Arul Elumalai, a fellow second year, has been coming in from Seattle each weekend to attend class. Here are some of his thoughts about what the commute is like:
1. Awareness around the fly-in option: It is suprising to find how many aspirants are not even aware that the option of flyng in on weekends is possible. So they limit themselves to local programs.
2. Expenses: For a Seattle'ite the incremental cost of traveling (as compared to a bay area student) is around $25,000 for the entire program. One could budget around $250 to $300 per trip and students make around 100 trips over the entire program (assuming one attends classes for all 6 semesters). This includes flight tickets, hotel stay, car rentals and other incidentals.
3. Effort: In my opinion, the effort is a small increment to the total MBA effort. The MBA in general is a pretty significant commitment and commute time is not something I see as a huge time sink. Flying and airport wait times are also networking time with other students and pretty efficient reading time. Fellow students understand our constraints and support in providing rides to the airport.
4. Logistics: Students normally fly into the bay area on Friday evenings and return Saturday evenings (for a location like Seattle). Morning flights are available for Santa Clara classes and hence one can fly in and out the same day - which roughly happens 50% of the time. Multiple students flying in from the same location helps us split costs. There are several logistics strategies that fly-in MBAs have figured out in economizing cost and effort that we pass on as tribal knowledge.
5. Increasing ease after the first semester: On an airline like Alaska, one can get to MVP status in the first semester (14 round trips from Seattle to the bay area gets one there). This gives free upgrades to first class, privilege to bypass security lines and the option to be the first to deplane. All these cumulatively add up to convenience and time efficiencies. (Also the miles I accumulate every year, gives me a free trip to India to give an estimate of the mileage redemption.)
6. Group work: This comes as a concern with most aspirants that I talk to. But the fact is that even those who live in the bay area seldom meet in person. With several audio and web conferencing technologies that are available that is option. As a long distance commuter I have never felt the void.
7. Club activies and extra curricular activies that happen on weekdays: This is the only thing, I would quote as a disadvantage and I haven't found a way around. Its hard for commuters like me to be there on weekdays to attend talks or participate in workshops.
A weekend in the life of a fly-in MBA
Berkeley weekend: A typical Berkeley class goes as follows
7:00pm : Arrive at the airport, clear security and meet up with other fly-in students
8:00pm : Take off from Seattle
10:00pm: Land in Oakland/SJC
10:30pm: Rent a car and head to the hotel
11:00pm: Get a drink at the lounge with other students and call it a nite
8:00am: Drive down to Berkeley/Santa clara
9:00am: Classes start
12:00 to 1:00pm: Lunch and catch up with group members
4:00pm: Classes end
(This will be 6pm for first year students)
4:00pm to 5:00pm: Socializing time
5:00pm: Head to airport (return car, clear security and board)
6:30pm: Take off from Oak (you really appreciate the complimentary upgrade to first class and the free drinks!!!)
8:30pm: Land in SEA
9:30pm: Arrive at home
Santa Clara weekend: Santa Clara classes are slightly different. It is a Saturday-only affair
6:30am: Take off from Seattle (inflight complimentary breakfast)
8:30am: Land at SJC and share a cab to the Sun campus.
5:30pm: Get dropped by some one at SJC
6:00pm: Take off from SJC
8:00pm: Land in SEA
9:00pm: Arrive at home
At the outset, the first four trips are new and there is quite a bit of anxiety. But then it just becomes a routine. When I started there were some Haas students in the second and third year who showed me the ropes. And the tradition continues...