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Biggest MBA Regrets Of The Class Of 2018

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Biggest MBA Regrets Of The Class Of 2018  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Oct 2019, 01:31
Aloha folks!
Note: This is not written by me (I am a 2020 Grad!) but someone shared it with me and I felt like posting!

Biggest MBA Regrets Of The Class Of 2018

Graduation weekend is a time for reflection – just not regret. As the Class of 2018 gathers to celebrate their experience and share their goodbyes, who wants to dwell on mistakes? This weekend, the message is don’t look back, seize the day, and live in the now. The graduates have made it – and the future is now theirs.

Well, this story is not for them.

Instead, it is for the Class of 2020 – whether they’re breathless and wary or starry-eyed and ambitious. Today, these incoming first years are tying up loose ends and making plans. Come August, most will be in a new town with no income, sitting alongside strangers in classrooms they left long ago. They think they know what’s in store…but they’re really don’t. They all have plans too. As they’ll soon learn, those intentions are only as good as their options.


The MBA experience, as the saying goes, is like drinking from a firehose. There is more opportunity than capacity. It is an exercise in knowing what to leave in and what to leave out – and in what amounts. Problem is, many MBAs struggle to find this balance until second year.

That’s why Poets&Quants looked to the Class of 2018 for their advice. As part of P&Q’s annual Best & Brightest MBAs storyline, we pulled the most insightful responses to the question: “What was your biggest regret during business school?” Sure enough, the regrets were both timeless…and sometimes unexpected.

FOMO – a popular acronym that stands for “Fear of Missing Out” – may as well been devised by an MBA candidate. It reflects the temptation to try everything in business school. Barraged by clubs, recruiters, trips, and classes, many first years spread themselves thin. Worried they may lose out on life-changing opportunities or contacts, they choose breadth over depth. In the process, says Arizona State’s Rachel Curtis, they give equal importance to everything. For her, the better strategy is slowing down to decide what’s truly important sooner.

In other words, business school flips the script. To lay the groundwork for business school, most first-year had continuously answered “Yes” to opportunities to sharpen the skills and build their track records. To succeed in business school, many had to learn to say “no” to better protect their time to focus on what truly mattered.


“There are so many clubs, activities, and events going on in business school that it’s extremely easy to overburden your calendar,” admits Bennet Hayes, a professional poker player turned consultant at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. “This breadth of options is precisely what made the last two years so special, but if you aren’t prepared to decline certain opportunities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or miss out on other, more meaningful offerings. I think it took me more than a year to figure out that it was okay to say no to certain opportunities in an effort to get the most out of my time at Owen.”

How would the Best & Brightest advise the incoming class to cope? Melissa Young, a Facebook hire from the University of Washington, urges future students to practice “ruthless prioritization.” Chen Song, who earned her MBA at U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, suggests leaving more “blank space” on their calendars so they can better “go with the flow and let spontaneous fun happen.” In contrast, IMD’s Valeria Cuevas would better pick-and-choose which tasks get her full effort. “With time, I learned that the amount of workload makes it impossible for any normal human being to excel at every assignment,” she confesses.

That’s advice that UCLA’s Melody Akbari wishes she had heeded. Like many, she endured heavy stress levels at times. Looking back, Akbari considers it a process that every MBA must experience for themselves. “I believe it’s a rite of passage to go through that river of stress and come out the other side soaking and wet, knowing you didn’t have to cross it so quickly, or so abruptly,” she argues. “And yet, no matter how much every second year and every administrator explains there’s no reason to stress so much, as MBA students, being the intelligent and mostly type A character that we are, I don’t know if the cycle of unnecessary stress will ever be perfectly broken.”


Alas, this stress comes with real consequences. Just ask Tyler Whitsett, a Kelley grad who is ticketed to Procter & Gamble. He describes his first semester as so intense that it created a “B-School Bubble,” where networking and studying became his life instead of just a part of it. Soon enough, it took a toll on his health and relationships outside the bubble – one that compelled him to work with Kelley coaches to develop a plan that focused on his long-term well-being.

“I fell into unhealthy eating and sleeping habits and constantly de-prioritized relationships family and friends,” he acknowledges. “It wasn’t until spring break that I was able to “come up for air” and realized how far off track I really was from living the life that I wanted. Not only had my personal health deteriorated, but some of the relationships that I had built had been strained to the breaking point.”

Maintaining relationships outside the ‘bubble’ was also a saving grace for Ivey’s Jay Kiew. His biggest regret? Not calling his mother or fiancée more often. That said, his hectic schedule produced a positive that he didn’t anticipate “They’ve done a great job of hanging out together without me!”


The MBA experience is designed to encourage students to hang out, to exchange ideas and partner together to make them happen. When she arrived at Kellogg, Kathryn Bernell followed the herd to the large events, where she quickly found herself lost and alone. That led her to adopt more guerrilla network tactics to forge deeper bonds with classmates. “This year, I have focused my time and energy on ‘high impact’ events; the small group dinners, impromptu trips, or coffee chats that allow me to get the most out of my time with peers.”

Across town at Booth, Jonathan Osser, an actor who became a talent manager, made the fateful decision to stay around Chicago instead of shuffling off with his peers. Looking back, he believes the return in relationships and knowledge far exceeded the investment in time and money. “Being in a heavily international program, students are constantly leading “treks” back home, allowing students to come with, often visiting their families and home towns,” he observes. “Opportunities to travel with such immersion are rare, and the select experiences I’ve had doing so have surpassed any potential organized travel organization’s ability to provide an authentic experience.”

Networking and traveling weren’t the only seminal experiences that the Class of 2018 regrets missing. At the Darden School of Business, the workload for the core classes ranks among the heaviest in the world. That’s one reason why Catherine Aranda devoted her time to academics. The tradeoff, she says, was missing out on applying what she’d been learning to case competitions. That’s not to say classes weren’t important. If Rodrigo Studart could do his two years at Booth over again, he wouldn’t have been afraid to participate in class earlier. Turns out, Aranda and Studart shared many of the same fears.

“I thought people would judge me for eventually making small mistakes or not providing the correct answer,” Studart notes. “Later on, I realized how Booth is a safe environment and how MBA is the perfect time for taking risks and making any kind of mistakes.”


Such risk-taking can also take the form of the classes selected. At Stanford, Sarah Anne Hinkfuss pursued courses within the Graduate School of Business. It wasn’t until she ventured into a design class that she realized the relevance of coursework at schools “across the street.” “I would’ve also enjoyed stretching myself in computer science classes, at the law school, or nurturing my Spanish or Arabic language skills,” she laments. “I always figured I was too busy and wanted to get the most out of the GSB, but I overlooked the value of the broader context at Stanford!”

That context extends beyond courses and clubs too. Devin Underhill was wildly successful at Darden. An admissions dynamo and member of the academic honor society, Underhill landed a dream consulting job at the Boston Consulting Group. On paper, Underhill had achieved his mission. Despite his achievements, he still can’t let go of the opportunity he let pass by him: Starting a business.

Admittedly “risk-averse,” Underhill sounds a common refrain among the Best & Brightest: There is no better time or place to take risks than business school – especially for launching new ventures. That sentiment is shared by the University of Minnesota’s Ashley Ver Burg Soukup, a case competition standout. “There are so many resources available to student entrepreneurs, and being in school is the safest time to fail,” she observes.


Then again, it helps to be in school to fail. That was the lesson learned by Emory’s Alex McNair. The president of three clubs at Emory, McNair wasn’t immune to the “senioritis” that “kicks in HARD” after landing a job offer. While McNair hardly slacked during his second year, he arranged his class schedule to better take advantage of certain luxuries – a decision he regrets in hindsight. “While it is nice to wake up, watch the Today Show, and leave my apartment for the first time at noon every day, I also missed out on some things with my classmates by only having my classes stacked two days a week.”

If you polled the Best & Brightest on their biggest regret, they would undeniably say that they wished that they’d spent more time with their classmates. In fact, Stanford’s Samanthe Tiver Belander and HEC Paris’ Priya-Darshinee Ramkissoon even use the same phrase to sum up their misstep: They regret not “putting myself out there more.”

In Belander’s case, she had chosen class work and “fitting in to be myself fully” as her priorities. For Ramkissoon, it was more force of habit. “I naturally tend to maintain a small circle of friends, a default attitude I reverted to upon arriving at HEC Paris,” she says. “However, I found I got to know a few classmates really well much later in the MBA, many of whom have turned out to be very close friends as well.”

Of course, the Class of 2020 can’t expect to come away with hundreds of new friends. Still, the nature of the business school – with cohorts rich in diverse backgrounds – makes regret about not knowing classmates better sting all the more. “At 330 people, Saïd Business School’s cohort is relatively small compared to other schools,” says Oxford’s Elly Brown, “but it is still more people than you can get to know well in a year. Even as my time draws to a close, I am still striking up new conversations with classmates that reveal hidden talents and characters, and it makes me wonder what other stories I won’t get the time to uncover.”


The Class of 2018 doesn’t just regret not missing out on classmates. Many feel the same about faculty too. “I was so overwhelmed by the incredible backgrounds my peers had that I didn’t stop to appreciate the wonderful work my professors were doing,” adds Yale SOM’s Heather Harrison. “If I could do it again, I would have been more persistent about attending their office hours and dropping by to ask them about their research and opinions.”

That’s not to say every member of the class would do things differently. Michael Provenzano, a salesman par excellence at Carnegie Mellon, graduates with no regrets whatsoever. “This may sound pretentious, but I honestly don’t have [any regrets],” he states. “I’ve stuck to my core goals and the Tepper School was flexible enough to accommodate them. Coming to Tepper was the best decision of my life.”

Looking ahead, perhaps the Class of 2020 can take a cue from Emory’s JP Ortiz, who views his MBA experience holistically. “There are so many more classes that I would have liked to have taken, trips that I would like to go on, people to spend time with. Time flies when you’re having fun, so enjoy it!”
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Biggest MBA Regrets Of The Class Of 2018   [#permalink] 17 Oct 2019, 01:31
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