The part-time MBA: How we do it and why

Author: Paul Thompson
Posted: January 18, 2018

The first question someone asks when they learn I’m going to graduate school and working full time is: How do you do it? Good question. I’m now in my second year of school and just beginning to understand how.

paul_thompsonThe easy answer: You just find a way to get almost everything done, all the time. You go without sleep, your family time becomes more precious, and your leisure activities no longer include daylong hikes in the Gorge. The better answer: I am not doing it alone; that’s truly how it all happens. There are several weeks that I see my fellow cohort members more than my wife. Late nights at the library, long weekends at the new Karl Miller Center, the study abroad trip to South America, these moments and many more have been shared with my fellow students.

We help each other make it through class and we lean on each other. Sometimes, it feels like you can’t manage another assignment or project. A late-night text to a friend who is finishing up the same assignment gives you the needed encouragement to finish another paper. Team projects are about coming together to accomplish a common goal. If one team member is struggling, you will be supported. The flexibility and understanding of your professor when life derails your plans carries you through to the next term.

Life goes on even though we are in school. My cohort members have gotten engaged, married, and had babies. We have lost grandparents and parents and we have supported, listened, and cried with each other about our loss.

My family and friends have put up with my stress and demanding schedule. They have cooked me dinner and been understanding when I can hardly hold my head up to continue a conversation. My wife has encouraged me every step of the way. She has given me space at the end of the term when everything is due all at once. She has met many of my new friends and fostered my need to unwind with a beverage or two after late night classes.

Some of my part-timer classmates and I enjoying our day excursion in the Chilean Andes.

If the struggle, stress, and late nights do not sound appealing, let me tell you why going back to school is amazing. The experience is incredible! I don’t know everyone in my cohort well but I am privileged to call many of my fellow students friends. Weekly runs along the waterfront, a crazy thirty-six-hour relay race, a magical night and day in Uruguay, and so many more fantastic memories from the last year were all experienced with my cohort, the full-time cohort, and the third-year part-time cohort.

I am more exhausted, excited, and challenged now than I have been a long time.

The ultimate question to ask yourself is where do you want to be in two years? Finishing an incredible journey with some of your new best friends and starting yet another adventure in my life and career is how I am choosing to spend my time.

Paul Thompson is a second-year part-time MBA student and a Department Manager at ServiceMaster of Portland, where he has worked for 15 years.