Founder and CEO of Haroun Education Ventures, Inc.
Online MBA programs are becoming an increasingly popular option for professionals looking to advance their careers.
Citing data from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) noted in its Overview report 2022 that one “of the many effects of the pandemic” impacting graduate management education (GME) was “a rapid shift to online learning, particularly in the United States, where overall enrollment in online MBA programs has exceeded that of full-time MBA enrollments for the first time in the 2020-21 academic year.”
Professionals find both traditional (offered by universities) and non-traditional (offered by other types of organizations, such as my company) online MBA programs attractive for good reasons. Key among them? Online MBA programs don’t require the financial, logistical, and emotional stress of moving or commuting to get an education.
But with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to choose the right program – and make the most of it after enrolling. If you are considering starting an online MBA program, here are some important considerations.
1. Focus on the curriculum, not the brand name
One of the biggest mistakes applicants make when evaluating online (and in-person) MBA programs is focusing on the brand name the degree offers rather than the curriculum. This is a mistake for two main reasons.
First, just because an institution has a good reputation doesn’t mean its curriculum is right for your needs. For example, if you are interested in an online MBA to improve your entrepreneurial skills and start your own business, you should not enroll in a program that focuses on business strategy, no matter how well-known the institution.
Second, some curricula focus on theoretical concepts that are difficult to apply to the real world. With a theoretical curriculum, you’ll gain a solid foundation in the theories behind business fundamentals and best practices, but you may not necessarily get many, if any, opportunities to practically apply those theories during the program (through activities such as group projects and internships), which your progress after graduation.
As you research different online MBA programs, look at their curriculums. Find out which classes students are supposed to take and whether the classes are primarily asynchronous or synchronous. If the programs you’re considering have syllabi posted online, read through them to get an idea of the lectures, assignments, and activities you’ll need to complete. Also, try interviewing graduates of the programs you’re researching. You can learn a lot from them in a short conversation, such as how hands-on their classes were and whether they felt the program helped them get a job.
2. Build authentic relationships with your colleagues
Porter Gale, marketing expert and author of the book, Your network is your assetemphasized the importance of networking in a 2013 article by the Huffington Post article. She wrote, “your social capital, or your ability to build a network of authentic personal and professional relationships, not your financial capital, is the most important asset in your portfolio.”
In-person MBA programs provide ample networking opportunities through formal events and informal channels (such as impromptu talks and post-class hangouts). Unfortunately, given the nature of online courses, it is more challenging to network and build authentic relationships with other students. But as with many things in life, you can create your own opportunities and find ways to bond with your peers.
Once you are accepted and enrolled in an online program, you should prioritize creating strong relationships with fellow students. If your online MBA program offers virtual meetings, attend them. Be proactive in setting up Zoom conversations with your classmates; Zoom is free to use as long as the meetings last less than 40 minutes and have fewer than 100 participants. If you’re visiting a city where one of your classmates lives, make plans to get coffee. If you notice that someone always writes interesting answers to your class discussion questions, start a conversation with them about their ideas. Make sure to connect with your classmates on LinkedIn.
Don’t isolate yourself. Even if it feels awkward at first, try to connect with your co-workers – and you might make lifelong friends who will become your biggest advocates in the business world.
3. Emphasize absorbing and applying what you learn
One of my favorite sayings is, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” You can learn all the business concepts in the world, but without applying them, you won’t put your education into practice.
In business school, it can be easy to fall into the mode of wanting to get the highest grades possible. But in my experience, a high GPA in an MBA program is a nice-to-have, but not really a must-have. Consider a 2021 report by GMAC, which found that recruiters value the following most in business school graduates:
• “Interpersonal skills” (80%)
• “Learning, motivating and leadership” (75%)
• “Manage decision processes” (64%)
• “Strategic and systems skills” (61%)
• “Manage strategy and innovation” (61%)
Of course, you want to get good grades, especially if you’re in a program with a minimum GPA requirement for students to remain enrolled. But put the emphasis on really understanding the material in front of you and absorbing what you learn, rather than putting all your energy into getting certain grades. Moreover, if you enjoy the learning process in itself, chances are that the grades will follow naturally.
Moreover, absorbing what you have learned is one thing and applying what you have learned is another. Apply the concepts you learn in your MBA courses while you are a student and beyond, such as when you create class presentations, work on a group project, write a resume or LinkedIn profile, apply for jobs, invest, start a business, plan and put together of a corporate portfolio.
By putting into practice the business concepts you learn, you will be well on your way to achieving your career goals and securing an even brighter future for yourself.
Haroun Education Ventures, Inc. is the company behind The Haroun MBA Degree Program, a one-year, 300+ hour online MBA program with over 1.5 million paying students from around the world.
Founded in 2016 by Chris Haroun, Haroun Education Ventures places an emphasis on teaching students practical business concepts that they can apply to the real world. Haroun MBA graduates have landed jobs at some of the world’s top companies, including Golman Sachs, [ADD COMPANY] And [ADD COMPANY].
In May 2023, Haroun Education Ventures released its seventh annual Gold and Platinum MBA degree program, both offering students 500 hours of classes, Zoom group meetings with their instructor (Chris Haroun), an in-person graduation and networking event, and more.