Help me decide whether to go to business school
September 2, 2009 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to decide whether to go to business school (I was admitted to a top 5 school in the US), or earn an academic masters program on a full fellowship in Europe. I have to decide right away, as school is about to start and I just can't resolve my concerns. I'm not sure how much of a business person I am (although I've done some entrepreneurial things in the past). I just graduated from college (although I'm a bit over the traditional age), and I'm not really sure what I want to do with my life. Business school costs about $100k. The free masters program is much more academic -- and I'm eager to live abroad. How do I approach this decision? I've made pro and con lists, meditated, "listened to my heart" and so many things. My mind changes every five minutes as I think about different aspects of the decision. Help! I'm not sure what I "want to be when I grow up". When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer and a writer -- and if I go to business school, I close the door on being a lawyer. I still want to explore a lot of things, and I'm afraid of being so much in debt when I go off to do that. On the other hand, I want to be economically secure and do have interests in entrepreneurship and other business careers.
posted by anonymous to Education (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can always go to business school later once you are sure you want to do it and have good reason to incur $100K in debt. You might also decide to apply for a JD-MBA program. Business school is not necessary for entrepreneurship. Go to the masters program, get a job, travel or get some experience that will help you figure out what you want to do.
posted by lsemel at 7:23 PM on September 2, 2009

Without much else to go on, I will say this: business school will always be there. Go for the masters program. It seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially with the scholarship.

If you decide to go to business school, that doesn't necessarily close the door on law school. Case in point: there are at least two students at my US allopathic medical school who were pharmacists, several students with MBAs, and several more students who graduated with advanced degrees in other subjects. They all decided to seek out a different career well after they completed degrees in what they thought they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. An MBA is valuable enough that having one is an asset in other fields.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:27 PM on September 2, 2009

Take the fellowship. Employer education reimbursement programs and MBA programs for working professionals are common enough that, further down the line, you can get an MBA while working without incurring too much debt if that's the way you want to go. A fellowship in Europe is a rare opportunity. Take it while you have the chance.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:35 PM on September 2, 2009

Go abroad.

First, you should always choose the option that comes with a full fellowship unless you have a very, very, very good reason not to. Second, you don't need a business degree to go into business AND living abroad will (if you want to approach this from the money perspective) make you a bunch of contacts that you can then use to get job leads. Third, if for some reason you still want to go to business school after you get this more academic (and fully funded) masters, you will have more of a chance at getting funding/scholarships for next time you apply. Fourth, traveling is awesome but actually living in a different country is even more awesome.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 7:35 PM on September 2, 2009

Free trip to Europe! Ask if you can defer admittance at the Business School, but if you can't, you can always apply again, and a full fellowship to a European masters program doesn't feel like it would be a bad mark on your resume.

I can't see that an MBA would guarantee economic security, anyway.
posted by that girl at 7:37 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd also add... You sound like someone who's approaching the problem "what do I want to do with my career" really inflexibly. You're making this into a black and white, all or nothing decision. For example, it sounds like you have boxed yourself in with beliefs such as: I need to go to business school to be a business person or entrepreneur, what I decide now determines my whole life, getting the MBA is the only road to economic success, and that these are my only two choices.

You instead need to think more flexibly. Why not come up with more, better options? How about going to business school abroad, next year, after taking a year to try things and see if that's what you really want to do? How about getting a joint MBA-JD? How about taking a year off?

You're also making this decision in somewhat of a vacuum. You're not going to find out what you want to do by listening to your heart or meditating or making lists, you have to go out and talk to people and try things, to get the facts about different directions you can go in. What about doing some informational interviews with people in different areas of business, or in law, or entrepreneurship, or even with writers, find out what they are like?

There are only two actual facts presented in your question: The first is the debt, and the second is your lack of knowledge of what you want to do. Everything else (pro/con lists, meditation, changing your mind) is likely based on conjecture, worry, or inflexible thinking. So, I'd weigh these two facts you actually *do* know the most heavily when making your decision.
posted by lsemel at 7:46 PM on September 2, 2009

Take the fellowship. You can always pay 100k for business school later. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
posted by nestor_makhno at 8:02 PM on September 2, 2009

It's a no-brainer to my brain. Take the fellowship in Europe. You are guaranteed experiences, learning and personal development by taking that track and whatever you learn there will help you in your later entrepreneurial endeavours. That's the beauty of entrepreneurship (as opposed to 'business management'), you don't need to go to school to learn it - it's something that can be gained by experience.
posted by Kerasia at 8:38 PM on September 2, 2009

Can you defer business school by one year? That is, take the fellowship and go to Europe. After you finish the European program, decide if you still want to attend business school(which you deferred), or go on to do something else. :)

Good luck!
posted by jchaw at 9:09 PM on September 2, 2009

Free. Europe. Master's. Those are three words I'd kill to have offered to me. Seriously though, this isn't even a contest. Look at all the MeFi's thus far - it's unanimous :) With respect to the other program, of course, I'm sure it's a good program - but it sounds too limiting and not quite what you want. Go for free Europe - and ENJOY YOURSELF. Entrepreneurship doesn't require a Master's degree - or even a high-school diploma.
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:45 PM on September 2, 2009

Also, there are so many generic MBA's out there looking for jobs - perhaps the MA will teach you something that sets your resume apart.
posted by Spacelegoman at 11:44 PM on September 2, 2009

Thanks for the help, everyone!

Btw, I can't defer... I've tried.

I guess what isn't showing up here is how unique this particular school is. It's in the part of the country I want to be in, it focuses on what I want to specialize in, and it has an EXTREMELY strong reputation.

That's what makes this so hard. The overseas program is great, but I think I could duplicate it in other ways. This particular business school is amazing and quite different.

On the other hand, what if I don't need business school at all? I'm not sure.
posted by metametababe at 2:51 AM on September 3, 2009

Don't take on 100k in debt unless you're sure it's the right thing to do. Go to Europe, or do something else entirely.
posted by Kwine at 7:07 AM on September 3, 2009

I did a master's in Europe. I do not (yet anyway) have an MBA and I work in Corporate America. I think that the experience of living abroad and having a degree that had a different focus than what similar US programs have, has done me a lot of good. It has served me well so far in interviews and on the job and given me a good perspective on many things, business and personal. I vote Europe. Good Luck to you! MeMi if you want more anecdata.
posted by pointystick at 7:31 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Full fellowship in Europe. Hands down. Aside from the economic aspect, Europe is awesome to experience when you are young. And you do not need to go to business school to do well in business; plus if the time comes in your career where a degree from XYZ becomes essential you can do it then.

Europe. Just go!
posted by Vindaloo at 7:54 AM on September 3, 2009

Google around and see what their job placement rates are in the field you want to be in. See if anybody from the school is having a really hard time finding a job or feels like their MBA is not as useful as it has been in years past.
posted by anniecat at 9:31 AM on September 3, 2009

Also, you say you're interested in being a lawyer. Do you know anything about being a lawyer other than what it appears to be like? If not, learn about that. Lots of lawyers are out of work now and the ones that aren't are grateful they have a job, even if they hate it.
posted by anniecat at 9:33 AM on September 3, 2009

This post may be too late, but for what it might be worth:

Business school is business school: unless you have a very good, well thought out and very highly focused reason for getting a degree from one, you will almost certainly be wasting your time, a lot of money and quite possibly your intellect. And it doesn't matter if the school in question is Harvard, Penn (i.e., Wharton) or what-have-you. It is also worth considering that, for a variety of legitimate and not-so-legitimate reasons, MBAs have come to be regarded in a lot of quarters as grossly overrated. For these reasons and others, having an MBA -- even a designer label one -- in an economy like this is often, if not generally, not worth the paper it's printed on.

As to Europe -- and a free master's in presumably an (almost certainly more) intellectually engaging subject -- now this is not something to discard lightly. It sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (which b-school is not) that very likely would have more "legs" for the future than a degree from a business school (and especially a degree that might lack enough subject matter and career focus to make a difference in your employment prospects).

Feel free to MeFiMail me if you want to discuss this further. Good luck!
posted by SuzB at 12:39 PM on September 3, 2009

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