My top tips when starting your MBA

30 September 2019

Executive MBA participant, Saada Abou-Halloun Thurley, shares her top tips and advice for students who are about to embark on their MBA journey.

Everyone’s Warwick journey is unique and mine is no exception, so before I share my advice on how to choose the right MBA and what to do before you start, I will start by telling you how I got here.

I had been considering an MBA for years and finally took the plunge. At this point in my career, I came to the realisation that I needed additional stimulation, exposure to other industries and markets and to take control of my own development for the future. There will always be priorities to juggle alongside an MBA such as family and work, and taking on extra study voluntarily can be daunting. However, I found that now I have made the decision, I usually find a way of fitting study into my daily life somehow.

1) Identify what your main objectives are for starting further study

Why it is important to you and what do you hope to achieve out of it? Once you clarify that – and can explain, defend and rationalise your reasoning, you will feel more committed to sticking to your plan and having one aim in your mind… to graduate on time with your cohort!

2) Choose a university and course that is a good fit for your style of learning

For most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by people from different backgrounds and cultures. I was born in Lebanon and my first move was to Australia in my pre-teens until my career took me to Hong Kong, and then me and my husband to Dublin, Prague and Zug. My love for Lebanon, my home country, then brought us both to Dubai ten years ago, along with our two children. The exposure to varied nationalities at Warwick Business School (WBS) is what drew me in initially and I find the cohort to be enriching, fascinating and always a source of new knowledge and inspiration.

Learning alongside people at WBS who are from various industries and who bring fresh perspectives really does contribute to my personal development. I also learn much more effectively in a face-to-face environment, and found the online trial lectures offered by WBS as well as the alumni networking events (in Dubai) invaluable when deciding which format would work best for me.

3) There is never a better time to start the MBA than right now

I have only completed three modules of the Executive MBA so far but, since taking the plunge, I have learned quickly to accept a little loss of control - which does not come easy to a perfectionist. There has always been a distraction or something else that took priority over my MBA, such as an evolving career, a growing family, time with friends, and building a home. It is best to jump in now and then deal with the impact. Accept that not everything in your life can be managed perfectly, but that with planning and perseverance you will be ticking off those modules before you know it.

4) Explore all of your financial options before starting the MBA

While trying to work out why and how I should study at WBS, one of the biggest questions was how I would balance the financial requirements. I was fortunate to receive a part-scholarship, which is a great help and I would highly recommend looking into the scholarships available to you.

I would also advise to plan your payments ahead of time. WBS allows payments to be broken up into three parts in the first year, which helps. If you are in full or part-time employment, make sure you discuss your options with your line manager, head of department and team. Their support is paramount in order to enable you to commit a large amount of your time to your MBA. If you have any questions relating to financing your MBA, you can always talk to the WBS Finance or Recruitment team, who are happy to answer any questions.

5) Try to balance your work and study as effectively as possible

With the pressure of work commitments and the required travel to Warwick for the modules, it’s imperative to agree upfront with your company and your manager what they can and cannot support you with,  whether it’s financial support, time off work, or assistance with travel. It is best to agree this upfront before you apply, in order to manage everyone’s expectations.

As my MBA journey continues, I know that I could never have attempted this without the support of my amazing family, friends and colleagues. It’s a cliché and everyone will tell you this, but it’s so true! My parents and husband’s unwavering belief in my progress, along with my children’s invaluable advice at every stage and my friend’s constant encouragement has been a huge benefit to me. Therefore, my final, but most important tip is to find a strong team of people who will crack the whip and remind you to hit the books or join you in a little dance of joy when you pass each assignment. Make sure they stick around for the duration of your study!

Find out more about the Executive MBA.  

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