Returning to school mid-career doesn’t have to be intimidating—the key is finding a program that provides the flexibility necessary to balance work, life and school. Today’s competitive MBA environment provides many choices for mature students considering returning to school. Prospective students should consider the delivery, the content and the overall experience they are seeking to achieve.

Sizing up the competition

First, consider the delivery of a program. Classroom versus online learning usually creates a sharp divide for students. Many students in their thirties, forties and fifties still want the face-to-face dialogue that comes from the classroom experience. Yet others need the flexibility of an online environment.

"Many students in their thirties, forties and fifties still want the face-to-face dialogue that comes from the classroom experience. Yet others need the flexibility of an online environment."

A third “hybrid” option has recently been introduced that enables students to have a weeklong intensive at the beginning of the semester with the remainder of the semester online.

Details and intangibles

Second, prospective students need to determine the content—some MBA programs offer the flexibility of selecting electives. Other cohort programs come with predetermined curricula that emphasize strategy for performance transformation or entering, operating in and leading and executing in global markets for seasoned business professionals.

A third consideration is the overall experience. An executive MBA program is designed for the busy working professional. Students pay a premium to have all of their academic needs met. They know when they enter an executive MBA program that the students next to them will have professional working experience. Other MBA programs may only have GMAT and TOEFEL requirements and may consist of a mixed classroom environment of seasoned business professionals and young international students with no business experience.