Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog
Reflection on the Completion of Fall Term 1
Greetings, and I hope you are well!
This is my first post and I’d like to start with a word of encouragement. You are most likely in some part of the MBA application process—deciding where to apply or go, what to write your essays about, studying for the GMAT, etc. As I was applying last year I didn’t appreciate the difficulty nor the length of the MBA admissions process. To those of you in its throes, good luck. You’re going to do a great job with it. You’re not going to be perfect, but if your process is right, you’ll be happy with the results.
I have a tradition. Immediately after my last exam in a term, I go to the bookstore and buy a book which is light, fun, and as far as possible from my academic work. My senior year of college I spent time with Christ Onstad’s The Great Outdoor Fight, a comic book. At the end of Global Institute (the initial term in August for first-year Fuquans), I got Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic, an illustrated volume of poems for kids of all ages. Recently, I bought the classic Calvin and Hobbes book of comic strips, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes.
It is important to schedule a time to reflect. As I explained, my way of beginning this process is with some stimulation from a mode of thinking that you would not find in the standard business school curriculum. I love what I am learning at Fuqua, but no one here wants to forget about the interesting things outside of business.
Here are some of my reflections which I hope are helpful for you as you continue along the application process:
I knew that life in business school would be busy. In perhaps a bit of overconfidence, I thought that because I had worked in some very rigorous jobs with long hours before coming to school, it would not be that busy for me. How wrong I was!
You are pulled in many directions. You are always trying to balance individual studying, team-based work, recruiting, club activities, and then have enough time left over to take care of yourself with exercise, healthy eating, and a social life.
Everyone is profoundly busy, and if you’re not, you’re probably not taking advantage of all this place has to offer.
During the recruiting process there is a real focus on the idea that you should know what you want to do on the back-end of business school. There are two truths relating to this. Number one—everyone knows kind of what they want to do. And number two—few know exactly what they want to do.
And this is how it should be. There are so many interesting and worthy ways to spend your time during b-school that you have to be able to pare down those options into a manageable set. This seems to me the biggest reason to delay going to business school. However this is a chance to develop a specialty, and you cannot do so if you don’t know how to invest your time wisely in discovering what that is.
I have been surprised how early this process starts for banking and consulting. I went to my first presentation the first week of September. I have been to 20-plus events including presentations, coffee chats, office hours with potential employers, and sessions with professional clubs to prepare you for the interviewing process. In a vacuum, one would not design a system that starts so early. It is, however, the world in which we live.
Also, it is interesting how much better you get at the actual process of recruiting with practice. It is intimidating at first, but know everyone else is struggling with it too.
This is a place where you can embrace risk a little more than you can in your career. For instance, if you want to try out a new delivery style in our communications class, great! If you want to try to start a new venture, go for it!
People assume that you are working as hard as you can here, and so there is a high-degree of forgiveness if you don’t knock everything out of the park. I would argue that if every single thing you do, you do at the highest level, you might not be challenging yourself enough. Your classmates, faculty, and administration want you to dare to do great things. The emphasis is on intent and process, not solely results.
It is easy to claim that your school has a collaborative culture. I think it is much more difficult to actually walk-the-walk. I have been consistently impressed by how collaborative and helpful everyone is here. There is a sense that we all win together. I very much appreciate that.
Our faculty here is fantastic. At Fuqua our terms are only six weeks long. I think this structure allows the professor to stay very concentrated on just serving as an instructor during that time, and the university then leaves them many weeks outside of that term to focus on research. I have loved my professors so far through the first two terms.
Instructional highlights include:
- Our stats professor, Alex Belloni, throwing bags of M&Ms candy to the entire class for a classroom exercise in sampling.
- Our accounting professor, Rahul Vashishta, structuring our final review session as a version of the game show Jeopardy.
- Our Leadership, Ethics and Organizations course professor, Grainne Fitzsimmons, using surveys conducted on all of us to illustrate concepts in social psychology.
- Our economics professor, Ryan McDevitt, setting up a trading simulation to mimic OPEC and the difficulties of collusion in the marketplace.
It has been a great first term. I hope these thoughts have been useful to you. Please let me know if you have any other questions, and I wish you the best of luck as you explore your MBA options.