Wow, what an endeavor!  As a former Business Process Analyst and Systems Engineer, I naturally tackled this first with an open mind, excited at the opportunity to re-engage in a Formal Education Program, with the thought of a Degree in hand and on my resume.  I took the task with a Process Improvement/Comparative Analysis (PI/CA) Approach.  When looking at a school for Information Technology, the Application and Information had to be a good functioning and appealing system.  If the school is going to teach me how to Manage a Business in Information Technology, then the school should measure up to my expectations of Good Business Practices and Processes.  Some schools were disqualified based on poor processes and presentation.

The Internet Results for certain Keywords like “Affordable Online MBA” and “MBA NO GMAT” was often used, as well as “Law Schools NO LSAT.”  The key search terms helped me narrow down my selection.  I still relied on other search methods in case any schools were not included in those search parameters and sometimes Searched directly for a school by name.  I found Business Opportunities for this Verticle.

School Selection Process

Research schools that meet the following criteria:

  1. Affordability:  It has to FIT within the Student Loan Budget Limits
  2. Accessibility:  It has to be physically or virtually accessible
  3. Reputation:  The school has to have good name and ratings (Top Tier)
  4. Process:  Application process must reflect what I seek to learn from the school and accomplish in the future.
  5. Entrance Requirements:  Must waive Exam requirements for professional achievement.  If any licensing requirements exist, then must meet the criteria
  6. Physical Location:  Depending upon degree choice and format, it must be in the right place.  The Residency requirements must be considered.
  7. Time to Completion:  The length of time to reach the degree must be within 2 years; the average time for a Masters Degree.  Anything less or more is questionable.
  8. Statistical Analysis:  % Graduates, Online Ratings/Complaints, whatever else

Thankfully, all of this research can be done online, but with at least 5 Universities in every state, an open future plan of residency, and a ton of Online Private Universities, it was tough to narrow it down to find the right FIT.  I found Budget, Reputation, Entrance Requirements, Application Experience, and Format were my top priorities.

US News has a online report, but it doesn’t include all schools and it doesn’t state the criteria for selection of “best Online Business Schools.”  There’s a link to the methodology, but it’s a 404 error.

Steps to Achievement of School Selection & Application

Task:  Identify the Right School and Course of Study based on my Personal and Professional Inventory using the SMART Goal Setting concept.  I used this approach solely to identify the school and major, rather than the overall Life Goal of becoming a Doctor or other goals that will have to be set to achieve the Masters Degree.

SMART GOAL:  Get Masters Degree from an Accredited University

  1. Specific:  It has a start date and end date, with a Degree at the end.
  2. Measurable:  It’s measured by acceptance, affordability, and feasibility
  3. Attainable:  If the acceptance criteria, right living and financial conditions are met, then it is attainable.
  4. Relevant:  Select the right school and major that aligns with Professional Experience, Personal Passion, and Long Term Life Goal.
  5. Timely:  Meet school deadlines and be prepared to start as soon as possible.

Entrance Requirements:  Testing, Cost per Credit Hour, Pre-Requisites, Time to Completion

Most, if not all schools require an Entrance Exam.  The GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCATs are lengthy tests.  Since I haven’t been to school since 2001 and Math Formulas are not an everyday practice, it would require at least 3 months of self directed study, as well as an additional cost to start the application process.  Tutoring options are available, but costly.  At one point, it almost felt like an unattainable goal because of this school requirement, just like every other goal.  There seems to be a breaking point, where one almost gives up and then opportunity shines through and the goal is met.  I narrowed down my search to those without the requirement or with a waiver available.

Cost:  Between $275 -$888 per credit hour.  At first, Cost took center stage in the selection process, until the research and application process was tested and criteria met.  Cost had to fit within the Student Loan Budget Limit for Graduate Degrees.   The Cost of Attendance had to include Tuition, Books, and Fees totaling less than $21,000 per year.

Yale, MIT, and Harvard was out of the question, along with several other On Campus Research Universities.

Finding the Right Major

My career goals and passions are not as directly defined as a “Major Type.”  I have professional accomplishments, life passions and experiences, and other things that drive my quest for higher learning.  I had to decide between Law School (4 years vs. 2 years), Medical School (another 5 years), A Masters with a Specialization in the Technical Field, or Business School with a Specialization in my field.  Every school has different requirements, so it took some work.  Since my Work Experience and future Major did not fit my Undergrad Major, I had to make sure the school requested a resume and did not make a False Assumption that the Undergrad must match the Masters Level Major.  Just because I had an Undergrad major in Criminal Justice did not mean those were my only qualifying Masters Majors.

Major Selection

I really wanted to go to Law School, but ABA requirements are against 100% Online Learning at this time.  Some schools offered 100% Online Learning, but were not accredited and had strict ABA requirements to sit for the Bar Exam that I most likely would not meet, like Child Support Arrears, even though the ruling was unfair.  I didn’t want to spend 4 years of study and then find failure at the end because I could not achieve the goal of becoming a licensed Practicing Attorney.  Who wants to just practice and argue anyway?  Business and IT was a better fit because the Legal field is still WAY behind in Technology and thinking.  It’s not totally out of the question, but just not right now.

I used a process of elimination technique for entrance requirements, finding schools that bypass those and then considered outcomes and professional potential, not just in salary increases, but knowledge and capability increase.  I didn’t spend too much time thinking what type of job or endeavor I will take on after the 2 year completion.  I stayed focused on Feasibility, Selection, and Completing Application Requirements.

I looked at a ton of Universities to eliminate those that don’t meet my requirements.  The first problem is the expectation of entrance requirements for a Professional Businessperson with 17 years experience in the field in which they want to pursue Formal higher learning.  It seemed when a Test Waiver was available, the price wasn’t affordable or something else stood in the way.   Secondly, I found unnecessary and unmeetable requirements in the process.  Some Universities want the GMAT/GRE and certain course pre-requisites to go on to the Masters level, so I had difficulty selecting a new field area without additional undergrad work.  It seemed most programs are designed for Undergrads to start their Masters directly following Graduation.  I love BioTechnology, but I could not pursue the degree because I’d have to add on an additional 2 years of study in Chemistry and Biology to even be considered, increasing the time to become a Doctor to 8, on top of 5 years of already completed Education and 17 years work experience.  They didn’t make sense and are kind of skewed in even using the word “Technology” and not being able to provide a track for skilled IT Professionals.  So, Industry requirements forced me out of becoming a Medical Doctor because it would take too long.  I wanted to study Neurology, but I was deterred because I didn’t meet criteria and was not willing to take a lengthy MCAT or study for an additional 8 years because don’t accept students experienced in other fields.  This is restricts their community in my opinion.

The Education System needs work.

Application

I applied to more than one school in order to Compare Application Processes and get familiar with the school(s) before making my decision.  Thankfully this is an online process, some quick, and painless, others longer with more requirements.  Rather than being scared of ‘rejection,’ of an application or not meeting requirements, I took a personal selective approach, making it my decision, not theirs.  Some think the Universities choose them, but others choose the University.  Tests used to drive this process, but at this level, the student drives it by knowing what they want and how to make the right decision without being ‘sold’ a degree with unnecessary add-ons.

Rather than providing FREE Process Improvement Advice and Reporting on each’s problems, I’m going to list Business Opportunities instead:

  • Comparative Application based on Requirements (a tool where I can enter Schools and retrieve decision data based on my priorities and needs)
  • Improved School Integration with Transcript & Reference
  • Standard National/Worldwide Degree Overview with History
  • Multi-School Application for Student Research Time & Cost Reduction

I’ve located a great school and am completing the Application Process.  The application was mildly stressful, only because of Technology problems and knowing I’ve found a great University and am scared I won’t be accepted.  Why wouldn’t I?  My experience is awesome, but I’m missing Professional Recommendations by past colleagues who have achieved something great.  

I’m very excited to start next month.

 

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By Savvy