How to Thrive in an Online MBA Program

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It is no secret why so many ambitious business professionals return to school to earn a Master of Business Administration. An MBA degree accelerates the accumulation of advanced knowledge and skill, which can be applied across industries and even in entrepreneurship. Those who earn MBAs unlock radically higher earning potential, and they are much more likely to achieve their professional dreams.

More and more often, MBA students are enrolling in online programs, which allow them to continue working and earning real-world experience while they earn their degree. Though online MBAs might be more convenient for most professionals, they are certainly no easier to obtain — especially when one is trying to balance work, study and life. Whether you are about to begin an MBA program or looking for help navigating the program you are currently completing, here are some tips and tricks for making the most of your MBA studies.

Set Your Expectations Appropriately

An MBA is an enviable credential that can give you access to exciting opportunities — but it is not a magic spell that grants you unlimited success. With an MBA on your CV, you will likely gain more interviews than you did previously, but unless you have the knowledge and skill to back up your credential, you likely will not be invited to join any leadership teams. You need to commit to gaining as much as you can from your MBA program, which means doing more than barely graduating with your degree. If you expect to find success in your MBA program without putting forth much effort, you will be sorely disappointed. You should set your expectations that earning an MBA and benefiting from it will be a challenge, but it will be worthwhile when you see your career soar.

Prioritize Your Responsibilities

Most students pursuing an MBA degree online are doing so because they hope to balance school, work and other responsibilities. However, some responsibilities will always take precedence over others, and it is important that you know your priorities from the beginning of your studies. You should take some time to consider what matters most to you, so when there is a conflict, you will find it easier to make decisions and move forward. For example, if you have a work project and a school project due the same week, which deserves more of your time and attention? Proper time management should keep you on top of all your responsibilities, but prioritization can reduce some of your stress.

Create SMART Goals for Yourself

Goals help to focus your energy, so you spend your time and resources on efforts that will provide the most benefit to you. As you consider your priorities, you should also consider what you hope to gain from your MBA program. You should draft goals that help guide you throughout your courses and program, so you can continue to be engaged with your studies and see real value in your degree. Whenever you create goals for yourself, personally or professionally, you should use the SMART system, so your goals are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Ask Those Around You for Help

Pursuing an MBA is no small task. At some point during your program, you will need help from those around you — your coworkers, your housemates, your family members and friends. You might need your boss to offer some leniency on work deadlines as you study for an important exam, or you might need your spouse to do your weekly chores so you can complete a class project. You should be able to ask those close to you for help when you truly need it, and as importantly, you should pay them back with kindness and favors when they need them.

Commit to Appropriate Self Care

With so many responsibilities to manage, you might not feel that you have time for self-care — but self-care is even more important when you are stressed. Contrary to popular belief, self-care does not consist of basic necessities like sleep or hygiene; rather, it is activities that you enjoy performing and that help you feel like you. For example, if find joy in painting, you should put aside an hour or two per week to make art; then again, if you relax during a hike, you should find time to go for a walk in nature. You will likely find that when you commit to self-care, you can more easily manage your responsibilities at school and work.

An MBA is a powerful tool, and pursuing an online MBA degree is a smart way to give your career a boost. However, you need to recognize that even online MBA programs can be difficult, especially when your schedule is already full with other responsibilities. Fortunately, it is possible to thrive in an online MBA program when you take the time to set your expectations, priorities and goals and when you make time for others and for yourself.