In the last couple weeks I’ve tried, with some success, to gauge the emotions of my classmates as the year winds down. The response was more varied than I had expected. Some students have seen this reprieve from work as relaxing, while others have described it as the most stressful time of their lives. Some have been satisfied with the job that this MBA has enabled them to get, while others are impressed with how much they learned in a relatively brief period of time. Universally, though, I’ve found that we collectively regard this experience as transformational. I can say from my own experience that I have been irreversibly changed by my time here, and I’m sure this echoes the feelings of my classmates.

It is said that there is no better teacher than experience, and I like to think that everything that’s happened to me in the last nine months has made me wiser. In some way, I wish I could impart what I’ve learned on a younger version of myself, and if I could, it might go something like this:

  • Do the ‘recommended’ readings. These are the ones that actually interest the professors, and knowing a little bit about them will make you sound smarter.
  • Go to as many Fuqua Fridays as you can. Some people might surprise you; the same guy who might seem surly during class may be a little bit more pleasant after a few beers and devoid of homework.
  • Though it’s hard to believe sometimes, business school is actually college, in a way. But if you treat it like undergrad, you’ll probably fall behind. Treat it like your job, and you’ll be alright. But enjoy being in college, too. For almost everyone, it’s your last chance.
  • Don’t treat Wednesday like a day off. If you do, chances are you’ll have most Wednesdays off during the summer, too. Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff that happens on Wednesday. Use it as an opportunity to attend symposiums and networking events.
  • Take some classes outside of Fuqua. You’ll meet some interesting people, and make yourself a better rounded student. They also have pretty good coffee and snacks in some of the other buildings.
  • Read part of a newspaper every day, whether it’s the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or something closer to home. I know everyone’s busy, and you already read enough as it is. But the world’s an interesting place; one might even say more interesting than an accounting text. And for all the hoopla about being prepared for technical interviews, understanding one’s environment will always be more important to recruiters.
  • Be persistent in your career search, but don’t be irritating. For some reason, people don’t like that. Be inquisitive when networking, but not for the sake of being inquisitive. These people have been in our shoes before, so they usually know when a question stems from genuine interest.
  • Make time for the people who are important to you. Whether that’s your friends or family, nothing you learn in business school, nor your career search, is as important as being happy, and it’s hard to do that if you’ve become distant from those closest to you. And try to be healthy, too. Sometimes business school is difficult, but it isn’t any better if you’re not feeling physically well.
  • Take a club or event and make it yours. For some reason, I think we’re wired to have a positive physical response when something we’re helming does well. Though I don’t understand the physiology behind it, I think it’s worth pursuing.
  • Do something international if you can. GATE or GCP can provide a great learning experience and an opportunity to bond with your classmates in a foreign country.