Choosing a Part-time MBA Program
I’m only happy when I’m challenged.
Jackie DiMonte is a part-time Weekend MBA student at The University of Chicago Booth School of BusinessI graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in engineering and a concentration in control systems (a sort of electrical-mechanical blend, essentially robotics). I did some other things on campus: worked for the Math Department, joined a Fraternity, and was captain of the Varsity Cheerleading team. All of those experiences combined made me want a career outside of the engineering lab–that’s how I elected for a career in consulting!
Now that I’m at Booth, I’m busier than I ever was. I’m still working full-time at Accenture and like to stay involved in our corporate citizenship and volunteer activities. At school, I just co-founded the Booth Technology Group for Evening and Weekend students. It’s an exciting addition to the Booth community and is already in high demand – tech is increasingly becoming a key driver in defining the way businesses function.
Booth also has this incredible program called the CBF (Chicago Business Fellows) for young professionals that includes weekly seminars that take place throughout the first quarter of school. I stay involved as an “alum” of that group – sitting on panels for applicants and acting as a program liaison.
Dream career: My dream career combines the strategic thinking of business with the rapid pace of technology. Personally, I’m only happy when I’m challenged, so I’d love to dive deeper into consulting where you’re always expected to be developing relevant skills, adapting to new situations, and collaborating with different groups of people.
Why Business School? First of all, I always knew I wanted to go back to school after undergrad, I just didn’t know quite what I wanted to study. A year or two ago, I came to the realization that my work involved a lot of figuring out how to meet my client’s objectives and not a lot of understanding why or how those objectives were chosen. I wanted to be more proactive in my work; not only did I want to understand why and how decisions are made but also become a player in the decision-making process. I felt my real-world industry experience was best supplemented with the theory taught and the skill developed at business schools.
I chose Chicago-Booth in part but for its reputation for solid foundation courses focused on timeless business theory (especially finance!) and in part for its incredible flexibility – we have no “required” courses so I can tailor my education to include core courses and electives relevant to me.
Best GMAT study tip? Block out a couple hours each week when you can turn off your phone, disconnect from email, and concentrate completely on studying. Building up endurance for taking the exam is key.
Before business school, I was: Crazy about working out, reading, and sketching.
When I’m not in class, you’ll find me: At the gym. I like to work out in the mornings – it’s a great way to start each day and gives me time in the evenings to meet with class study groups. I also am involved in a great mentorship program with local high-school juniors and seniors – it’s a good reminder of how tough high-school was. If I’m trying to relax, I like to sketch or paint (I really like watercolor). But usually, I’m working or studying!
Advice for anyone thinking about b-school? Take the time to understand why you want to go to b-school.
Think about: what do you want out of school? How is it going to enable your goals? Are there alternative options to get the same training or similar experiences? This exercise will help you come to a decision if b-school is the right investment for you. Also, you’ll have a better idea of what types of programs you want to target as well as a clear understanding of your motivations – it will help you when it comes time to writing those admissions essays!
I recommend reading the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath–it helped me identify alternative learning options and validate that an MBA was right for me.
My remedy for pre-test nerves: Athletes train hard during the weeks approaching a big game, but a few days before, they begin to taper their training. I did the same while preparing for the GMAT. I knew if I tried to study like crazy or cram before the exam, I would stress myself out. I also knew that if I tried to do anything besides study, I’d start thinking about studying and become anxious. So, I made a list of things (limited number of notecards to review, a few problems to re-do) that I could do before the exam to keep my mind occupied. I kept the list limited to things I knew I could accomplish in a short period of time so that I did not feel overwhelmed. When I finished, I had a sense of accomplishment and felt confident that I could take on the exam.
On the day before your exam, you should: Make a plan for the next day and write it down for easy reference, so that you don’t have to think about it the day of. Consider things like: what is your travel route? What meals and snacks do you need? Will you need to stop for some caffeinated beverages once you’re in the building? Do you need to put together a “pump-up” (or relaxing) playlist for the waiting room?
How did you fit studying for the GMAT exam into your busy schedule? While studying for the GMAT, I was also working full time and attempting to finish my b-school applications. There was a lot going on so I had to use whatever free time I had efficiently. I had 45 minutes or so most weekday mornings when I used to read the paper that I turned into study time as well as larger blocks of time on the weekends. To use this time efficiently, I tried to identify the type of studying I could do in shorter periods of time (various quant questions or some verbal questions like sentence correction) versus the types that required long periods of focus (reading comprehension, any integrated reasoning) and match that to the time I had free during the week.
How well-prepared for business school do you feel, after studying for the GMAT exam? Studying for the GMAT prepared me for b-school in more ways than one. Most significantly, I learned how to use small bits of “down time” productively. Otherwise, I found quantitative skills review to be helpful (and necessary) for getting back into classes like econ. I was also able to use some of the sentence correction rules to improve my own writing and grammar use in work and school.
Why I Went From Engineering in Undergrad to an MBA
"After about a year or so of working, I realized I was doing all of this work to enable business processes without even knowing why people were executing these business processes or how they fit into the big picture."
"Hi. My name is Jackie DiMonte. I’m a current student at the University of Chicago Booth. As an undergrad, I studied engineering. I was one of those robotics nerds that spent all of their time in the lab. But, when it came time to choose a career after school, none of the entry-level engineering positions really interested me. Instead, I chose a job with Accenture Consulting. After about a year or so of working, I realized I was doing all of this work to enable business processes without even knowing why people were executing these business processes or how they fit into the big picture. I really wanted to understand not just why we were following these business processes, but who made the decisions, how they made the decisions, and why. So, I decided to go back and get my MBA. So far, every class I’ve taken has helped me understand a little bit more about the organization. It helps me understand why clients make the decisions they do, how we help them make decisions and carry them out, and even how my organization functions. I’m looking forward to each new class that I take because I know that I’ll be able to understand just a little bit more about how the business world works and my piece in it. I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely been worth the investment."
How to Fit Your GMAT Prep and Applications into Your Schedule
"I would break down tasks into things that I could get done in a small amount of time versus things that I needed for entire afternoons."
"Hi, my name is Jackie DiMonte. I’m a current student at the University of Chicago Booth. Before I actually started school I spent a lot of time studying for the GMAT, writing applications, and then working full-time. And although I don’t recommend that a lot of you might fall into the same boat. The thing that helped me the most was developing a weekly schedule. So, I would break down tasks into things that I could get done in a small amount of time versus things that I needed for entire afternoons. For example, I could finish a couple of quant questions before work in the mornings, but if I wanted to work on an Integrated Reasoning section, I would save those for Saturday afternoons. I also spent Saturdays doing practice exams and then Sundays reviewing what I did wrong in those practice exams. It was also helpful for me to develop a set of note cards about little tips and tricks and pieces of information that I needed to know while I was taking the exam. So anytime that I came across a question that I got wrong or a little math formula that I needed to remember, I added it to the note card and reviewed those on the train in the morning while I went to work. The other thing was I reserved evenings for actually finishing my applications so I wasn’t trying to overlap my GMAT studying and my application writing at the same time. Hopefully you find that helpful. And good luck with your application."
What to Consider When Choosing a Part-time MBA Program
"I wanted to make sure that I had access to the same courses and professors in the part-time program as if I were taking courses in the full-time program."
"Hi, my name is Jackie DiMonte. I’m a current student at the University of Chicago Booth. While I was applying to schools I found a wealth of information on full-time programs, but needed to develop my own set of criteria for evaluating part-time programs. The first thing I looked at was the academic quality of the program. I wanted to make sure that I had access to the same courses and professors in the part-time program as if I were taking courses in the full-time program. The other thing I looked at was the community. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just showing up, going to class, and then going right home afterwards. I wanted to make sure that there were networking events and clubs and groups and seminars that I could take part in as well. The last thing I looked at was flexibility. I'm a full-time consultant so having a schedule that worked around my work was very important to me. So I chose Booth because I could take classes on evenings or weekends or any sort of combination of those and really make sure that could get the most out of school and work at the same time."
What I Expected from My MBA & What I've Gotten from It
"The other thing I didn’t expect was how much I loved it. I thought I would get involved you know outside of courses and I thought I would enjoy the courses a lot, which I do, but I really love being there and didn’t expect to spend so much time getting invested."
"Hi, my name is Jackie DiMonte. I’m a current student at the University of Chicago Booth. When I started business school I had a lot of expectations. Some of them turned out to be true while others were complete surprises. The first was revolving course work. Not coming from a tradition business background I thought I would fall way behind. The thing is in a lot of MBA programs you have a diverse student population. I didn’t fall behind, instead we all struggled through it together. It was a lot of work but the professors are good and the coursework is interesting. So I caught up to speed. The other thing is I was expecting courses to do a lot of hard skill development. I didn’t realize how much soft skill development would actually go on. There’s a lot of leadership and personal development that goes on in business school. The other thing I didn’t expect was how much I loved it. I thought I would get involved you know outside of courses and I thought I would enjoy the courses a lot, which I do, but I really love being there and didn’t expect to spend so much time getting invested. The last thing that I underestimated was the amount of free time that you lose. You really have to learn how to prioritize your time and expect that you’re going to be busy all the time."