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Family, MBA, and Recession (in that order)

March 19, 2009

This article on businessweek could not be more pertinent, and prompted me to write this post. It talks about what it means for you and your family if you choose to go to a B School now. Then there are some threads doing the round on BW forums which speak about international applicants giving up US MBA acceptances in favour of local MBAs in their countries. BW forums never fail to amuse me. Its difficult not to get addicted to them because they’re a constant source of humour during times such as these. But first , what the recession and MBA means for my family.

My wife and I are struggling to come to terms with the fact that we might require to stay apart for the first few months of my MBA to upto a year. She’s dead against giving up her job and if I keep my emotions aside, I can’t help but agree with her decision. There is a chance, however slim, that she’d be able to get a transfer in her job in or near the city where I head for my MBA. That is again uncertain, and might take long to work out, if at all. In any case, what it means is that I might be required to do a part of my MBA without my wife or kid around me :(. It is supposed to serve the following purposes – a) work continuity for my wife, b) lesser living expenses for me, and c) assurance of a paycheck 2 years later if the recession deepens and I end up with a job-less MBA. I owe the last 2 reasons to my wife since I’m dopey enough not to think in terms of money. Had we not been in a recession, she would have happily accompanied me and taken a break from her work, but not anymore. Its a temporary sacrifice that we hope my MBA would be able to justify. Though I’m still unable to digest the idea that for months into my intense MBA experience, my conversations with my wife and kid would be limited to that over skype and webcams. I’m also afraid that the constant worry during my MBA of having left my family on their own might come in the way for me in making the most of my MBA.

Now I’m sure a lot of MBA applicants face this issue every year where they and their spouses need to take (and live with) such tough decisions. The difference this year is that the recession leaves you with no other choice.
But enough said about the recession, and I’m tired of reading every post on recession which adds further wrinkles to your forehead. Yes its a tough time, and its not going to get easier anytime soon. Yes it may last longer than you think, and may change the shape of the things to come. I’d be surprised to know that there aren’t articles somewhere which claim why recession is good for you and your health. For starters, it has a fat-buster effect and the extra stress allows you to get in shape. You don’t argue too much with your managers and it affects your bonus positively. All the challenges you wished for in your application would soon come true. Apart from that single roller-coaster ride, you discover whether you’re truly courageous, and whether you have an appetite for risk. You fight hard to convince yourself that money isn’t the most important thing controlling your life. Which brings me to the second point of this post. Giving up a costlier (US) MBA in favour of a local one or one which costs less and choosing to play safer.

Which school you head to for your MBA among multiple acceptances is a personal decision. If as an applicant you had already applied for an MBA in the US, it shows that you had an answer for everything that acts as an inhibitor now – 1) the huge 120-150k program costs, 2) non-cosignor loan unavailability, 3) uncertainty regarding the work visa post MBA, 4) ending up with a mountain of debt and no guarantee of a job to bail you out. That is, before the recession struck and changed the landscape. One of the 4 or collectively, its these factors that is driving applicants to opt for an MBA that costs less (either a local MBA or one with a scholarship).

Given that non-cosignor loans are now back in the game (well, almost), factor 1 is the only important factor here which is again taken care of by the availability of these loans. Factor 3 can be countered by being prepared for an international position or one back in your own country. It might mean a lesser salary and make it tougher to pay back your loans, but look at the big asset called MBA that you’ve got for yourself! Factor 4 is THE risk which you and the schools would try hard to avoid. At this stage, it can only be countered by a strong belief in one’s skills and abilities. I know its easy to say such things and its hard to decide against something thats relatively safer at the end of the day, but the way I look at it is this – in some years from now, we might be faced with a similar economic downturn again. Which MBA would better prepare you for that day ?

No MBA is recession-proof, but the MBA you choose would be your strongest proof against this recession and beyond.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Justin permalink
    March 19, 2009 2:25 pm

    Whats the deal with EMORY. Why is it such a favorite school among Indian applicants. I haven’t heard a great deal about that school so far. Enlighten me folks !

  2. ahembeea permalink*
    March 19, 2009 2:48 pm

    Justin – Is there a school which is ‘not’ a favorite among Indian applicants ? 😉 I think a huge number of Indians are applying across the board to schools ranked 1 to …

  3. March 19, 2009 5:44 pm

    agree managing an mba (and being without salary) alongside a wife and kid (wouldn’t know though!) must be difficult! but i think in the long run – these 2 years would prob speed by..and definitely be worth it. plus this way your family has a new place to come visit you!

  4. March 20, 2009 8:06 am

    I’ve seen a few of my classmates who have their families with them here struggle to make time for school, family, socials, recruiting – there’s so much more for them to balance compared to ppl without families. While I can imagine how nice it would be to come home to a family after a long day of school, I feel bad for the partners that hardly get to see their other halves thanks to the rigorous first year program here. Perhaps your family could join you in the 2nd year, when the load is lighter and the economy, hopefully, better.

  5. anon permalink
    March 23, 2009 9:50 am

    Atlanta is one of the sought after places for IB (NYC, SF, Chicago and Atlanta). I am sure your decision will pay off. You can network in Texas, which is zere state tax place. Wish you good luck for Kellogg.

  6. ahembeea permalink*
    March 23, 2009 10:43 am

    Choc Heaven – yes. While on one hand I wouldn’t want my MBA to speed by, on the other I’d like it to do so to be with my family asap!

    Mechanigal – your suggestion makes a lot of sense. I guess its going to be tough either way and I should be prepared for it 🙂

    Anon – thanks! Now there’s no looking back.

  7. April 9, 2009 9:55 pm

    It’s no doubt tough on families to adjust to: 1) losing one income; 2) simultaneously incurring debt to finance school; 3) moving; 4) losing family time with the parent who’s in school or studying all the time. But, keep in mind you’re setting a great for your child about the importance of education and the sacrifices it takes to achieve those goals.

    Many have gone through it and come out stronger when they’re done. I recommend listening to this show we did about juggling a family and the MBA. There are some great stories in there about others who have succeeded:

    Good luck!

  8. ahembeea permalink*
    April 10, 2009 5:22 pm

    Thank you for the link and for other great shows you regularly manage to put up on your website!

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