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Part-time MBA, full-time life

Today as I was thinking through my to-do list for the rest of the week, I realized that it's difficult to picture how I would spend my free time without the work and time I invest in my part-time MBA coursework.

As part of my first blog post for the Carlson MBA Admissions summer blogging team, I should first introduce myself. My name is Elizabeth Ward, and I am a Project Manager for Target Corporation, in the Technology Services pyramid. I am also a part-time MBA candidate, and plan to graduate in December of 2015.

My undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering, so needless to say my career path to a major retailer and then into business school has been unique and challenging. I attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate, so I had the opportunity to take classes at Carlson as part of the management minor available to students in majors outside of CSOM. I knew that I would eventually pursue an MBA to broaden my opportunities and increase my potential in the business world, and when I started researching programs Carlson was at the top of the list.

As more and more schools start to offer MBA programs, the amount of information can be overwhelming. And when looking at the time commitment involved in completing an MBA program, not to mention the financial sacrifices most of us must weigh, prioritizing the merits of different programs can be difficult. I ended up narrowing my choices down to 3 top choices when heading into applications; 2 local programs, and one distance-learning program. Every admissions staff I talked to was great, and all the programs had merits and drawbacks. I chose Carlson because they provide a world-class education and brand, and I desired the challenge I knew this program could provide.

It definitely hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding. I am averaging 9 credits per semester, including summer session, which is on the aggressive end of credit load. Each class I have taken so far has provided new perspective from both my professors and my fellow classmates. One of the greatest strengths of the Carlson part-time program is the variety of backgrounds that students bring to the classroom. I have learned so much from the curriculum, and have had an amazing opportunity to network and learn about different industries from my classmates. Since most students in the part-time program have full time jobs, networking is often limited to the time you have in class together, and almost everyone has a full load of other things that need their attention outside the classroom. Jobs, families, extracurricular activities; just when you think your life can't get any fuller, the part-time MBA program shows you it can!

I admire the people I have met within the program who manage to balance all of these things and still excel at their coursework. As much as you will learn within the classroom, from the textbook, and from assignments and projects, I would challenge every person in the part-time program to take full advantage of the life lessons you can learn from your peers. And don't forget to reflect on the life lessons you are teaching yourself! Life doesn't stop from 5:45-9:05 on the nights you have class, and your other priorities may not care that you have a 10 page paper due. The lessons you will teach yourself is how to prioritize, how to manage your precious amounts of free time, and, maybe even most importantly, how to ask for help. Your classmates, your family, your friends, and your colleagues are all along with you on this journey, and leveraging your support network through the entire process will help to make sure you keep living your full-time life during your MBA journey.

Recently I have had the opportunity to join the Admissions Ambassadors and the Leadership Advisory Board, which have both given me even more insight and involvement into the program. I'll wrap up my first blog before it gets too long, but please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section. I am happy to provide any insight I can on the admissions process, how my credit load has been, classes I have enjoyed, and opportunities outside the classroom within the program. I'm really looking forward to the rest of this blogging opportunity!

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