As many of you know, I relocated to Washington D.C. to earn a graduate degree in business (MBA). I have had many people recently ask me, “What do you do for a job?”
Being a first year MBA student is my full-time job. I did not anticipate business school to be such a fast-paced environment, and I’ve struggled to find time for my creative pursuits. I miss writing on a daily basis, researching content for my posts, shooting with talented photographers, and developing my new business plan.
The hardest part of going back to school, for me, has been achieving a school-life balance. In most jobs, you can leave most obligations at the door, check out on the weekend, and revisit unfinished business Monday morning. With school, assignments and exams are always lingering. I studied advertising and theatre at the University of Georgia, where I never had to take a math class beyond Math 101. The classes were all subjects I was passionate about, which made excelling in class practically effortless. But now, I have to do extra leg work and preparation before class, just to make sure I don’t look like a deer in headlights when the professor starts lecturing about how to find the covariance of a bivariate probability distribution.
After college, I worked as a branding and marketing consultant for a start-up, and had a few small jobs before being hired by Blackhall Studios to help build a new brand and company. The common thread among my differing experiences was that they fed my desire and inspired me to build my own company. However, how could I start my own company if I didn’t know how to finance it, manage it, or know what legal components are vital to a successful operation?
No matter what background you come from, or what job titles you’ve held, business school is going to be a challenge. It is designed to train you to be knowledgeable in all areas of business and prepare you to juggle hundreds of moving pieces and projects simultaneously, all while establishing the required relationships and network necessary for future success.
People looked at me like I was CRAZY when I told them I wanted to go back to get my MBA. I got; “How do you know you will like it if you have never taken a business class?” and “You have a great job now, why would you go back to school?”
I have learned so much over the past few months and can’t wait to share this in the near future, including the advice I wish I’d received before starting.
I surveyed my MBA class for some advice for anyone interested in getting their MBA degree!
The top two responses are best summed up as:
Just don’t do it.
Do not go back to school if you don’t know what you want to do; an MBA is a major time and financial commitment.
If my classmates initial advice does not scare you, then keep reading for some practical advice.
Start studying for the GMAT or the GRE now!
Don’t let your test scores be the reason you don’t get into your dream school. There are plenty of resources on the internet to prepare for these exams.
Spend time on your applications.
MBA programs are competitive, and admissions strive to select a diverse and unique cohort. Show admissions how you’re different and what you bring to the table.
Pick a school that is right for you!
I chose my MBA program because it had a global business focus, leadership development courses, smaller classes, and offered the kind of international learning experiences that truly spoke to me. Next semester we are traveling to Dubai on a consulting project!
Accept that you will be MIA.
Warn family, friends, and significant others that you’ll be less communicative. The majority of your text messages will be with classmates about projects, coursework, and exams.
You will be a grown adult on a college student budget.
Full-time MBA programs leave very little time for outside commitments such as work! If you must have an income, make sure you can work remotely. Some students bartend on the weekends or hold jobs on campus to offset living expenses.
Time Management is crucial!
If you get behind, you will never recover. Keep up to date on daily readings, assignments, and group projects. A huge part of being successful in graduate school relies on your ability to read, absorb, and teach yourself the material. Class is more of a time to discuss topics in further detail, and connect key concepts to the business world.
Keep a calendar with tests, projects, study sessions, and homework assignments. Use to-do lists to make sure you accomplish everything you need to get done each day. Unlike a job, you can’t push assignments to the next day.
You will have to “suit up” for class.
Business school requires you to dress the part for presentations, weekly networking events, office visits, and consulting projects.
Pick a solid team.
Business school is all about team projects. During orientation, try to get to know everyone and begin mapping out potential people to work with. You will be stuck with your team for months, so make sure you have the same goals, and set ground rules for meetings, deliverables, and presentations.
Embrace fear of missing out (FOMO), it’s your life now.
You will work through most weekends, feeling guilty about taking an entire Saturday off. Instagram is a depressing platform, where you’ll watch all your friends from home cheering on the Dawgs (UGA girl here) and celebrating together, while you’re stuck inside trying to reconcile why your assets don’t equal your liabilities and stockholders’ equity.
Direct quote: “Find the cutest girl (or boy) in the class to study with."
I highly suggest picking a friend to study with that will help hold you accountable for your work.
Midterms - kiss your social life goodbye.
Be prepared to reconcile over 2,000 pages of readings. When you think you’re finally done, your professor might provide additional study materials that you have never seen before…48 hours before the exam. I haven’t made it to finals yet, so I expect I’ll have more advice for you potential MBA students in the future!
I want to end my article with a quote from Emily (@emilyjphipps), a student in my cohort. She explains it perfectly; “Feel pulled in a million directions? Feel like the president one minute and like you need to retake high school the next? Decide why you’re here and remember it. Be friends with people that want you to be healthy. Drink responsibly and just say yes to therapy. The end game is your betterment, not your perfection."