3 things to know about Syracuse’s online MBA program

BY Sydney LakeNovember 22, 2021, 2:17 PM
Syracuse Orange fans during the college football game between the Syracuse Orange and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, as seen in Septekmber 2021. (Photo by Rich Graessle—Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

The state of New York boasts many of the top MBA programs in the U.S., several of which are located in the Big Apple. But in Upstate New York, Syracuse University reigns supreme for its online MBA program. Fortune ranks Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management as having the No. 8 online MBA program in the U.S. and the best online program in New York.

Compared with other schools, Syracuse has a relatively large online MBA program with more than 1,000 students enrolled—but classes stay small at about 20 MBA candidates. The program also attracts more seasoned business professionals than some peers, with about 10 years of work experience. The average candidate accepted in 2020 had a 589 GMAT score and an undergraduate GPA of 3.1. In 2020, 68% of graduates earned a raise or promotion after completing the program.

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The Whitman online MBA program was perfect for Riedolia Moore-Ellis, a class of 2022 student and learning and development professional with restaurant franchise Golden Krust. She was “ready for her next academic challenge,” after pursuing other professional certifications, she tells Fortune.

“Once I entered my field, I wanted something that allowed me to focus on the human capital aspects of business while also giving me the knowledge for accounting, finance, and economics,” she says. She also wanted to be able to keep her job and attend a New York-based online program—both of which Whitman offered her. 

Read on for what you should know about Syracuse’s online MBA program.

What Whitman is looking for in applications

Like most MBA programs, Syracuse requires candidates to submit two essays and two recommendation letters. Unlike many top-ranked programs, however, Whitman doesn’t require candidates to submit GMAT scores if they have at least three years of work experience. Admissions will still pay attention to your quantitative aptitude, though. 

Admissions officers looks more closely at applicants who don’t have a lot of quantitative coursework in their undergraduate degree, Amy McHale, assistant dean for master’s programs at Whitman, tells Fortune. They look to see that applicants have at least taken statistics or done well in a couple of basic math courses. For those who haven’t, Syracuse does offer free math tutoring sessions for its core courses.

Syracuse admissions officials want to know about applicants’ interpersonal skills and where the degree will take them. The first essay prompt asks candidates to describe a time when they faced a challenge and how they resolved it, while the second essay asks how the MBA will help them achieve their personal and professional goals. Letters of recommendation also offer insight into a candidate’s career progression and how well they’ve worked in teams, McHale says.

“We take [recommendation letters] very seriously, too,” McHale says. “We’re looking for the supervisor or manager to say, ‘Here’s the potential I see for this applicant. Here’s what they’ve done during the time they’ve been with our company.’”

Moore-Ellis’ advice for nailing the application process? Don’t undersell yourself. 

“I think that really helps you speak from a genuine space especially if you know at the end of the day an MBA is where you want to be,” she notes.

Networking is a top priority

Online Whitman MBA students still get plenty of facetime. In fact, Syracuse makes time in the schedule for opportunities for online students to gather, learn, and network in person six to seven times per year at weekend-long “mini conferences” called residencies. All Syracuse online MBA students are required to complete three residencies before graduation. Programs are offered on campus and around the globe so that students can choose residencies that interest them most. 

One recent residency program focused on the ongoing supply chain disruption, and included a talk by Syracuse alum Patrick Hackett, the head of supply chain operations at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Students are encouraged to complete a residency within one of their first 12-week terms to “create a foundation” and make connections with other students, McHale says. Aside from residency programs, Syracuse also hosts virtual networking events at least once a term as well as virtual meet-and-greet sessions to help connect students.

“Pursuing an MBA can seem like a very daunting task, but once you’re in it, you’re not the only person in that program,” Moore-Ellis says. “You have peers that you can look to for support should you need it.”

You can cater the online MBA to suit your needs 

Syracuse offers several opportunities for students to learn outside of the MBA curriculum. During their program, students can take up to three courses—including everything from communications to data science to public policy—outside of the Whitman School as electives.

“Our students can truly be interdisciplinary,” McHale says. “That’s a real benefit. We see a lot of students doing that.”

Students also have the option to earn two master’s degrees at once at a lower cost—both in terms of time and money. Online MBA candidates can work toward a second master’s degree for 80% of the combined credits of the two degrees, which usually adds only a few classes to the student’s roster. 

“We find that particularly attractive—especially for students who have funding from their employers or from the military,” McHale says. Syracuse is a popular option for veterans; about 27% of enrollment is active duty, military spouses, or military family members.

But if students want to stick to the MBA, they can customize their experience. Syracuse offers six MBA specializations: accounting, business analytics, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing management, and supply chain management. Moore-Ellis chose to specialize in entrepreneurship to explore skills outside of her 9-to-5. 

“A big part of that was that it allowed me to still keep a thumb on organizational development and still look at human capital in that bubble, but also being mindful of things such as budgeting,” she says.

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.