Planning and preparing for the Executive MBA

29 September 2020

Executive MBA participant, Sanjay Paul, shares his hints and tips for those who are preparing to study an MBA, and provides some insight into the application and interview process. 

Entering a lecture theatre nearly three decades after I had finished my first degree was daunting. Pushing aside other commitments to make time and mental space for academic rigour hadn’t been easy. Even after the decision was made and I had gone through the steps of choosing what to study and where, past the brief thrill of receiving an offer from my preferred institute (Warwick Business School, where else?!) the doubt lingered. Would I be able to cope? Had I taken the correct decision after all? Would the financial investment prove worth it?

One year in, and I have no doubt it was. However, I had prepared myself before starting this intense course and perhaps other prospects/students would find some of my due diligence useful.

Researching the course / university

I based my initial shortlist on the Russell Group list and Financial Times business school rankings. The criterion would vary according to personal circumstances - for someone else it might be the ease of travel to campus or course fees. 

I scanned the websites of shortlisted institutes, downloaded brochures and emailed queries. No question is trivial or silly at this stage. Course content, mode of delivery, academic calendar, mode of assessment, fees and funding, career support are important pointers to research.

Attending Open Days is highly recommended. Incidentally, it was the WBS Open Day that decided it for me. The student panel discussion was particularly helpful. Go prepared to ask lots of questions and take notes.

Application and Interview

The application process calls for self-awareness and introspection. Have a clear idea about your career goals (these may change later) and objectives for studying an MBA. Take time and start the paperwork well ahead of the submission date. Revise the Personal Statement, edit until you are fully satisfied. Shooting off the first thought dump is never a good idea.

I had a Skype application interview and checked the technology beforehand. Be prepared for discussing your CV and last / current job role. Why Warwick Business School? What can you contribute to your cohort? These are standard questions to expect.

Pre-course Activities

After admission when full student access is obtained, it is useful to read the student handbook and other information on the student portal. Reading up on academic writing, referencing style guides, and plagiarism is handy. Familiarising yourself with the basic ‘hygiene factors’ of academia is never overkill.

Discuss with your family how intense your course commitment is and how they can help by ‘taking care of themselves independently’. Prepare them for your priority shift for the course duration. Without cooperation on the home front there’s no going far!

Set expectations at work, with your line manager and colleagues. Even if your organisation does not sponsor you, they have to be agreeable with your study leave. Block your work calendar with on-campus study dates and apply for leave early. Make sure to update email signatures and out-of-office notifications. Fiercely protect your ‘study bubble’ against ‘foreseeable’ interference and interruptions.

“Le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés,” as Louis Pasteur said, “fortune favours the prepared mind” (University of Lille, 1854). Studying for an Executive MBA is not easy, but with some planning it is possible. Worth it, you ask? Absolutely!

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