Olivia Pechstein, a strategy analyst at the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), knew she wanted to get her MBA on her terms. She wanted to keep her current job, maintain a balanced life, and take her education to the next level. Learn how she chose a part-time online MBA program at the University of Delaware in her quest for flexibility.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I realized after being an analyst for five years that I wanted to be able to contribute more to high-level meetings. In order to do so, I needed to understand the context of them better. I don’t have a background in finance, marketing, or other business factors that go into making these type of business decisions, so I knew that if I wanted to be able to take what I’m doing to the next level and contribute differently, I needed to get my MBA.
What research did you do to help you decide if business school was the right path for you?
I started looking at websites to do research and I was so overwhelmed that I skipped straight to talking to people in admissions offices. I sent emails to different schools that I thought were potentially interesting and asked them to talk to me about their programs. I was able to talk to people and realize what sounded interesting, what might not be a good fit, and narrowed it down from there. I was then able to go do my own research afterwards because I had figured out what I actually wanted and what’s important to me.
How did you decide which schools to apply to?
The first deciding factor was flexibility. I still have other things going on in my life and I want school to be an additional part of my life, not something that completely takes it over. Having the ability to work with a flexible schedule and being able to do it on my own terms was my number one consideration. After that it was all about the courses that were offered. I knew I wanted to concentrate in business analytics, which is a popular concentration right now. Accreditation was also a big factor and one that was less straightforward. Some schools would be accredited institutions, but their online MBA program wouldn’t be. I had to do my research to confirm actual accredited programs. Reputation was a factor too, not in terms of trying to get into a school like Harvard, but more about if people speak well of it and if it’s known to be a good program.
What was the application process like?
I talked to around 20 schools and looked at a lot of school websites, but I had already narrowed my choice down to one by the time I applied. I only applied to one and I got into one. The application process was very straightforward. For an online part-time program, it’s designed for people who are working so they purposefully make the application process simple and quick. I just had to fill out a few pieces of info and write an essay about why I wanted to pursue business school and why I thought this program was a good fit for me. It really only took a few days.
How did you make your final decision on University of Delaware?
It was process of elimination after talking to these schools and making a short list based on accreditation, courses and concentrations offered, and flexibility. There’s also a slight family bias. Two of my brothers-in-law went to University of Delaware for undergrad, so I knew a little about it. They spoke highly about the school as a whole and the business school, so I knew it was a good education.
Do you have any advice for people considering whether or not an MBA is right for them?
Talk to people who have done it! They’re the ones who have lived it and they can tell you the truth about the actual experience. They’ll be able to share whether or not it worked for them and whether or not they think it might work for you.