Earning an MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a huge accomplishment. It’s an opportunity to further develop your skills, grow your knowledge, and advance your career. These achievements don’t come without a lot of hard work and dedication. So, how hard is getting an MBA?
Getting an MBA isn’t as difficult as you might think. You might be surprised to find that many of the most challenging things about getting an MBA have nothing to do with the difficulty of the coursework. Some students run into financial or time limitations. However, with the right mindset and plan, there are some great solutions to these challenges.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common reasons why people find an MBA difficult and tips to make the process easier.
MBA Application Process
There is a good amount of effort required to get into some MBA programs, especially for prestigious degrees from top universities. These schools can be very selective about the students they choose to accept into their programs.
The difficulty of getting accepted into a graduate school varies by university, but many require students to (a) complete an undergraduate degree program first and (b) pass a placement exam like the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Record Exam). The application process may also include a detailed application, written essay, formal interview, and professional references.
Some students might argue that the most difficult part of getting an MBA is the application and acceptance process itself. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average acceptance rate for a full-time MBA program is about 59%. However, elite programs from top universities only accept about 19% of applicants.
For online courses especially, entry standards tend to be lower these days. To qualify for full admission, you may have the option to complete a shorter course such as a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration. The short course contains units from the main program. By completing it successfully, you demonstrate that you have the academic ability to continue with the full program.
Tips for acing the MBA application process
- Get a good score on your GMAT or GRE. These exams can be taken multiple times, so you can try again if you aren’t happy with your score.
- Apply for backup schools. If you are applying to top universities, apply for some other schools as well that have an easier admission process. That way, you have a backup in case your school of choice doesn’t accept you.
- Write a strong essay. Write a strong essay and use an AI tool to proofread it. Tools are available that can help you catch grammar and spelling errors, improve sentence structure, and provide suggestions for better word choices.
- Submit all the required documents. Make sure that you pay close attention to the application requirements and submit all requested supporting documents.
Getting an MBA requires a lot of time and effort. Most traditional, full-time MBA programs take two years to complete. There are accelerated programs available that can be completed in 12-18 months. Outside of the classroom, full-time MBA students can expect to spend approximately 10-15 hours per week on their studies.
For many people, this amount of time can be overwhelming. Most universities discourage students from working while pursuing their MBA full-time, but it’s not impossible. Most people can’t take two years off of work to complete the program. They have bills to pay, families to care for, and other responsibilities. You may have to reduce your hours to part-time to accommodate your new academic schedule.
There is an option to work on an MBA part-time. This usually involves taking just one to two courses at a time. Since many MBA students are working professionals, this option is less daunting. Naturally, completing the program part-time will take longer. Part-time students can expect to spend 2 to 4 years earning their degree.
Tips for MBA time management
- Pace yourself. Don’t feel pressured to take on more than you can handle. If you try to take on too much, your grades and performance could suffer.
- Use good time management skills. Learning to manage your time effectively can reduce the stress of MBA studies.
An MBA program may be a step up from undergraduate studies, although most students don’t find the challenge too difficult. Typically, you are a better student when returning to college, with more efficient and consistent work habits.
Master’s level coursework tends to be harder than undergraduate courses. Part of the reason for this is that undergraduate courses are generally an introduction to various subjects. MBA programs, while focusing more on management than technical subjects, can have more advanced courses. The curriculum could build on knowledge students gained during undergraduate studies.
MBA courses also rely more on students making their own discoveries through critical thinking and problem-solving. Adjusting to this learning approach is what students tend to find difficult, not the actual coursework itself.
Your individual situation may also impact the difficulty. For example, many MBA students have been out of school for years before pursuing an advanced degree. It may take a little while to get back into the groove of listening to lectures, homework, and research assignments.
Tips for improving the quality of your MBA studies
- Get a tutor. If you feel like you are struggling with coursework, consider finding a tutor or asking the professor for help. Addressing any information gaps as soon as possible will help you understand related concepts more easily.
- Choose your focus area wisely. Most MBA programs specialize in certain areas such as finance, communication, or global business. If your math skills aren’t very strong, you might find a specialization like finance more challenging. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed, but it could make your task more difficult.
Cost of Enrolling for an MBA Degree
The financial impact of an MBA degree may be challenging for some people, even with the availability of student loans, grants, or scholarships. The National Center for Education Statistics found that the average MBA student pays around $38,000 for a 2-year MBA program, while top-ranked schools can exceed $100,000.
To determine if a program is a good fit for you, students should carefully evaluate the potential benefits that can help offset the cost. Generally speaking, even a small boost in your career trajectory can make your MBA studies more than worthwhile. As the Good MBA salary calculator highlights, the investment is a short-term sunk cost while the payoff can accumulate over many years.
Fortunately, there are many options available to students to help provide financial relief.
Tips to reduce the financial burden
- Talk to your employer. In some cases, your employer may have an education assistance program where they will pay for all or part of your tuition.
- Apply for scholarships. There are hundreds of scholarships available to students online. Some require a simple application, while others require detailed essays. In either case, the more you apply for, the greater your chances of getting one.
- Consider online programs. The NCES found that online MBA programs are over 25% cheaper than on-campus programs.
How Stressful Is an MBA?
Realistically, earning your MBA degree is as stressful as you make it. A great deal depends on your nature and how you’ve set yourself up for your studies.
In my case, studying for an MBA was a low-stress, relaxing time in my life. I decided to go full-time at a stage when I was single and didn’t have many competing priorities. I could easily fit the study time into my weekly schedule and had plenty of spare time to do other things.
I could imagine it would be more stressful if you were studying part-time and working full-time, while also raising young kids. That would be tough. However, even in extreme circumstances, it comes down to personality. Academic study is not something I’ve personally found stressful, and I don’t think it should be.
There is a fantastic quote from the legendary cricketer Keith Miller, who was a World War II fighter pilot, on the pressures of international cricket. His response: “Pressure? There is no pressure in Test cricket. Real pressure is when you are flying a Mosquito with a Messerschmitt up your arse.” (See Cricket Country for the full story).
Just set aside enough time to do the work and do your best in that allotted time. The business school isn’t trying to fail you, so hopefully, that formula will work.
Make the Leap
You’ll find that while the process of getting through an MBA program is challenging, you have the opportunity to make significant progress toward your career and educational goals.
Beyond an MBA is here to help you find the right program. Our online platform is designed to give prospective students all the information they need to properly vet and evaluate their options when it comes to MBA courses and degree programs.