Get with the MBA Program

Last Updated Oct 16, 2007 8:51 AM EDT

So far, we've spent a lot of time talking about deciding whether to go back to school for your MBA and how to get in. But what happens once you get there?

All MBA programs are different: Some are online, some are full-time, some are nights, and some are weekends. As we've discussed before, it's important to find a program that fits your needs -- you don't want to set yourself up for failure by choosing the wrong program.

Because I'll be talking a lot about the different aspects of my MBA education, I wanted to give you a point of reference about what exactly the program I've chosen entails. I hope those of you out there currently in school and those lucky ones who've finished school will jump into the discussion and talk about your own experiences with different programs too.

As I mentioned in my first post, my husband and I are part of a brand-new two-year MBA program at a local university. That's right, we're basically guinea pigs. Targeted at professionals, the program meets two nights a week for three hours at a time. In addition, there are five all-day Saturday sessions a year.

It's a locked-in program. Once you start, there's no taking a semester off. It's the same group of people --56 when we started, but already down to 54 -- for two full years. It also has a huge focus on working in groups, but that's a topic for another time.

To me, what really makes the program unique is that classes are in six-week sessions. When redesigning the program, the faculty decided that there were just too many topics someone earning an MBA needed to learn.

Rather than stretching out the program over more time, they decided to compact each class. Instead of needing, say, 36 hours to graduate, students in the program take 28 individual classes -- two at a time, 14 classes a year. (That's in addition to the Saturdays, reserved for more topical subjects as well as professional development.)

There are a couple of reasons I like this new approach. First of all, it eliminated a previous 12-hour requirement I would have had to satisfy because I didn't major in business as an undergrad. An extra four classes that adhered to semester lengths would have significantly added to the amount of time -- and money -- I would have spent in school.

Second, I really like the "locked-in" aspect. I can all too easily see myself deciding to take a semester off because I was just too stressed at work or the holidays were coming up. But that can add years to earning your master's.

Of course, there's a flip side to this: If something significant happens, and I do have to leave the program, I have to wait a full year to catch up. There's little leeway for illness, promotions, and the other curve balls life throws at you.

Admittedly, it's not the only drawback. Switching classes every six weeks means switching books every six weeks -- ouch! And just because the classes are shorter, it doesn't mean they're easier.

But so far, so good. It's hard to get bored when you only meet for six classes, and that helps you get through the classes you're less than enamored with as well. And that built-in sense of accomplishment that you can survive graduate school comes earlier than usual. As I've been chirping for about a week now, "Two down, only 26 more to go!"

What's your take on this kind of program? Are you familiar with the concept, or is this the first you've heard of it? Do you think it makes graduate school sound better or worse? Sound off in the discussion!