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It’s so simple, so seductive.  Who knew that there was a way to acquire the prestige and earning potential of an elite, top three MBA program without the trouble of optimizing your grades, GMAT and resume? Apparently, Poets and Quants did, and they finally decided to share the method with the rest of us in their recent article about part-time MBAs, the so-called ‘secret back-door’ into top programs.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. We here at Forster Thomas love part-time, evening, and executive MBA programs. Many of the people who work with us wind up going earning alternative MBA degrees at schools like Ross, Kellogg,, and Haas, for a range of reasons. Some have to balance work and family. Some don’t need as much preparation because they are further along in their careers.  Some just want to spend some time learning from (and with) Americans.

One thing all of our clients have in common, however, is that they do NOT attend a part-time program and then play act as though they were in the full-time program, posing pretentiously as ‘real’ MBA students and demeaning their classmates who ACTUALLY wanted part-time degrees in the first place.

There are lots of really good reasons not to look at the part-time MBA as ‘full-time lite’. The first one is a fairly obvious ethical one.  After all, every top business school prides itself on maintaining a high moral standard. How do you think they would feel if they heard you were deliberately misrepresenting your degree on your resume?

But perhaps you’re thinking, “Eh, what they don’t know won’t hurt them”.  Au contraire -- there are also a boatload of pragmatic arguments against doing this.  A big part of the MBA experience is networking, which requires making strong connections with like-minded people. Nobody wants to cozy up to the kid who claims a bunch of merits he didn’t earn – it just looks desperate.

Deception on a resume is also a terrible strategy when you’re trying to get hired.  Bulge bracket banks and top-tier PE and consulting firms have layer upon layer of interviews and HR.  You might be able to sneak your trick past a computer weeder, but when the hiring manager (who after all, is probably an alumna of one of these schools) sees what you tried to pull there’s no way she’s giving you the job. You have just proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not worthy of her trust. 

Then there’s the matter of on-campus hiring and job fairs.  Most schools want to help their students get jobs, and some, like Kellogg and Ross, do a remarkably good job of it. But no school is going to want to help the student misrepresent his or her resume and thereby put the brand of the school itself at risk.

Trying to game the University system and spending a bunch of money on a degree in order to pretend you’re getting a different type of degree is stupid, short-term thinking. The smart move is to be true to yourself and your abilities, pick a program where you are going to mesh well with the other students, work hard alongside them, earn their trust, and go out and do great things together.  There is no secret backdoor into HBS – but if you’re looking to get kicked out the front door, lying is a great way to start.