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Tuesday, January 06, 2015 at 6am

The First Year of Business School: An Insider’s Perspective

The First Year of Business School: an Insider’s Perspective main image

My previous entries covered the process leading up to business school; now I’m in a program, I can tell you what the first year is actually like – from the perspective of someone who’s not pitching to you as a member of an admissions department!

Before I began business school I had planned on writing once per month, and in fact I have had ‘write next blog article’ on my to-do list for the past 12 weeks. If you look at my article history you will see that this has not happened. It is one thing to state “I know I will be busy” and a completely different thing to experience that actual time-crunch. During my orientation one of our administrators stated that between attending class, studying, extracurricular activitiesand other miscellaneous work students would spend about 85 hours per week on business school. Many of us thought this was an exaggeration.

It was not.

There are weeks where that number was actually low. However, because the classes all flow together, and hopefully you have selected a program with goodnetworking and supports, the work does not feel crushing. You will feel stressed, you will probably sleep less than you have in the past, but you focus on the fact that you are building something: an education, a network, a career.

The first year of business school and balance

The first thing to realize is that you’re going to feel like all of your time seems to be invested entirely into business school. This is a pretty accurate feeling. Even when you’re not in classes, extracurricular activities, networking or the other sundry opportunities presented, you’re going to want to hang out with the people in your class a lot. There areis likely to be people from all over the world, and from all walks of life; even if you’re an introvert (which is fine) you’re still going to have networking an opportunitiesy to meet and get to know a lot of new people.

The saying that you hear in some circles regarding the first year of business school: “Sleep, study, social. Choose two.” Again, this is not that much of an exaggeration. My best advice is that you try and balance the three as best you can. Choosing to only focus on two of those is going to leave a gaping hole in either your performance, your grades that recruiters see, or your networking and extracurricular activities. If you feel like you’re dropping behind in any of those areas actually pencil it in to your schedule, force yourself to do whatever it is you’re lagging on, because with all the demands of your time you’re not going to get it done otherwise.

Picking the right extracurricular activities and networking

Secondly, no matter what the size of the program, you are going to have plenty of extracurricular activities as options during your first year at business school. Balance these. You may consider the fact that a lot of councils, clubs, etc. may look great on a résumé, but do you have the time to invest in all of them? A good portion of the benefit from any club or activity comes from the effort you make with it, and as well as networking by meetingwith professionals who align with club interests. If you are spread so thin that you cannot make the commitment to make the most of the meetings or events for your extracurricular activities, consider being more selective. You will already be strapped for time, so my advice is to only work the clubs you are most passionate about. The same goes for activities that you enjoy outside of the MBA universe. You are not going to have a lot of time for them, so you are definitely going to have to put most of your interests on the backburner, and focus on the one or two you enjoy the most. You can always pick up on those activities you haven’t had much time for during breaks or between years as well. The take-home point here is to focus on quality not quantity in extracurricular activities and with your personal leisure activities as well.

So what is it like at the beginning of your first semester, and throughout those first few months and on to your first year? It’s like a tidal wave of stress, excitement, new friends, new activities, new skills, and new opportunities. It is tough but somehow not overwhelming; you don’t get overwhelmed by that wave, just carried to a new place. Business school isn’t transformative because of the classes, it is transformative because your entire environment is new, every experience you have is new, nearly 100% (or maybe actually 100%) of the people you see on a day day-to to-day basis will be new to you, you may be living in a new location, and it all surrounds you for 24 hours per day. I have a master’s degree, as well as a bachelor’s degree, and neither experience was like this, not even my first semester in undergrad. It has been the most amazing few months of my life thus far.