You don’t. <end of article>
No, but seriously, I’m asked this question frequently. I’m eight months into this gig now and it’s time someone spilled the tea. You won’t feel 100% certain when you send in your admission deposit that you’re doing the right thing. In fact, I strongly suspect I won’t know the answer to this question until five years after I (hopefully) graduate and someone asks me again. Maybe then I can confidently look back and say, “Yep. Starting my MBA in the middle of a pandemic was the absolute right time—super smart move. After all, if not homework, what else was I going to do during quarantine?”
After I drop that knowledge on the poor, unsuspecting MBA candidate, I’m usually met with a dejected “oh.” However, I then go on to explain that truthfully, it depends. Everyone’s journey to the MBA is different. There are dozens of factors each candidate should consider: Where are you at in your career? Do you want to move up? Can you move up without an MBA? Do your bosses have MBAs? Better yet, will your boss give you the time to get an MBA? Even better yet, are you in the industry you want to be in? Do you even want to work at that company anymore? What about financially? How much will it cost you—*gasp* it costs THAT much??? How can you finance this? What resources are available? How about your family? Friends? Is everyone stable? Do you have your ‘people’ around you for support? What about kids? From what I hear, they need to be fed sometimes. Do you have a network of caretakers? Are you stable? What about mentally, physically, spiritually, socially? Are you in a good place to take this on?
And so on and so forth, until you’ve overanalyzed the situation to death as MBA types are apt to do.
I faced a totally different but somewhat similar decision situation in 2017. I was in a skip-level meeting with my VP at the time (now my boss) and was trying to get his thoughts on which date would be the ‘right date’ to get married so that I caused minimal interruption at work with my honeymoon. Was that crazy? Yes, it was. But we were a small team and I had my reasons for doing so at the time. Luckily, my VP explained that there is no such thing as ’the right time.’ I was encouraged to pick what I thought was best and was assured my team would make it work.
Simple advice and it stuck with me when I got serious about grad school. I didn’t need to find the ‘right time.’ I needed to pick what I thought was best and make it work. For me, my situation seemed clean cut and I was fairly certain when I sent in my deposit that it was the right time to start my MBA. I was a 27-year-old woman. When I looked at where I wanted to be in two to five years, I saw an even more demanding career and possibly a kid. Even now, when I look at that future picture, I can’t see taking on kids and an MBA at the same time. Other women in my class in the same age range have expressed similar sentiments around MBA timing and family planning. Life will only get crazier, why not knock my MBA out now? At the same time, there are several incredible moms and dads in my class who are proving it’s totally possible. They are literal superheroes. But like I said before—everyone is different and the decision depends on your situation. You have to really lean in on what can you handle.
When the pandemic hit and the start of our MBA program was delayed, I seriously debated whether it was still the right time to get my MBA, or whether it was best to defer. Ultimately, when I looked at my combination of factors (recently promoted, familiar work situation, supportive husband, no kids, financially stable, strong desire to learn from others’ experiences and explore career options, and can’t travel due to the pandemic) I felt that it was still the ‘best time’ to start my MBA. Plus, I’m an impatient person who is obsessed with maximizing time. I like to get ahead; I like to move fast. The thought of waiting a year when there was no guaranteed end to the pandemic wasn’t going to work for me.
Ultimately, I can’t answer whether or not it’s the right time to start your MBA journey. However, I highly encourage you to look at all of your individual factors and determine whether you can prioritize an MBA on top of everything else. Be honest with yourself—is this the best time to start your MBA? Can you make it work?