If you have started an MBA program this fall, congratulations! Your first year at business school is an exciting and transformative journey full of opportunities for growth, networking, and learning. To help you make the most of this crucial year, we’ve compiled some practical tips to guide you.
Goals and Priorities for Your First Year at Business School
Before you dive headlong into your first year, take some time to define your goals. What do you want to achieve during your time at business school? Whether gaining specific skills, building a professional network, or exploring entrepreneurial ventures, having clear objectives will keep you motivated and focused.
Network, Network, Network
Building relationships with your professors, classmates, and industry professionals is a cornerstone of MBA success. During your first year at business school, attend networking events, join student organizations, and participate in group projects. Networking isn’t just about who you know; it’s also about who knows you. Look beyond the usual suspects to connect with students outside your industry or background.
“Every time I go back to a reunion, I have great conversations with people I didn’t know well in business school,” says Stacy Blackman, an alum of Kellogg School of Management.
“I wish I had made more of an effort to break out of my obvious circles because it was such an incredibly diverse group of amazing people. And for me, it really is the people that are the lasting benefit of business school.”
Stay Open to New Experiences
Business school is a golden opportunity to broaden your horizons. Be open to trying new things, whether that means taking classes outside your comfort zone or exploring different career paths. Embrace diversity and new perspectives; you’ll learn a lot from your peers.
Former SBC client Nick joined the B-Schooled podcast to share his experiences applying to Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School. He ultimately chose HBS and, like many, had to overcome a bit of impostor syndrome when surrounded by people with such diverse and unusual backgrounds.
“Overall, the highlight of HBS for me is having the time and opportunity to meet people who are so different from you, who come from such different backgrounds… That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most,” Nick notes.
Even more than the incredible speakers, the exposure to new industries, and the Case Method, he says, “What will really stick with me is the time spent with really great people and talking about interesting things.”
Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #2: Interview with SBC and Harvard MBA Client Nick
Maximize Precious Resources
Your business school offers many resources to support your academic and career goals. Take advantage of career services, guest speakers, academic advising, and mentoring programs. These resources can help you make informed decisions and connect with opportunities.
“One of the big priorities for me when I was at Kellogg was attending as many speaker events as I could to soak up their messages and insights,” says SBC consultant/Kellogg MBA Beth, who was also the former director of full-time admissions at the Kellogg School of Management.
“I realized early on that by being at Kellogg, I had access that I was not going to have several years later. And so, I would make it a priority to attend different events to listen to really interesting senior people.”
Get Real-World Experience
Seek internships or part-time positions related to your career interests. Real-world experience can complement your classroom learning and make you more marketable to future employers. In addition, such experiences can also redirect you down surprising new paths.
“My entrepreneurial journey unfolded unexpectedly,” Stacy shared on an episode of the B-Schooled podcast. “I didn’t go to business school planning to start my own company—I was at Kellogg planning to go into brand management. During the summer, I did an internship at Pilsbury and was brand manager for the Haagen Daz ice cream brand. And at the end of the summer I was really dissatisfied with my experience and felt discouraged because what was I going to do next if I didn’t continue my intended path of brand management?”
Spoiler alert! She pivoted. Along with two classmates, Stacy created and sold a dotcom business during her second year and was forever smitten with entrepreneurial life.
Listen to B-Schooled Podcast #150: Business School and the Entrepreneurial Journey
Balance Work and Play
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of business school, but don’t forget to have fun too! Build friendships, attend social events, and explore your school’s local community. The memories you create outside the classroom are just as valuable.
While academics and networking are essential, remember to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, and make time for physical activity. A healthy body and mind are crucial for performing at your best.
“The truth is business school is drinking from a fire hose. There are too many things to be able to do everything by a long shot,” says SBC’s Chandler Arnold. “What’s most important is finding a balance that includes time to rest, sleep, and occasionally recharge.”
Enjoy the Journey
Finally, remember that your time at business school is a unique and enriching experience. Enjoy the journey, savor the moments, and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. Your first year is just the beginning of an exciting adventure in the world of business.
Your first year at business school is a time of growth, learning, and self-discovery. You can make the most of this transformative year by setting clear goals, managing time effectively, building a robust network, and embracing new experiences. With dedication and a positive mindset, you’ll succeed academically and thrive personally and professionally. So, go forth confidently and make your first year at business school the stepping stone to a bright future.
You’re in B-school now, but maybe you have a friend poised to embark on the MBA journey this season. Stacy Blackman Consulting can help! We offer multiple services to meet client needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Request a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team:
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