Any program that claims there's no difference is lying. I wish I could remember the study, but there was one done some years ago that asked recruiters if they had a preference among programs. They cited full time and executive programs as preferred, followed by campus based PT programs, followed by any distance learning. The argument was something to the affect that FT students are "forced" to learn teamwork, while the other programs are generally less focused (by virtue of everyone having a different schedule). I vaguely remember a quote of something like "they are a prescreened applicant pool".
I was speaking mostly with regard to support from the school. Kellogg for example doesn't even let their part time students go through recruiting. If I'm spending $100k+ at a school, I'm not going to be treated like a second class citizen. End of story.
So, out the gate, there's a difference. I can also point to another study that compared network strength between PT and FT programs. I don't have the numbers in front of me but it was something like, on average, PT students knew 4 people in their particular class (of 50), while FT knew 12. At the end of the 10 week course, the FT folks knew something like 18 while the PT folks still sat at 8 or something like that. I've posted the study here before, it's interesting.
So, now you've got two very tangible differences that no program is likely to completely escape: recruiter preferences and network.
ok, and? I would imagine that varies highly by school and isn't really something you can generalize. You take the exact same number of classes in a PT program as you do in a FT program. If anything, the 18 month executive programs should be looked at as what they are, a cash grab by schools.
In the end, the network offered is exactly the same. The degree offered is also the same. A PT person can look people up in the alumni database just like a FT alum can. PT may or may not know fewer people from their graduating class, but that's really only part of the picture. I'd imagine Chicago would have more of a difference than other schools though since Chicago doesn't really do cohorts like other schools do. So, maybe that's a bigger issue at your particular school than it would be at others.
I know at Haas, the students in the evening class I was at appeared to know most of the people in their classes pretty well. Then again, Haas has a pretty small program. So, that might be a bit over-accentuated in their classes.
Finally, consider the perspective of a FT student at an elite: they've given up two years salary, saddled 6 figure loans, had to score in the top 10% on GMATs to have a reasonable shot at admission, and are effectively gambling on the schools ability to help them find gainful employment. From their perspective, a PT student is in an entirely different boat: there's no opportunity cost, they may well be sponsored, and the bar for admission is undeniably lower (esp if measured by avg GMAT). No surprise then that many FT students view the PT programs as cheap "back doors" into an elite program. Meet one of these PT students at a recruiting event - maybe someone who is already gainfully and happily employed and is just there "cause maybe this is better", while you are praying on an offer so that you can afford your loans - and tell me you don't feel a little animosity.
I don't want to start an argument here, but I really fail to see how giving up two years of salary makes someone a superior student. Bad at the math behind opportunity costs, sure, but better? At any of the decent PT programs you'll still need to score in the top 10% or so on the GMAT to have a decent shot at admission, so that's not radically different. The classes are exactly the same, so there's no difference there. Sponsorship isn't really common in PT programs anymore aside from the $5300 some companies offer. Exec programs are almost always sponsored though. So, how are they better?
Haas for example has a 23 point spread between the GMAT scores of the avg FT and PT student. Yeah, FT programs get more applications. That's mostly due to the fact that a FT student can move and thus can apply to 5-10 programs should they care to.
Other than that, everything else on the list seems to come down to some sort of jealousy. They're better because they took two years off from work? Great for them, but two years out of the workforce doesn't automatically make you better. Don't put PT students down because they decided to work an extra 20 hours a week and get the same degree you did in 3 years time instead of 2. I'm sure the time spent doing club activities is wonderful, but I have a mortgage to pay and airfare to pay for to get to school every week. Oh, and I have 4 clients that expect deliverables too.
There is absolutely nothing 'back door' about getting in to the part time programs. Your own alma mater, Booth, says the admissions requirements for the FT and PT programs are exactly the same. Is admissions somehow lying? A 20 point GMAT difference can also be explained by the fact that in my experience at least, PT programs put a lot more emphasis on your current career than a FT program would. So, the GMAT score isn't weighted as heavily.
Moreover, I challenge you to find a program that really offers identical resources and support. Booth, which by several measures is perhaps the most "fair" to PT students has even closed in on the loopholes - PT students used to be able to bid on FT student courses without any distinction - that's no longer true. Unlike Kellogg which limited the course load you could take as a PT, Booth does not - meaning you can get admitted to the PT program, quit your job, and literally graduate in 2 years as if you were FT. While closing the class bidding loophole doesn't make that impossible, it makes it a lot harder to do without some big compromises. Similarly, while, technically most groups are open to both FT and PT students, in practice this isn't the case, and most PT clubs have a supposedly equivalent "sister" club to the FT club. But to my prior point on recruiters, guess which club gets the $5,000 sponsorship check from Schwab and which one gets $500 from the "Student Activities Fund"?
Well that's just it. The trade off between FT and PT programs is of the extracurricular variety. FT students get to be involved with more of the clubs and the like. PT students get to have 2 years of career advancement that FT students don't get.
Yeah, if you're looking to wildly change careers, you're better off going FT. You'll have the internship between the years and it'll make the transition a lot easier.
If you're looking to move up or maybe change gears a bit, PT, while more difficult to juggle, can make more sense. You move 2 more years up the ladder. Depending on your salary, can shave several hundred thousand dollars off the opportunity costs, and tuition is completely tax deductible.
As for Chicago's class bidding loophole, I agree with their decision 100%. If you're applying to a PT program, you damn well better go part time. Don't lie your way in to PT admissions and decide to go full time.
I'm not trying to dog PT programs - they have value, but I do thibk that theres a difference....
Well, you may not wanted to dog PT programs, but you certainly spent several paragraphs saying how FT programs are superior in every way shape and form (in your opinion).
Yes, there is a difference and it has nothing to do with one being 'better' than the other. If you want to radically change industries, FT makes that much easier. If you don't, PT offers some significant advantages.
The one exception to this being banking. I doubt any wall street banker would ever have the free time to work full time and go to school. So, full time schooling really is your only option. That said, there's a hell of a lot more to an MBA than just banking.