Smartly MBA: The Final Say

As some of you may know, I’ve been in the Smartly MBA program for the past 9 months and just graduated at the end of January! I’ve taken numerous online classes over the years, and the Smartly MBA was one of the few that I was able to finish, partly due to the fact that the lessons are bite-sized and I could do them during my lunch break or on the train to the office.

So where do I stand on the Smartly MBA as a whole? I’ve read a range of reviews from people calling Smartly the best thing since sliced bread, to others calling it absolutely useless. Personally, I found it fulfilled everything I hoped it would, with the caveat being that my expectations really weren’t set that high. 

I come from a finance background, so I really wanted to expand upon my limited knowledge in areas like marketing, management, and entrepreneurship, and I honestly wasn’t disappointed. The Smartly MBA starts out at a fairly basic level, requiring that candidates complete a “business foundations” class to get everyone up to speed.  Once you complete the business foundations class you move on to accounting, marketing, finance, and a number of others shown in the graphic below.

The subject matter does increase in difficulty, but there is some variability in the difficulty of each course.  I found the finance and economics classes a little too basic for my taste at least compared to some of the classes I had taken in college, but for the standard student it would give them a good taste of the material.  Some of the other classes went into a fair amount of detail and were actually harder than I anticipated.  In particular, the data module covering statistical techniques ramped up fairly quickly and really forced me to learn the material well.

Even after graduating from the program we are still able to access the classes, which I’ve gone back to reference periodically. I’ve even gone back to look at supply chain management a few times because it was so applicable to everyday life (waiting in lines, optimizing crowd control, etc.)  A recent trip to the DMV gave me more than enough hours to think about putting some of those lessons to work.

As with all things, you’ll get out of the Smartly MBA program what you’re willing to put into it. I went into the program expecting to learn about subjects I wasn’t overly familiar with, and came out of it fairly content with my newfound knowledge. I typically dedicated 3-5 hours a week to studying and completing the modules, and could’ve easily added to that by being more involved in the social component on Slack. Overall, my feeling is similar to where I was halfway through the program. If you’re looking to learn more about general business concepts and become a more well-rounded candidate, then get out there and apply.

Given the program is still relatively new, I figured that I would end with a quick FAQ answering some of the questions that I’ve seen people posting online.  If you’re interested in my earlier reviews check out my first post on the Smartly MBA and my post at the halfway mark!  Good luck out there and happy studying!

Is Smartly legit?
Yes, at least in the sense of providing free classes.  At the time of writing, Smartly still appears to be providing a completely free online learning experience which goes into many of the topics a typical MBA program would cover. They keep the program free by offering a recruiting service where employers pay a fee to hire students and they do charge for an executive MBA program.

Is Smartly a real MBA?
The program is not accredited yet, but according to the online FAQ, they are a licensed, degree-granting institution of higher education. I did receive a diploma in the mail upon completion of the program which was a nice touch, but I’m also unlikely to hang it in my office any time soon. Ultimately Smartly offers a great learning experience which is enough to keep students engaged throughout the 6 months, but it still lacks the prestige of a “real” MBA.

What about networking?
Unlike a typical MBA program, Smartly is completely online, and offers very limited networking opportunities. Smartly does its best to get around this by providing weekly assignments through Slack, where we were able to ask each other questions on the material and work together on basic assignments. I personally found that I slacked pretty hard (sorry) on this part of the program and rarely contributed much, but it was still enough to receive the certificate at the end. Smartly claims that the social learning component makes up 10% of your overall grade, but overall engagement on Slack was average.

Will the Smartly MBA help my resume?
After working in banking for 8 years and reading through tons of resumes during recruiting season, it’s unlikely that I would pick a candidate simply based on their participation in Smartly (or any other online program for that matter.) With that said, it does help candidates stand out by demonstrating a desire to engage in learning beyond their day job, and I can’t imagine any employer would take points off for that. If you can show that in addition to Smartly you’ve also completed programs on Coursera, EDX, etc, then that will certainly help you stand out.

What are my chances of getting in?
Smartly has most classes rated at around a 7% acceptance rate, which seems to go along with marketing the program as exclusive. I would guess that having a big name company on your resume or top university would be enough to get you in. There’s no cost to apply so you really have nothing to lose.


This review is not solicited by Smartly, but feel free to check out their website regardless!


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