To B-School or Not To B-School

This week at myGreenlight we’ve gotten heavily into the discussion of the value of higher education. Amidst all this debate, I’m studying for my GMAT and trying to figure out where I want to apply for Business School. Needless to say, Sara’s blog from earlier this week made me stop and make sure that I really want to go back to school.

The last time I went through this process I was a wide-eyed seventeen year old, just wanting to expand my horizons past the suburban utopia where I had lived my whole life. Yes, the education part of it definitely mattered, but it was more about a well-rounded growing experience.

This time, there are a lot more factors that I have to take into consideration. Can I afford it, will it help in my career, and most importantly is it worth it? According to a Harvard Business School (Keith’s Alma Mater) professor, “A top-tier M.B.A. is by no means a requirement for success, but is provides a pathway to access and opportunities that otherwise may not be open.” This Forbes article makes a great argument for why Business School is the most rational choice for a person like me. On the other hand there are books like The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg and The Innovative University by Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring which make the opposing argument very compelling.

So here I am. Attempting to fit studying into my full-time work schedule and still have a life and on top of that-trying to figure out if I’m making the right decision.

To summarize, here are the top five reasons why I want to apply to Business School:

  1. To get a stronger foundation in my knowledge of business
  2. Professional/career development- both in the theoretical and practical sense
  3. My personality type- I’m a more risk-averse person, so I would be less interested in blazing a new trail than working my way along a traveled, yet still challenging road.
  4. Having specialized knowledge in an area of interest to me (a Master’s degree)
  5. A new engaging and challenging experience

I know that there are legitimate arguments both for and against these reasons. I also know that I don’t necessarily need to go to Business School to accomplish these goals.

Business-school students, my fellow applicants, and those who’ve decided against biz school, please weigh-in: Does my reasoning hold water? Please share your experiences and thoughts!

Ritu Walia is myGreenlight’s Member Coordinator.

Comments (5)

  1. I’ve been studying at the University of Auckland Business School, and while my education has been enlightening, I feel that my degree is more of a pre-requisite into the job market, and non-traditional forms of education would be acceptable if they gave access into the job market.

  2. First of all I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the advice, you cannot imagine how much it helped me gain some perspective.

    @Lorena- I completely agree with you, higher education does offer more than just a ladder to get something you want. I think that I grew so much as a person in college and enjoyed being in a learning environment.

    @Dave- A special thanks for the amount of time you spent writing this, I really appreciate it. I think you’re definitely right about how sometimes it’s nice to be able to check off a box when applying to jobs, something that having an MBA allows. I think that I’m the type of person that would rather get my education earlier rather than later because I’m at the point in my life where I have the least obligations and responsibilities. But I definitely will try to learn more about what an MBA offers before jumping into anything, like you suggested.

    @Selena- You’re definitely right that I don’t need a business school education to achieve the goals I listed. I think that I should definitely weigh the pros and cons of each path and then make my decision.

  3. Hi Ritu, I was looking over your 5 top reasons to go to b-school.

    1. To get a stronger foundation in my knowledge of business
    2. Professional/career development- both in the theoretical and practical sense
    3. My personality type- I’m a more risk-averse person, so I would be less interested in blazing a new trail than working my way along a traveled, yet still challenging road.
    4. Having specialized knowledge in an area of interest to me (a Master’s degree)
    5. A new engaging and challenging experience

    You can achieve all these goals without going to business school. Business school is just one way to have these experiences. I think a better question is to ask yourself what your career goals are. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years, or even 10 years? Look at the different paths that can get you there and then weigh the pros and cons of each.

  4. Ritu,
    You are in a very interesting position, one I too have faced. I even went so far to apply to B-School and take the GMAT but wasn’t convinced deep down that it was right for me or that it was even the right move…to spend a ton of money, work really hard, learn a lot of theory and then hope to get a job where they are going to require more, more of my time, more of my soul all the while someone else is determining my value?!?!

    I have struggled with this for many years and because of being torn, as you are, I will apologize upfront if my comment goes all over the place!

    I have an adopted sister who has an MBA from Harvard and her husband has an MBA from ULCA. I have talked to them at length about this subject. Part of it depends on where you are in your life? I have always been a salesperson and I have always made good money in all of my endeavors, including corporate America and owning my own businesses but I have also lost it all and filed for bankruptcy in 2008. I am obviously a little more risk tolerant than you self-admittedly are but I believe some good, calculated risk is necessary and healthy! Also, you are risk averse, but B-School is a big risk, especially in this economy, when so many people have gone back thinking it will get them a leg up and it may but not necessarily!

    I recently read the book you mentioned, Education of Millionaires and I think it is a good book and reinforces the fact that you need to network and add people to your circle of influence and continue to be a lifelong learner. I believe very strongly in self-education and that everything you need to know is out there for you. Another book and website I have been reading is The Personal MBA, check that out.

    The other side of myself that argues with me is that an MBA would be nice because that’s one more box I can check off when I want to discuss those jobs where they require an MBA. Also, the network you build and the contacts you make could be invaluable if used correctly, but last time I looked at the curriculum at most B-Schools, I didn’t see the class on that listed?!?!? Also, you can get an MBA but I didn’t see the class on MONEY and how to manage it and how to make it work for you and your personal finances listed there either.

    I don’t know your background and where you went to undergrad but another thing I had to consider was that I didn’t go to a typical “strong” undergrad program and that I probably wouldn’t be accepted to an Ivy league/strong MBA program so that was another factor I had to consider. How much would an MBA from a state school or a less “recognized” program really help me?

    I hope this all makes sense and helps you a little bit in your decision making. I think life is a great teacher and before you jump into B-School and the huge amount of debt you will take on, explore the alternatives a little more. Maybe try starting your own little business? How about volunteering somewhere to strengthen the areas you don’t feel strong in, like selling/raising money for a cause you believe in, marketing that cause you believe to raise more awareness, coordinate and encourage more volunteers to follow your cause etc… all of these will give you the same lessons you can read about in B-School but you get to put them to use right away in the real world.

    No matter which way you go, you will be better for it!

    BEST OF LUCK!

  5. My point of view is that maybe you can accomplish success without higher education, but still it takes more risks and also if you´re not prepared to face the challenges of a competitive environment you can get stucked or loose it.
    I agree that a higher education gives you growth, criteria, share views from others and also you have the opportunity to share what you´ve learn with others in your organization and your customers. For me studying encourages me to be better by learning and sharing.

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