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Basic Title: Should You Pursue Higher Education?

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

Advice from Nisha: Have some clarity on your career goals before paying the $150k+ bill.

The abundance of cliché articles with titles like “To MBA or not to MBA – That is the Question” makes you wonder whether “To Puke or not to Puke”. But after we roll our eyes and move past these repetitive posts, we can actually evaluate our personal and career goals!

Disclaimer: My opinions here are pretty controversial, but I'd love to hear from you!

My Story? After graduating from Cal with a degree in Economics and minor in Industrial Engineering, I worked in variations of corporate banking roles for four years, then pursued my part-time MBA at Booth.

This was my thought process:

1. What career did I want to pursue? An MBA is not meant for you to “find yourself.” Frankly, people claim to lose themselves more often than their keys, so this phrase annoys me. An MBA is meant to help you get to your next role. In my case, I wanted to be in investment banking, which was adjacent to corporate banking. Tip: Network before applying for your MBA and figure out your likes, your skills, your ideal work culture etc. Then brainstorm a few career options so that you are well-prepared before applying to your MBA program.

2. What did I want to learn? We've all heard “B is for business school”. Yes, grades should not matter, but you should somewhat be interested in the course material. I knew I wanted to stay in finance, so went to a school that was focused on that subject. Further, I wanted a program that preached that “markets are efficient”.

Tip: This will be a core part of your future network and hence, you should evaluate the culture at these different schools. It’s subtle, but are you a city guy, a finance gal, an entrepreneurial spirit, a boys’ club rooster, a marketing walrus?

3. What else did I want out of it? In addition to learning, I wanted networking opportunities, a brand name university, the optionality for people to give my resume a look should I choose to pivot careers one day, friends (but truthfully, was not in search of new bffs to travel with; my existing ones are plenty of maintenance already) and a challenge.

4. Part-time or Full-time? Given I was staying in finance, I didn’t need an MBA (the part-time was more than enough) and hence, I didn’t need to do the intense recruitment process that the full-time students do. Personally, I wanted to keep working on transactions (translation for non-bankers: projects that bankers somehow believe are of equal importance to their children) and didn’t want to give up two years of those. Finally, as I mentioned in #3, I wanted the challenge – a chance to prove to myself I can work 80-hour work weeks and be a superstar at work while traveling every Saturday morning on the 6AM from NYC (and back on the 11PM) to go to class, excel at school, adjust to a new city and my engagement to Nick and finally, plan a super elaborate Indian wedding for 350 guests in Monterey, California. Tip: You desperately need therapy if you fall in the above category and have that much to prove.

5. Societal pressure. Let’s not kid ourselves; societal pressures play a large role in the lives of 90% of the readers of this blog. For the remaining 10%, make a legal u-turn. This is not the blog for you as you will not relate to me at all. I am a millennial; not a Gen Z’er. Hence, it was still commonplace to look down upon people who didn’t pursue higher education. From my understanding, nowadays people respect higher education if it’s in a more specialized area (i.e. Masters in Computer Science or Molecular Cell Biology vs. general business degree).

I ultimately am so happy with my decision and honestly, it does feel great to be able to say I was able to manage (and excel) at everything I took on during that time.

But not because I want to brag about it (although since I have an MBA, I have earned the right to tout - jokes, jokes). But because it proved to me that I can balance these demanding events – it just takes organization, thoughtfulness and a really strong willingness to achieve. This would set a basis for my future (as in now, where I am constantly tested in my ability to manage my toddler, investment banking, friends and family and personal interests).

If this post interests you and if you want to learn more, please let me know and I will add some addendums to this. While this is the path I chose, so many of my closest friends chose other paths. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Bypassing the MBA track and rising up the ranks directly

2. Pursuing a masters / a form of higher education in something completely different (nursing, biotech, data science, creative writing, computer science etc.)

3. Pursuing a full-time MBA

4. Pivoting careers without higher education

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