Q&A: My Experience in a Part-Time MBA

TL;DR

  • I attended the Ross Weekend Part-time MBA program. I will be graduating in the spring of 2023 and working in a family office setting (LP role) where I will focus on private investments. I did a summer in banking (didn't accept).
  • I had 7.5 years of experience as a limited partner at an endowment and large investment consultant. While the world is moving away from requiring an MBA, I found that many places either required one or highly valued them.
  • I was 29 when I enrolled and had a compensation package that was essentially the post MBA average, so I didn't like the opportunity cost of attending school on a full-time basis and liked my existing work.
  • I'm sure it won't be hard to figure out my identity, so please be mindful these are my thoughts and my thoughts alone. My goal here is to be helpful and provide insights for those considering this path.

Michigan Ross Weekend Program

  • I had been accepted to a Top 10 (really top 15, but hey there are 20 "top 10" schools) for fulltime but ultimately withdrew my deposit and considered PT programs in Chicago, New York, and Ann Arbor. In each case, I would have been flying into all of them. I felt as though the PT offerings at these schools had better branding and outcomes then those in my home city.
  • I ultimately chose Ross for a few reasons:
    • 2-Year Program: Unlike others, Ross has a two-year structured curriculum as opposed to 2.5-4 year plans at other schools. The classes are on every other weekend (4-9 on Fridays, 9-5 on Saturdays). I watched both my parents complete night classes for years and knew that I wanted to get it done at a time in my life where I have flexibility (no kids/family yet).
    • Single Cohort: I had the opportunity to get to know each one of my ~90 classmates. We take classes as a whole for the first year and then choose tracks (~45 students) for 2/3 of our second year. Ross is unique in this regard because the program is smaller and the structure enables you to really build a network while also getting to know your classmates well. We do tailgates and frequent events after class Friday and Saturday.
    • Internships and Placements: recruiting and interning is encouraged at Ross. Unlike other programs, you do not need to wear a special nametag, sneak into events, or wait for your final semester to recruit. We had almost 100% placement for those seeking consulting (MBB/Big 4, etc.) and great placement in F500 (Amazon, Fortive etc.). I was the lone banker in the cohort and had no trouble securing an internship. On that front, I actually found that most bankers respected the grind and I ended up making the final cuts at every BB I applied to before ultimately accepting an early offer from another firm.
    • MAP: MAP (Multi-Disciplinary Action Project) takes place in your second year and counts as 50% of your credits in your spring semester. MAP is a program where you work with a sponsor (F500, start-ups, search funds, etc.) in a team of 5-6 students. The projects range from finance to ops to new market entry to M&A. I worked on building out the business plan and model for a healthcare services start-up in the Midwest with a successful entrepreneur. It was truly an amazing experience and a highlight of the academic experience.
  • Things to consider:
    • This is a grind: balancing a finance job/school/recruiting is no easy feat. Fortunately, I was able to do many coffee chats at night and had the flexibility to work remote and fly in to Ann Arbor for recruiting events as needed. The curriculum is fairly rigorous, though less challenging if you have general finance/business experience. I would take flights out to Detroit at 5am on Fridays and often take the last flight home on Saturdays. Your classmates are working as well, so you'll often be on zooms 9-12p during the week.
    • Ross is a consulting/tech school: I was the lone student in my cohort interested in banking. There are others with finance backgrounds, but primarily in corporate finance/credit. Given the Michigan location, most of the student body is engineering/auto focused. I viewed this as a positive as I think you ultimately learn more from other students then your classes/professors, but for building a finance/investment network, there are certainly other schools that are better positioned.
    • Pursuing an internship and making up classes: if you pursue an internship, you are encouraged to take a leave from the program over the summer and make up classes in your final year either in-person with fulltime students or via online classes. I chose the former and moved to Ann Arbor. Thus far, I am very happy with that decision and to have the opportunity to experience life in Ann Arbor. Others are doing online or possibly continuing to work fulltime, but the majority choose to do FT classes in their second year.
  • Final Thoughts:
    • Is it worth it?   This program has accelerated my career and helped me to make amazing friendships. There is something truly special about going through this insane/busy experience with 90 other people and I've truly loved it. My biggest concern about a PT program was that I wouldn't develop a new network and connections and that has proven to absolutely not be the case. I've also paid tuition out of my current income, so I will be graduating with no debt.
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