Strategies for Preparing For and Succeed During Your Online MBA

Embarking on an Online MBA journey presents unique challenges and opportunities. Thorough preparation is key.

Pursuing an MBA has never been more accessible, thanks to the proliferation of online learning opportunities. As technology continues to redefine the way we work and interact, many aspiring professionals are turning to Online MBA programs to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in the competitive world of business.

However, embarking on an Online MBA journey presents unique challenges and opportunities. The virtual classroom offers flexibility and convenience, allowing you to balance your education with your career and personal life. Yet, it also demands a high level of self-discipline, time management, and adaptability to succeed. To navigate this exciting and transformative experience, thorough preparation is key.

So what are the essential steps you need to take to prepare for an Online MBA? Whether you’re considering enrolling in a program or have already taken the plunge, there are strategies necessary to excel in the virtual classroom -- from setting clear goals to establishing a conducive learning environment and developing effective study habits.

Time management is key

While the curriculum is certainly rigorous, the most challenging part to pursuing the Online MBA is fitting it into an already very busy schedule, according to Meg Lukus, Director of Online MBA Programs at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, in the US.

“Unlike full-time students who pause their careers to pursue a two-year program, our part-time online students are full-time working professionals who are managing their careers, attending live classes in the evenings, studying on the weekends, and many have families and young children as well,” she says.

“It is a delicate balancing act, and the first semester of the program can be challenging for Online MBA students as they navigate their new normal. This is also what makes Online MBA students so incredible and why I find it so rewarding to work with them.”

She says that Online MBA students are thoughtful about what they put their time into, they take advantage of the networking and professional development activities that are created for them, and they are intentional about taking the learnings from the MBA and applying them real-time in their careers. 

“They are an incredibly talented group of individuals who manage to balance their academics, professional careers, and personal lives while also seizing every opportunity that the Online MBA creates for them,” Lukus adds.

Put a strategy in place

In light of these challenges, it is important that students put a strategy in place in order to be ready to fully commit to the program while continuing with the same busy life that they had before the Online MBA, according to Valentina Armini, Head of Admissions and Enrolment for Executive Programs at POLIMI Graduate School of Management in Italy.

“They need to take into consideration the time they need to invest and how they can have a good work-study balance during their MBA journey,” she says. “These ‘calls-to action’ must already have been put in place months before the beginning of the program, also in order to get mentally prepared for the exciting new challenges the student will be facing.”

She says that Online MBA students at POLIMI, formerly MIP, are supported constantly, from the moment they first show an interest in the Online MBA onwards, throughout the rest of their career. “After an initial screening, they go through a selection process, which allows them to show their skills and to understand more about the school and our program,” Armini says.

“Once their participation has been confirmed, they are put in contact with our International Student Office, which supports them with any administrative matters and with finding accommodation in Milan.”

Participants will also be supported throughout the whole MBA not only by the faculty and other students, but also by the school’s Career Development Centre, which will support them in achieving the goals they have set for their professional growth.

“Last but not least, they will have the chance to meet our alumni community by becoming members of clubs, participating in networking events and much more,” Armini adds.

Connecting with peers 

Indeed, one big mistake is students not engaging with their peers in the program, explains Marcus Phillips, associate director of recruiting and admissions for online programs at Gies College of Business, in the US.

“Learners in our iMBA are very engaged,” he says. “They typically will connect with each other in-person through various meetups in the US and internationally. We hold our annual professional development conference called iConverge, which allows our learners to converge on campus for three days to connect with their peers, faculty and staff. Although this is optional, we had over 500 learners attend in 2022.”

Lastly, Gies has a partnership with online learning platform Coursera which provides courses created by faculty from the school that allows students to review their course content prior to the start of classes they have enrolled in through the iMBA program. 

“This allows students to get a jumpstart on each course, by reviewing the material in the Coursera platform ahead of time,” Phillips says. 

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