Niraj Patel, MBA grad of The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, describes why he chose to pursue an MBA and gives advice to future applicants.
Name: Niraj Patel
School: MBA, OSU Fisher College of Business
Lives in: Chicago, IL
Profession: Gallup Consulting
What were some activities you were involved with outside of class? How do you balance your time?
I was the Chair of Fisher Board Fellows which is a student run program that allows select MBA students and places them on the board of directors of local non profit organizations. This was an extremely selective organization as we partnered with roughly 20-25 organizations that came in various sizes. The goal was to provide a level of experience to the students of what being on a board is like and being able to create some level of impact with these organizations and within our community.
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
I am an Ohio State undergrad alum, however, I didn’t study business while I was there, so I wasn’t overly familiar with Fisher. I knew I wanted a program that had great brand recognition, but wasn’t so large that I’d be just another number. I wanted to build a strong, diverse network and knew this would be possible if I’m in a smaller program where I’d actually have a chance to meet every person in my class. I had applied to a few programs and made sure I visited and spent a good amount of time on campus at each school but there was a family feel at Fisher that I didn’t necessarily find anywhere else. I felt a spirit of togetherness where the students were all in it together, not necessarily competing against each other and that made it a much more conducive learning environment. The other piece was the access to the largest research university in the world. I had the ability to take courses in other departments that could supplement my MBA experience, that was a huge win in my book.
What do you think makes your MBA program and experience unique?
Fisher offered a global experience program called GAP (Global Applied Projects). Most MBAs offer international trips that include visits to foreign companies, but GAP is unique. It’s an experiential learning course that offers hands-on business experience outside of the US. We spent 6-8 weeks stateside preparing for our project and 3.5 weeks in country. For our project, we partnered with the University of Addis Ababa and University of Gondhar in Ethiopia to work on a supply chain and marketing issue to help eradicate rabies from the country. We worked with local health care and government officials to propose a solution to solve the issues that prevent proper rabies eradication. The fact that we were able to work on an actual, real-world problem and help solve that problem added so much value to the MBA.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you? Did you pursue your MBA in order to switch careers?
I decided to pursue my MBA when I realized I was miserable in my previous role. Even though I was a top performer, I wasn’t being challenged on a daily basis. My primary purpose for an MBA was to switch careers but also obtain formal business education that is highly experiential in nature. I wanted to make sure that I was receiving a well-rounded education that could be applied in a multitude of ways.
Advice for Future Applicants
How do/did you fund your MBA? Can you offer any advice to students looking to finance their MBA?
Primarily from student loans and then in my second year, I had a graduate assistantship. Paying for the MBA was a huge hurdle—especially the fact that you’re giving up a salary for the two years. At the end of the day, as I reflect, it’s still a worthy investment that I’m glad I took on.
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? What advice do you have for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
While I worked in personal finance pre-MBA, I quickly realized that it wasn’t the industry for me long term, or at least the type of role I’d see myself in long-term. I had contemplated part-time MBA programs but had a friend that was working towards his MBA who provided some insightful advice. His advice, which is something that I share readily, is if you’re even considering a career change, then full-time is the way to go. The amount of time you spend networking and learning about different industries is something only a full-time program can truly offer, it’s extremely immersive. I knew I wanted a career change but didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I knew what I didn’t want to do and that was enough to push me to go for a full-time MBA.
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