want to quit my job to go full time.  I also knew I wanted in person classes, which narrowed my scope to the metro area.  When reviewing options I looked at cost, program requirements, and reputation in Minneapolis and nationally.  I ultimately applied and was accepted to St Thomas and the U of M.  I had a hard time deciding between the two and tried to convince myself I should go for a big school experience at the U since I had the small school experience at GAC.  But, after considering cost (the U was significantly more than St Thomas), convenience (I worked downtown Minneapolis and St Thomas was downtown so I would have no commute) and culture, I decided St Thomas was right for me.  I would say any Gustavus grad, or any MIAC grad, would fit right in. 

TD: St. Thomas has a reputable and challenging program with an extensive network in the Twin Cities. I’m also drawn to the liberal arts education with their small classroom size and focused assistance from professors. The MBA program at St. Thomas was also recently modified to allow students more choices in the classes they wish to take. I am interested in a variety of topics from Marketing to Finance and want the opportunity to learn about subjects that may not fall within my current career path.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of grad school?

ST: Managing the rest of your life.  I’ve found that actual school isn’t hard, because you’re studying what you want to and learning about things that are happening to or around you every day at work.  The hardest part for me has been the time commitment and what that means I have to give up.  Happy hours, random weekend activities (when you need to do homework), etc. all has to get pushed aside and that was really tough for me as someone who really enjoys those things.  Losing my social life was tough for me, but people who chose to do school once they are married and have kids only increases the things you miss out on. 

(At the time this was written, Taylor had not yet started her MBA classes).

What wasn’t as challenging about grad school that might scare people off until they’ve been there?

ST: The actual schoolwork!  You’re studying subjects you want to and discussing things that are happening to you or around you at work every day.  You learn from other students who may be in similar situations in their jobs, and you get to learn about a lot of other roles and companies.

(At the time this was written, Taylor had not yet started her MBA classes).

What advice do you have for others looking to go to grad school?

ST: Make sure you really think through the options and why you want to go to school, because it isn’t a requirement in the business world in order to get ahead and it takes a lot of time and money.  However, if you think you want to go, do it now, because the longer you wait the more reasons you’ll have not to go.

TD: Choosing to go back to school needs to be for your personal fulfillment first and foremost with career aspirations coming secondary. In order to remain motivated to spend the time, money, and energy in completing the degree, the experience must be personally rewarding.

I can certainly echo Stacey and Taylor’s last pieces of advice. About two years ago, I was all ready to head back to school to get my MBA. I applied, took the GMAT, got my letters… and then realized that was not the right thing for me at that time. It felt like another thing I “should” do not something I wanted to do. Luckily, I decided to pivot because I ended up starting my life coaching business and now I’m writing to all of you today (instead of writing a paper!). Love that.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week! Learn about the process of deciding to attend a full-time MBA program, featuring Lisa Clinton, currently a full-time MBA student at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.