A survival guide to the part-time SMU MBA

By Goh Jia Yong, SMU MBA graduate, class of 2014

Part-timers in the SMU MBA are an especially tightly-knit group of students. Possible reasons abound for this kinship and camaraderie. These include our longer journey together (18 months instead of 12 months for the full-timers), empathy for one another’s pain of juggling work, school and family/social lives, and perhaps our common aspiration to elevate our careers to a higher plane.

Jia Yong (left) with Edwin Lim, Senior Assistant Director of SMU's Office of Postgraduate Professional Programmes.

Jia Yong (left) with Edwin Lim, Senior Assistant Director of SMU’s Office of Postgraduate Professional Programmes.

Here are some survival tips for those thinking about taking on a part-time SMU MBA:

1. Support from your family is paramount

If I had the luxury of taking time off from work to do the MBA full-time, I would. A part-time candidate sacrifices his family life and social life to attain this goal, and it is a sacrifice that his family must be mentally prepared for. The importance of getting the support of your bosses, family and friends before embarking on this 18-month journey cannot be overstated

2. Create routines

With work, family, school and a social life to juggle, routines are key to making sure you strike a sustainable balance between these four facets of your life. For reference, here’s the routine I adhered to:

– Each weekday evening, I aimed to spend 1-2 hours catching up on my case readings or completing assignments. Friday evenings, however, were reserved for dinner with my wife. Even if my weekends ended up being spent entirely in school, at least I would definitely have dinner with her once a week.

– I would leave early from work on weekday evenings when night classes were scheduled, but I made sure to stay later at work on the other weekday evenings to catch up on work. It was also important for me to manage staff morale as I ran a team of ten. Often, my work was done over the weekend to make sure I was able to stay ahead of requirements.

– On Saturdays and Sundays, I would go for a workout in the mornings, and head to school for the rest of the day until 5-6pm. Project meetings and case discussions are scheduled on these days too.

3. Form teams with members who have similar schedules

Being a part-timer means I did not have the luxury of time when it came to case and project discussions. Working with group members with similar schedules helped us to facilitate easy scheduling of discussions, as well to keep them concise and effective.

4. Read and prepare for classes and discussions ahead of time

Each module has 8 lessons spanning an 8-week period, with the final report or examination scheduled for the last class. It was important for me to make time to read and prepare for each lesson – especially by completing the required readings – or else the material would quickly snowball to an unmanageable level.

5. Stay honest and work hard

Through this 18-month journey, your classmates will quickly sieve out the dishonest non-contributors who do not pull their fair share of work. So pull your weight and do your fair share of the work needed. In the process, hopefully you will make lifelong friends amongst your MBA cohort.

The connections formed during the MBA programme go beyond mere networking.

The connections formed during the MBA programme are not just mere networking opportunities.

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