One of the biggest questions that I had for the NYU admissions staff when I was deciding whether to attend or not was if I could have a successful NYU Langone MBA experience while commuting from outside of the New York metropolitan area. I needed to commute into the city each weekend from Doylestown, Pennsylvania (~1.5 – 2.0 hours drive each way, longer for train / bus because I needed to drive to get to the station) and was worried that this would greatly impact me. The admissions staff was very patient with my many questions and told me of numerous cases of people attending from far away (e.g. North Carolina) but I still questioned whether it would actually work for me. With this post, I hope to give a detailed picture of my experience for incoming students who have questions about commuting like I did.
When I started my journey at the Langone Lab Orientation, I was prepared to be the odd person who was commuting from outside of the New York metropolitan area. That ended up being an invalid concern. Not only were there other people commuting from outside of the New York metropolitan area, but a number of them were going a much further distance than I was! My own core group included a person commuting from Philadelphia and three people commuting from the Washington D.C. / Baltimore area. Suddenly, things did not seem so bad!
My specific concerns around commuting from a far distance were that I would be too tired coming to class each Saturday to get the value from classes, would not be able to do group work easily with team members, and would not be able to socialize with my classmates enough to build the network that is so important as part of an MBA.
I was concerned that I would be too tired from my long commute to work during the week and my long commute to school on Saturdays that I would not be fully mentally aware when in class and so would not get the necessary value out of them. Well, I will not say that I am never tired on Saturdays (note: may have fallen asleep a couple of times) but I am no different than any other student in my classes and quickly learned that coffee is my friend. Of course, long lectures when you are tired can be a problem, but most of the classes I have been in have been very interactive which helps to keep me awake. Now that I am almost done with my program, I can look back and truthfully say that being tired has not had an impact on the value that I have received from my classes.
Group work is very important in an MBA while doing case studies and projects, and I was very concerned that I would be in groups with people who lived in NYC and would either have to drive in to the city to meet them or be the odd guy calling in. What I have found during my program is that all of the group meetings I have been in have been virtual via Google Hangouts or Skype or in person on Saturdays before class, during class, or right after class. Everyone is busy, even the people who live in NYC, and the quality of virtual meetings is high enough that I never felt it taking away from the value of the meetings. My one piece of advice is to use video during virtual meetings as much as possible.
Finally, I was very concerned about the social aspects of the MBA program and not being able to attend many of the social events because of being far away. I will not lie, there are a number of speakers that Stern brings in at 6pm during the work week that I would love to see but am not able to make it to and there are times when I do not join the after class happy hours because I want to get home and spend some time with my family. However, I still have a very social life with my MBA and have built a tremendous network during my time, I just use my time wisely. I chat with people during my classes in order to get to know them and share opinions. I try to join groups in classes with people who I have not worked with before and use those opportunities to grow my network. I take advantage of lunch breaks to spend time with existing connections and get to know new people. I stay in touch with people outside of the classroom via phone or email. And, I do my best to attend happy hours and other after class activities as often as I can. With a long commute you may need to be more creative in how you socialize, but you will have no issue with building a great network and set of friends.
Having a long commute to NYU has not precluded me from having an exceptional academic and social experience during my time in the Langone MBA program. There are times when I have needed to get a bit creative or push myself further in order to get the value that I want, but what is the point of an MBA but to do exactly that? The experience I have had with Stern has been very much worth it.