Me: What is the MBA workload really like? I read the SCMP and various blogs, and people say it’s tough.
Lawrence: It is really tough, but I don’t want to scare you or put you off.
Me: Could you give it to me straight?
Lawrence: You told me you got 660 on your GMAT and, for that, you studied on average two hours every weeknight for two months. Also, you were pretty good at maths as an undergraduate. For an MBA, let’s assume you would need to study not 10 but 15 hours a week after work, and that doesn’t include the equivalent of one full day you would also need to spend in class.
Me: For the CFA, the suggested study time is 250 hours over six months, or about 10 to 11 hours per week.
Lawrence: I know - I studied for the CFA as well. Remember, though, that the MBA is not a walk in the park. It is as hard as, or even harder than, doing the CFA. If it was a programme full of chit-chat or where you simply sat and listened, why would you be paying HK$300,000 to HK$500,000 for the course? Some MBA programmes may have less demanding workloads and private study time might then be around 12 hours per week. But ask yourself what you expect in the long run.
Me: Are you saying that after leave work, say at 8pm, have dinner and go home, you would still need to study for three hours, perhaps from 10pm until 1am most nights?
Lawrence: That sounds about right and it doesn’t include work on group projects. And if I remember correctly, you only have two periods of seven days with no classes in your first year of study.
Me: So how do you manage?
Lawrence: I could tell you that I tried to be disciplined and make sure that every day followed a clear routine, but that wasn’t so. In practice, you can only try to manage things on a day-by-day basis. Also, you must appreciate the fact that your classmates will all have different priorities and agendas. To keep pace and complete group work, you have to be flexible enough to accommodate these differences. You should respect each other’s approach and style and see what works best for everyone.
Me: Are there times you don’t feel in control?
Lawrence: I could sugar-coat it and say your team will try to co-ordinate and be supportive. My group did do that, but being very blunt, at the end of the day, you will still need to scramble and rush to meet deadlines and complete assignments. You definitely won’t have much time to catch up on sleep. Welcome to the reality of studying for a world-class MBA - as with all great ventures in life, it’s likely to be tough.
(For The Inquisitor's related series, check out 'Networking ≠ Relationship Building [PART 1] and [PART 2]'.)