Like many others, I spent a lot of time while applying to business schools talking to current MBA students and alumni. I talked to them about all sorts of different topics and got many differing opinions throughout my conversations. That said, there was one thing that literally every one of them told me at some point or another during our conversation, “You better have all of your priorities straight because the experience will fly by and you will be overwhelmed by the amount of different opportunities.” I didn’t really understand what this meant. As a very busy young professional, I couldn’t imagine quite how different MBA life would be from working life. I mean, I had gone to undergrad and had been a student before; how different could graduate school be?
The reality is that student life as a grad student is incredibly different from undergrad. What really caught me off guard was how much I had forgotten what being a student was like during my first few years of work. I had become a “one-track” person during my first few years out of school. While I could think about many different things throughout the day, I had gotten good at concentrating on one thing at a time for several hours before switching to the next. I had a clear division between work priorities and home priorities. A typical day during my professional life would be to leave my apartment around 6 am, drive to work, maybe get a workout in beforehand, and then get home around 6:30/7pm. When I got home, I would have dinner with my wife or have some plans with friends, and then the next day would be the same. In comparison, here is what a typical Monday looked like for me this quarter (and this is during COVID when social plans are minimized…):
- 7:30 am: Wake Up
- 8 – 9 am: Read a case for Corporation Finance
- 9 – 10 am: 1Y Resume Reviews
- 10 – 10:30 am: Booth Coffee Club Co-Chair Meeting
- 10:30 – 11:30 am: Reading time to catch up on classes
- 11:30 – 1 pm: Workout and Lunch (or Lunch and Learn with a Speaker)
- 1 – 2 pm: Watch Pre-recorded Lectures for Managerial Decision Making
- 2 – 3 pm: Meet with my Corporation Finance Group
- 3 – 4:30 pm: Managerial Decision Making Lecture
- 5 – 6 pm: Talk with prospective students or 1Ys about recruiting
- 6 – 9 pm: Dinner – extra time if were eating (socially distant) with others
- 9 – 10 pm: Read Competitive Strategy Cases
The point is, days are much more modular as a student again and getting used to this can be stressful. Add in social events almost every day (in non-COVID times), case competitions, speakers or recruiting events during lunch and the evening and I could be focusing on over 10 different things every day. The key to getting used to this for me has been to have an up-to-date calendar and a solid to-do list. On top of that, prioritizing what you want to use your MBA experience to accomplish is important (tradeoffs between recruiting, social life, and class for example). So, without trying to sound cliché, like the many people I spoke to while I was researching my MBA, make sure you prioritize what you want to do and how you want to do it, because the experience will blow by.