After a few unusually balmy days here in Michigan, we’re back to true January weather: 3-5 inches of snow coming today and wind that takes your breath away. As I sit here at the beginning of my second semester as a Broad MBA, I find it is fitting to look back on my first semester at Michigan State University.
The fall semester was incredibly busy; I took 17 credits, worked 25 hours per week outside of the University, and went through the fall internship recruiting process. Oh, and I’m married and have two children under the age of three at home as well. Coming into the program, everyone from current students to faculty and staff said the biggest challenge for us would be time management. This may have been truer for me than anyone else in my class, since no one else both has kids and worked an outside job. I don’t say that with any pride; every student in my class has had to adjust to life in a full-time MBA program. Given my somewhat unique perspective, though, I’d like to offer some things I’ve learned since the end of August.
- Don’t try to do this program without support.
The Full-Time MBA program at MSU is amazing, but intense. There will be many different demands on your time, mental and physical energy, finances, and more. Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, do not try to go through this program completely by yourself. Even if it’s a long-distance support system, make sure that you have someone who knows you, cares about you, and can understand what you’re going through, even if they have never experienced an MBA program themselves. If you aren’t married or don’t have a significant other, find a friend who can support you. At the very least, reach out to some of us who are currently in the program. We would love to help you through and be someone to whom you can go for advice, support, or even just to vent.
- Plan, Plan, Plan!
Time management, academic performance, and job searching, all require planning. Treat school like it’s your full-time job, because for the 21 months you’re in the program, it will be. You may finish class at 11:30 a.m. some days, and you won’t ever have scheduled classes on Friday. It can be tempting to take that time and relax, binge Netflix, or go out drinking. While it is important to unwind and such, I’d encourage you to commit to treating your time in the MBA program like a full-time job. Commit your schedule, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., to doing school work and classes. If you dedicate that time to school, I guarantee you’ll have time for other obligations and priorities, and you’ll be incredibly successful academically. Obviously, there will be times when group meetings, corporate info sessions, interviews, or other responsibilities will fall outside of that business day window. But if you dedicate that time to school work, the many demands you’ll have on you will be much easier to manage.
- Realize that not everything is equally important.
It is essential that you prioritize your responsibilities and obligations, especially in your first semester. You will be forced to make trade-offs because it is simply impossible to do 100% of the events, opportunities, and social gatherings you’ll have the chance to do while fulfilling your academic and job-search responsibilities. That’s okay! Focus on what is most important. For example, internship hunting (which begins as early as the second week of September!) can eat up a lot of your time. While it’s not easy, the fall recruiting season will be the easiest time to make connections and network for your internship. A lot of students in each class (around 50%) don’t find an internship until after January 1st, so it is certainly possible to secure employment if you don’t land a job in the Fall, but the process becomes much more self-driven after Thanksgiving. Of course, you need to maintain good grades and you’ve come to the program to learn, but there may be times when coursework must give way to job hunting, corporate info sessions, or interview prep. That’s okay, too. Rely on your team members and other people in the program to help you. To that end…
- Do whatever you can to gel and bond with your team members.
After my wife (who is incredible), the biggest help I’ve had at Broad has come from my team members. Whether its internship search advice, help with math (my background in quant ended in 2002), interview prep, or just helping each other stay organized, my team members and I work incredibly well together, and we pick up each other’s slack. They help me with Finance, and I help them with presentations (given my performing background). One of the biggest strengths of the Broad MBA is the collegiality you’ll find here. Use it to the best of your ability. It will make all the difference!
The 21 months you spend earning your MBA at the Broad College of Business will be one of the most brilliant, stressful, amazing, difficult, wonderful times of your life. There will be challenges and adjustments, but there will be unbelievably exciting experiences and incredible opportunities afforded to you. Despite the snow and the stress, I can’t wait to see what this 2nd semester brings, and I’m looking forward to learning and growing with my classmates for the remaining ¾ of the program. I am also looking forward to meeting you and working with you here at Broad. Choosing to earn your MBA here at MSU is something you will not regret. Go Green!