A Day in the Life of a First-Year MBA

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What does the typical day of an MBA student look like? That’s one of the biggest questions I had as I was preparing to enroll at Fuqua. I had heard snippets from current and past students about what types of activities they were involved in, but I still wasn’t entirely sure how a full day would be. Would I be in a team room most of the day? How much time would be spent networking? What time commitment do classes require?

As I’m preparing to return for my second year at Fuqua, I have a much better understanding of what to expect each day. However, that doesn’t mean that every day is the same – in fact, far from it. The biggest differences I’ve noticed occur from term to term as changes in activities and priorities shift depending on the time of year. For example, in my experience, Fall Term I had a heavier academic focus, and Fall Term II was shifted more to recruiting. Spring Term I allowed me to devote more time to my family and social activities, and Spring Term II was focused on leadership as the mantle for club leadership and Fellow positions shifted from second-year to first-year students. For that reason, I think it’s most helpful to read a variety of “Day in the Life” articles from various students at different times of the year, to better get a sense of what to expect when you arrive.

Here’s what a Tuesday in Spring II looked like for me as a first-year student:

7:15 a.m. – Wake up and get ready for the day. My two-year-old daughter normally gets up around this time too, so I’m able to help get her ready. Like most days, I make breakfast for the family (today is a green smoothie), say goodbye to the wife and kid, and drive to Duke.

8:30 a.m. – I head to the library. I spend the morning responding to emails about group projects and club involvement. I also glance over the case for my Emerging Markets class, to remind myself of the main points of it before class starts. Although I have until Thursday before my other class assignments are due, I also spend this time working on a case for my Decision Models class in preparation for a team meeting later in the day.

IMG_503110:15 a.m. – Before going to class, I swing by the Admissions lounge to pick up prospective students who are interested in observing a class. First-year students play an important role in the admissions process, by giving campus tours, hosting class visits, serving on Q&A panels, and volunteering at the two Blue Devil Weekends. For prospective students, being able to visit Fuqua and sit in on a live class is an invaluable opportunity to see what an MBA class is like, and determine if Fuqua is the right fit.

10:30 a.m. – Emerging Market Strategy. On Tuesdays and Fridays I only have this class, whereas on Monday and Thursday I have two (Marketing Strategy and Decision Models). In this class session we discuss a case about Vale, a Brazilian diversified metals and mining corporation, and the challenges they recently experienced due to their distance from the Asian market. We also get into a very interesting discussion about the socio-economic trends in China and Brazil, Brazilian politics, and corruption. The class is particularly insightful because it includes a number of students from Brazil. It’s like this for every class. Typically there are multiple students from the country where the case originates — or sometimes even students who know first-hand knowledge about the company — giving additional insights that we might not have considered based on the case materials alone. As an American citizen, I’m definitely in the minority in this class.

12:45 p.m. – I heat some lunch (left-overs from a delicious dinner the night before) and meet up with the other co-president and vice-president of the Latter-day Saint Student Association. All of the club leadership positions are in the process of switching from second-year to first-year students, so this is our kick-off meeting to discuss our goals, plans, budget, and calendar for the upcoming year. Tomorrow we will have a meeting with all of the other club presidents and MBAA cabinet to learn more about our roles in the upcoming year.

2:00 p.m. – Work on Decision Models case. We have our first major case for the class due on Thursday, using decision trees to make a recommendation to a hypothetical client company about whether or not they should sue a competitor or settle out of court. All three of my teammates have prepared beforehand, so we are able to dive right into the analysis stage by weighing the pros and cons of each option and determining where our information might be inaccurate and how that would impact our recommendation. We don’t finish creating the entire PowerPoint presentation, but we assign roles to finish the assignment by our deadline. From here on out, we’ll coordinate through email.

4:30 p.m. – Get home. I’ve made it a goal to be home for dinner, whenever possible. Although there have been some weeks and terms where it’s been much harder to get home for dinner every night, so far the spring has had fewer evening time commitments which means I’m usually home. It’s always nice to walk in the door and hear my daughter shout “Daddy!” as she runs to give me a hug. We spend some time playing together in her room and then the three of us eat the delicious dinner my wife Kelsey prepared. She does an amazing job of holding down the fort, staying active as a co-President of the Fuqua Families club, and supporting me while we’re on this adventure together. After dinner, Kelsey leaves for an event with other friends from Fuqua Partners. I get our daughter ready for bed, do dishes, and clean up.

8:15 p.m. – Call with my Fuqua Buddy. All admitted Fuqua students are assigned a current first-year student as their Fuqua Buddy, who serves as a resource to answer questions and help them make the transition to Duke. With the recent Round 2 admits, I received two buddies to contact, and had set up a phone call with one of them. On the call I answer questions about life as a first-year student and how I made the move across the country last summer.

8:45 p.m. – Homework and preparing for the next day. Even though there are no classes on Wednesdays, it’s often the busiest day of the week, so I try to get as much homework out of the way tonight as possible. I read a few cases and do some practice problems for my classes that are held later in the week. Applications for Admissions Fellows (who help with the admissions process as second-year students  — primarily by conducting interviews) are due in a few days, so I complete that application. I respond to a few emails and call it a night around 1 a.m.

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Trevor McKinnon

Daytime MBA, Class of 2015

Born in the US, I spent most of my childhood living in London before returning stateside to attend Brigham Young University. As a marketing consultant I helped clients execute campaigns that fit their brand and found that Fuqua is a great fit for me, my wife and our young daughter.

Learn more about Trevor | View all of Trevor's Posts

  • Nivedita Bhawani

    Hi Trevor

    Your blogs are really insightful and positive.
    While your blogs widely answered many questions I had in my mind regarding the MBA program at Fuqua School Of Business some of them have also stirred some new ones.

    I would really appreciate if i could find a mode to share them.

    regards
    Nivedita

    • Trevor McKinnon

      Hi Nivedita,

      I’m glad that we were able to recently connect offline and that you were able to get in touch with some of the other club members that are aligned with your career aspirations. Good luck getting ready for b-school and keep us updated on how we can help.