MBA Journal: Tips From a New B-School Veteran

Courtesy UCLA Anderson School of Management


That was my first action upon handing in my final first-quarter midterm at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Minutes later, however, my mind was already racing with thoughts of recruiting and club leadership responsibilities. Such is the existence of an MBA student, yet the first word I use to describe the entire experience is simply “fun.” Amid this whirlwind of a first quarter, I’ve gathered three pieces of personal advice that I’d like to share with you all.

1. Time is your most valuable resource. Manage it accordingly.

Business school is a ubiquitous struggle to balance the demands of academics, recruiting, extracurricular activities, and socializing. At any given moment, there are a number of things you could or should be doing. Read a marketing case or attend a corporate presentation? Visit the professor’s office hours or go to happy hour? Volunteer at an elementary school or watch the Bruins beat the Trojans? The possibilities are practically limitless, which is both overwhelming and awesome. Just remember that each passing minute, you’ll never get back. So, prioritize what’s important to you despite the whims of the crowd. Break your habits and try new things. Make those minutes count.

2. Fight the temptation of comparison.

Bring together 350 ambitious and accomplished individuals, grade their academic achievements on a curve, and then have them compete with each other for a limited number of coveted professional positions. That’s the MBA in a nutshell. As a student, you’ll feel inclined to compare yourself to your classmates. While gauging yourself in relation to others is both natural and necessary for growth, I submit that a preoccupation with comparison can also be counterproductive and debilitating. Most MBA students are operating far outside their comfort zones. We’re all in the same boat. Embrace the uncertainty, absorb as much as possible from your peers, and don’t undervalue the knowledge and experience that you can contribute. As the saying goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” That’s the beauty of business school.

3. Maintain perspective.

Here is a counterintuitive statement about business school: It’s not that important. Clearly it’s a major investment that’s expected to yield positive dividends in career and in life. But it neither makes you smarter or better than the next person, nor does it unequivocally guarantee success. And those five points you missed on that exam most likely will not significantly alter the course of your life. I think it’s critical to a successful MBA experience that you maintain perspective and not take it, or yourself, too seriously. Be focused and responsible, but leave room for the spontaneous road trips, happy accidents, and moments that become stories told years later. And don’t forget to call your parents.

Between journal entries, you can keep track of Gregory’s business school adventures at the Business Schools Facebook page. Follow the Bloomberg Businessweek B-Schools team on Twitter.

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