It is never too late to challenge yourself with a new goal, whether it be running an Ironman or expanding your knowledge about a passion of yours. While going back to school isn’t for everyone, starting an MBA program before I turn 40 this year was my personal goal. Here’s how I made it happen:
- Start small & gain confidence in pursuing your interests. I have always loved learning and taking classes. Obtaining project management (PMP) and Scrum certification a few years ago reminded me of how exciting it is to work towards a goal outside my day job and to know that I can still pass a course after so many years of not being in school! I also took an online Pre-MBA class and a Quantitative Method class right before applying to grad schools to explore if Business Administration was really a subject I wanted to understand on a deeper level. These prep courses helped me prepare myself for a smooth transition into a challenging executive MBA program. No matter what your goal, finding ways to test the waters before you take the plunge will help you gauge your interest and build up your confidence.
- Accept that many people will tell you that you are crazy and wasting time & money. I ignored the naysayers and leaned on the people who believed in me. These supportive friends, colleagues, and family members were great resources. They helped me with my application, gave me recommendation letters, and today help me stay sane – I am forever grateful to these people! Don’t let doubtful people discourage you from pursuing your dream. Often these people are the same people who let fear dictate their actions, and taking on a big and high stakes goal takes bravery.
- Find a school that fits your lifestyle. For me, it meant finding a program that would allow me to pursue my passion for an international business education while keeping my full-time job because in America, college is pricey and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I am also saving for two children who have plans to go to university in the future. I considered executive programs at Wharton, Haas, Stanford, SFU, and SF State but in the end St. Mary’s won because of the flexibility they offer adult students. While it is not easy to balance at times, I am still able to keep a job, study, exercise and spend time with my family. No two schools are the same and many offer options such as online courses, night time classes, and specialized programs. Make sure you know what you are looking for so you can ask the right questions and find the option that best fits your current lifestyle.
- Don’t let money be your excuse. As cliche as it sounds, it is true – where there is a will, there is a way. Be aware of your spending and budget yourself so you can pursue your passion. While I still splurge on espresso and dinner out once in awhile, I am conscious of how I spend my money and save where I can. Other resources that you should not overlook are scholarships and government loans. There are so many out there that you can take advantage of. Do your research and apply to as many scholarships as you can before you start school because once you do, you will be too busy with other priorities.
- Don’t be afraid of failing. Viewing your failures as minor speed bumps will help you keep perspective. Nothing worth working for comes easily, so embrace the challenges and find ways to overcome them. For me, not being able to grasp all subjects easily has been the biggest challenge. While I excel in some fields, others just aren’t as simple so I have had to learn to ask for help in order to succeed. Thankfully, being part of a cohort makes approaching difficult concepts less frightening because I know we are a team who is working towards a common goal.
Many people get stuck waiting for the right time to pursue their dream or use the excuse that their time to start something new has passed. However, it is never too late to advance yourself and make your dream a reality. While going back to school has meant sometimes missing family milestones, the new experiences and friends, and knowledge that I have gained as well as achieving a personal goal has already made the sacrifices worth my time.
[Originally published on Emilia’s LinkedIn on 31 July 2016]