So why am I doing my MBA full-time again?

I’ve just finished watching An Education starring the upcomer, Academy-nominated young actress Carey Mulligan, and the suave charming Peter Sarsgaard.

It was such a pleasure to watch, and really hits the bulls eye on the type of education we’d like and hope to have. Are we to pursue education in the real world, or be contrained by boring books and get a certification?

The question comes alive as I leave the workforce to dive into the world of the academia once again.

Do I, as many of my friends and family have warned, half my interests and do my MBA part-time and still enjoy a heft post-MBA salary (e.g., one does not need a degree in order to make a decent living), or shall I be unemployed and dive full force into getting my degree as fast as I can?

The full-time and part-time degree do not really differ in terms of length. The full-time degree is about 16 months inclusive of the exchange and an intership, while the part-time degree is a mere 2-years. Not a significant difference in any case.

I’ve brooded over this issue for weeks. I look at my beautiful red Prada bag which I bought in Prague weeks ago. Are these luxurious, needless things something that I am willing to give up, just because I am chasing foolishly after a degree? Why can’t I just have the best of both worlds? ūüôā

My boyfriend thinks I’m very stubborn, that I don’t listen. Trader is non too much supportive of my getting an MBA, and worst, leaving my job to chase after a degree. He is what you can say a practical man, and only a fool would risk leaving a comfortable job where she’s recently gotten promoted, and jump back to the student-force.

My mom warns me, “You are only doing this to make a point. You want to enjoy life once again as a student. Coming from where you have accomplished, I daresay you’d be bored.”

It’s true — maybe the fun-filled, social student life is something that I’d like to have. Goodness knows it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve last stepped in campus as a student. I would disagree however on the part about partying. Despite all the socializing and networking that we full-time MBA students would have to do, just looking at the core reading list, I doubt that we’d spend too much time partying and not as much as studying.

Or not at least, when you’re carrying the costs of a hefty HKD420,000 (as of 2010) plus opportunity costs of giving up a swanky stable salary and an optimistic bonus. It has been said that our firm has just returned to profitability and it’s going to be a bumpy yet positive year from where we stand.

Call me stupid. Call me foolish or silly.

But I am not as impractical as my parents, boyfriends and friends seem to think I am.¬†Here are just some of the reasons why I am jumping into this long. As a famous philosopher-teacher back in Ateneo (my alma mater and one of the better schools in the Philippines) used to say, “Lundagin mo beybe” or in¬†English, “Jump into it baby.”

The movie, An Education, hits my point in so many ways as follows:

1)¬†It’s really tough to mix both different lives into one, and do it well.

Jenny strives to do two things at once. She wants to be a sophisticated coming-of-age woman who listens to classical music, goes to jazz concerts and live a fun different life with David, her older boyfriend who shows her what life should truly be. She also dreams of going to Oxford to read English. 

However, it’s really difficult for her to balance both worlds.

How can you for example translate and memorize Latin if you are out partying it up with your boyfriend and going to France? Once a terrific A-student, her grades suffer and later on, she had to choose between being a student or being with her boyfriend.

As to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to watch this marvelous movie, we can see that she had to make some hard choices, and she had to choose one or the other.

As they say, it’s hard¬†to choose to serve two masters and to serve them both well.

I know that people say I can be intelligent but I find it hard to imagine right now how I can work full time at my present job, and go headlong to a degree and do both well. My brains can definitely guarantee my graduation 2 years hence, but I doubt that I would have any fun taking it, and my work will also be stagnant as a result.

My work of today is what it is because I give it my 1,000%. If anything, either I can wait till I graduate before I even get a shot for promotion a few years hence, and my work both professionally and at school will only deteriorate.

Call me a pessimist. But I know for a fact that I’d be miserable doing both things. I’d hate to¬†fail at both and any half-assed work is not really worth my time or the tuition.

2) I am ready for a change. Life is about making tough decisions.

Come on guys. Life is about making decisions and being decisive. Now¬†it sounds that I’m being redudant here but I’m not.¬†

In life, you have to make a decision. Indecision is still a decision and that’s a fact. And life that¬†is worth living are those where we actually gather the courage to stand up and make our own decisions. Because it does show that we’re willing to¬†grab¬†the bull by both its horns and make life what we want it to be.

I repeat what I said, and italizing it so I can drive the point home:

In life, you have to make a decision. Indecision is still a decision and that’s a fact. And life that¬†is worth living are those where we actually gather the courage to stand up and make our own decisions. Because it does show that we’re willing to¬†grab¬†the bull by both its horns and make life what we want it to be.

A life where we’re wavering on both sides of the fence is clearly not worth living. I have dreamed about getting my MBA since I was in university. Sure, I’ve delayed it multiple times in the past given the numerous opportunities out there. However, I refuse to believe that me leaving the workforce now will doom me in the future, leaving me unmarried (if my mom is correct) and unemployed (if my colleague is correct — he says the job market will dry upon by the time we graduate) by the time I graduate.

I refuse to believe that: how many companies are out there anyway? TONS.

How many jobs do I need post-graduation? ONE.

I think the odds make it clear that an MBA degree is on my side.

And though I make no claim whatsoever that an MBA would make me any smarter than the next person, I do believe that an MBA would make ME and just me a more organized well-balanced individual. I have confidence that even though it may not teach me anything as useful, at least, it would stop me from asking myself, “What if?” and at least be proud that I’ve made a decision and will be responsible for that decision.

3) Come on, there IS a difference between a full-time and part-time degree.

Okay, so I wasn’t completely truthful and my mom was half-way right. I think that an MBA degree, and especially a full-time one, would truly be a fun-filled and hopefully life-changing experience.

I know that the HKUST will always claim that there is really no difference to the flow, program and faculty that both full-time and part-time students have. And it’s really true — you may have to go to the same classrooms, work with the same syllabus and maybe even learn from the same teachers.

But it’s still different.


Well, for one, the part-timers would be a bit more tired because they’re coming off from their full-time jobs. Their energies life half-way elsewhere (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and the amount of effort that people can possibly put in will never be as much as the full-timers given their open schedule.

For another, it’s still different when you burn your bridges and just rush into these things headlong. The mindset, at least from the student’s end, is different.

Because you have everything to lose if you don’t do well, you just want to absorb as much as you can from the degree, from your classmates, and from your experience. I think that’s what I’m looking for. People like me who have everything to lose if they can’t capitalize on the huge investment they made on their full-time degree.

Lundagin mo beybe.

4) No matter what they say, I still believe in the value of education.

My partner in crime transferred to sales without even knowing what CAGR was. She didn’t even know how to find companies via the Bloomberg terminal. So how the hell did she ever become an equity salesperson, hmmmm?

The point being is that one doesn’t really need those three words to enter into a profession like equity sales or IBD. These credentials would be helpful I’m sure but it can still be done. You can imagine for example my disenchantment when the equity salespeople from our floor boasted that nobody even had a CFA or MBA amongst them, and yet they sit on plush roles of being salespeople of tier-one banks.

I do not disagree with their point: of course, luck and oppportunity and common sense would be sufficient to land you these jobs that other people covet. Who wouldn’t die just to land the role in equity sales and broking ideas that can make/break your fund?

Nonetheless, my non-disagreement lies in understating the value of a good education.

I don’t think an education is necessary to get a prime job. After all, sometimes selling things is just about knowing¬†what to say. Bullshit is all you need.

However, I do¬†NOT believe that education is useless.¬†That it offers us no positive returns for the amount of blood, sweat and tears that we’ve¬†poured in.

For example, despite having graduated from one of the best schools in the Philippines (though am a bit dismayed that it’s ranked 36 in Asia¬†this year according to¬†a recent survey, though it’s ranked as the best Philippine school by the same survey),¬†people don’t really know what or where¬†Ateneo de Manila University is.¬†

To those not from the Philippines, forgive me but it’s arguably good for its busines and law degrees. Almost 90% of those attending ADMU Law School pass the bar for example.

However, it’s funny what an education from a less-reknowned school can do for you.

Case in point, because of my presidential stint in one of the more popular clubs, I was given a one-year scholarship by the Taiwanese government to study Mandarin in Taiwan.

After my one-year scholarship ended, I applied for a job in a leading PC company and was accepted by the first interview. My former boss/current friend told me that one of their writers also came from the school I went to and had said that they couldn’t go wrong for hiring me.

I was bored a few months in the job and did events part-time for similar expats living in Taipei. Chaired and did a great job, so was recommended to my current job right now. From a role in Taipei to a more regional role in Hong Kong, I am now earning 10x from when I’ve first started (without bonus) in that scholarship grant, and heck, despite people now knowing which school I came from and from the fact that my education didn’t really help in my job description now, I would say, I wouldn’t be here without it.

Having an education and hopefully a good one can always just be a plus, never a minus.

An education may not make you smarter. But it can however, make you a more organized person preparing you for even bigger issues in life.

*My more traditional mom would say it will prepare you for being a better mother to your kids, but to each their own.*

So yes, people think I may be foolish, but I’m making an overweight bet on BONITA.

Now if that’s wrong, then so be it.

However, though I’ve questioned myself countless of times, I have¬† a feeling that one can never go wrong in getting more education so long as it’s not in excesss. And what’s great about an MBA is because I WANT it.

And this is what life is all about. Wanting something and living the dream.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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5 thoughts on “So why am I doing my MBA full-time again?

  1. This is exactly how I feel too! I have been thinking of doing a full-time MBA, but the cost is a huge factor because many global brand names come with a price. And I am kinda supporting my family too.

    I am wondering if I should just go ahead and apply for a decent overseas MBA (thinking of UK) and worry about financing later, or take up a course like the HKUST-NYU MSc of Gbl Finance (which is 1 year part time).. or not pursue it at all?

  2. I have met a lot of part-timers who are still happy they have their salaries but are miserable because it’s tough to balance work and academics. What’s worse, their programs are way longer than the full timers because they can only take care of fewer credits per semester. In HKUST, part time MBA students have to do their program in 2 years! Personally, my MBA experience as a fulltimer is so much more enriching. Not only do I carry a heavier credit load but the opportunities to mingle, lead in extra-curricular activities, find a new career, network is so much better. I couldn’t have done that via a PT degree. I’m already insane enough as it is.

    I think you should know what you want.

    If you want to keep your job and just want to take an MBA for additional knowledge, then by all means, take up the part time. However, if youd really like the full experience, if you can afford it, I would encourage you to take the full time degree because it’s a one of a lifetime experience (e.g., you can only get your MBA once). Might as well do it the best way you can. ūüôā

  3. That was an awesome blog I must say!! You really hit the nail on the head. I am also from IBD and still would like to go for my MBA. Its just the idea of learning in an atmosphere where the best brains of the world interact that is too compelling and exciting. I am far away from being anywhere near it but thanks for the blog. Was really wonderful reading it.

  4. Himanshu, what are your purposes for MBA? It’s not for everyone. Coming from the finance industry and wanting to continue in finance, an MBA was unnecessary for me. If you want to transfer elsewhere in finance, you don’t need an MBA to do that. You’re just going to waste 16-24 months studying something in the hopes of being transferred to another role,when you could’ve done it without an MBA.

    However, if you’re there for the added information, the friends for life network, and the expereince then you’re in at the right place.

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