MBA Program Enrollment Can Lead to Unintended Consequences

ID-100173847The purposeful action of enrolling in an MBA program can lead to unintended consequences or outcomes. Unintended or not, these results can be a mixed bag – some positive, some negative, and some can even be perverse. Awareness on the part of MBA students can help mitigate the negative or perverse effects or leverage the positive ones. My purpose with this article is to increase MBA students’ awareness so they can better prepare for any unintended consequences of their enrollment in an MBA program.

While not an exhaustive list, examples of the unintended consequences that I observed MBA students encountering while working as an MBA program administrator and MBA faculty member include:

  1. Overqualification – Earning an MBA can make you overqualified for your current position. This can be problematic for fulltime, employed MBA students where employer support of any kind is lacking and the employer fails to provide an appropriate-level position commensurate with the degree earned. This is an example of a perverse outcome, where the intent of earning the degree is career advancement; but by earning the degree, there is an increase in risk of job loss because of overqualification.
  2. Weight Gain – The demands of an MBA program can lead to unhealthy eating habits, which can lead to weight gain. Generally, this is more of problem for students enrolled in programs that provide meals and snack foods, such as an Executive MBA program or for part time MBA students who grab a fast-food meal on the way to class. When unchecked, these behaviors can produce a negative effect on long-term physical wellbeing.
  3. Sleep Deprivation – Study sessions or team meetings that extend into the night can result in sleep deprivation, especially when the meetings or sessions are frequent. Usually, this is more of an issue for non-fulltime MBA students who believe they can add MBA programs to their already busy schedules.
  4. Deferred Gratification – Putting off vacations or other similar experiences until the program is completed results in the deferral of the pleasure associated with the activity or experience. It is extremely difficult to play catch up at the end of the program. More importantly, a long weekend or vacation can be rejuvenating for the student.
  5. Job Dissatisfaction – An MBA program can lead to job dissatisfaction of currently employed students in several ways. For example, networking with other MBA students can disclose differences in compensation and work environment. MBA class content can also disclose the antiquated thinking of senior management or out-of-date systems and processes of a student’s employer organization.
  6. Debt Burden – The cost of an MBA program can lead to an increase in personal debt. There is much written about how student debt is increasing. Without proper financial planning, there is a high probability that enrolling in an MBA program will add to a student’s personal debt, resulting in added stress and a decrease in financial wellbeing.
  7. Family Estrangement – Some consequences occur gradually. MBA programs demand a lot of time, which means MBA students with families must allocate time between family and program. When the poor allocation of family time reaches a critical point, the family will start to function independently, which further exacerbates the estrangement.
  8. Program Romance – There is always the opportunity for two people in a program to develop a relationship with mutual attraction. Sometimes the romantic relationships that develop have positive effects and sometimes they are negative. Complicating things even more occurs when at least one of the individuals is married. Classmates aware of the relationship may become uncomfortable, which can then lead to tension between classmates or team members. MBA programs seldom address the issue of program romance. However, the rules and issues surrounding program romances are likely to be very similar to those of workplace romances.
  9. Divorce – It is doubtful that any MBA program is the sole cause of divorce. Usually, divorce is the result of multiple factors that develop over time. However, enrolling in an MBA program can be a triggering event or the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
  10. Increased Competitiveness – Many MBA programs market program attributes, such as collaborative learning, team building, and networking. Yet many MBA students find themselves competing for grades, class standing, jobs, etc., which can negate program benefits.
  11. Friendships – Some student relationships extend beyond the MBA program. Common among MBA programs is for students to stay in contact after graduation by continuing to meet with classmates in social settings or to continue with professional networking activities.
  12. University Engagement – MBA students have an opportunity for engagement with the university that extends beyond the MBA program or B-School. Many of these opportunities can be rewarding, such as mentoring undergraduate students, serving on committees, etc.

These 12 unintended consequences are examples of what MBA students can encounter while completing their MBA program. I intentionally made little effort to suggest how an MBA student should address each consequence because each student is distinctive, with a unique situation, which means the solution is individual. However, creating awareness that an MBA program can be a source of unintended consequences is a starting point.

Are you aware of other unintended consequences that you want to share with the MyeEMBA readers? Please share your thoughts by adding a comment below.

About the Author: Dr. Rodney Alsup is the creator of the MyeEMBA blog. His goal is to help MBA students live and work smarter while they earn their MBA.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

3 comments for “MBA Program Enrollment Can Lead to Unintended Consequences

  1. Dennis Brown
    January 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Great article!
    There are always consequences to every action and MBA participation will change your life!

  2. January 11, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Interesting article Dr. Alsup! Business 101: There is no such thing as a Free Lunch. There are opportunity costs with every decision we make.

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