I remember one of the weirdest sensations of business school being that I was now a part of a 500+ group of grownups who were set and ready to make friends with one another like it was the first day of 5th grade. It was something I hadn’t been used to doing in many years having attended a large secondary school that fed from my elementary school, a college that pulled heavily from my high school, and an initial job that was located in the same geographical area I grew up. While I added handfuls of friends at each juncture, I had never done so in such a holistic and comprehensive manner.
Another related quirk about business school is the length of the timeframe. At just two years long, it’s one of the shorter graduate programs available and an undoubted reason the experience shapes up as it does. You spend a fleeting year with the outgoing class and another one with the incoming one, but the bulk of relationship building, memory making, and trip taking happens with classmates in your same graduating year.
As I think about how my time at Booth has shaped up, there is definitely an opportunity to compare and contrast each school year. Both have virtues that make them unique, and both have had challenges that required hard work, sacrifice, and a whole lot of hope. I hate to sound like I’m already drafting my sign-off as a student, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel (or is it darkness, for having to leave this place?) for me to consider a moment of reflection. What made each year great? And what made it different from the other?
First Year is a whirlwind, man. You show up in a brand new city, and unpack everything you own, or at least what could fit in your mom’s minivan. You pack your bags again within a few days and head off to a country with 15 total strangers, spending the next seven days sightseeing, bonding, and socially drinking with one another in the most elaborate icebreaker known to man.
You come back and think the fun is over and it’s time to get serious but following the icebreaker is the most elaborate orientation program you’ve ever been a part of. From trips to Lake Geneva to practice trust falls to a cohort competition featuring everything from dodgeball to ping pong, you’ve just started realizing how fun it is to get your MBA.
But of course as the saying goes, all good must come to an end. School starts and you’re suddenly juggling classes, clubs, recruiting, and this foreign concept known as TNDC. About three weeks ago you were eager to learn ‘general business skills’ and now you’re in coffee chats with investment bankers talking about how oil prices will impact the IPO market. You’ve decided this is still fun. Maybe not like the ‘pegging nerf balls at your classmates’ type of fun, but a more stressful, constructive type of fun.
Fast forward three months and you’re sitting in an interview room, convinced that you didn’t do enough case preparation and your behavioral/fit stories lack that certain flair. You’ve assured yourself that if you don’t get an internship, maybe your previous employer will still take you back. Tense days go by, and after seemingly every one of your friends has an offer, you get a call from the company that it turns out you were angling for all along.
Flush with your new found sense of confidence, you finish out an exciting year of firsts by taking an extravagant (and generously long) spring break trip, making the pilgrimage to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and even playing 36 holes at Whistling Straits after forgetting you signed up for the golf club in the fall.
As the final nightcap on an unforgettable first installment, you set off to work hard for 10 weeks (thankfully not too hard and thankfully not too long) at your internship, ready to come back with new ideas, new stories, and a new perspective on your Booth experience.
So what stands out about Year 2? Well, for starter’s it’s just awesome. You traveled around the world and strung together trips that’d make Anthony Bourdain blush. Maybe you dabble in more recruiting, but you’re at least familiar with the process now. You’re done with most degree requirements so you explore classes that interest you in ways you never considered. And, oh yeah, how’d we start this off in the first place? Your friends are all back and ready to make the most of your collective swan song!
So which one wins out? On first glance it’d seem like second year is the clear cut favorite. But you know what those first years who are sweating it out right now in the Career Services wing have that we don’t? A chance to run it all back come September. Man, I’m jealous.