Duke Weekend Executive MBA Student Blog
Nothing Stays the Same, Not Even in an MBA Program: Being Flexible & Trusting your Judgment are Keys to Success
If you are applying to business schools right now, you’ve probably written essays or spoken in interviews with some confidence about exactly why you want an MBA and what you plan to do with it. You also might have some idea of what you expect business school to be like and how you’re going to approach it. Whether you’re certain about your vision or not, the truth is that once you’re actually in school, it’s likely to change. Before you panic, let me assure you that this is okay, even expected. If business school doesn’t change you, doesn’t make you a better leader or a more inquisitive person, then what’s the point of the investment? After two full terms of experience, I can say that Fuqua’s Weekend Executive MBA program is optimally setup to drive that change.
In this program, you have the opportunity to enjoy some achievements, but you never have a stable environment for too long. For example, unlike some other MBA programs, you don’t stay with the same study team through the whole program. This gives you the opportunity (and the challenge) of bonding and working effectively with a new set of classmates during the second half of the program. The challenges of each term are also different from a content, workload, and complexity standpoint.
Getting Comfortable Outside of My Comfort Zone
Those of you who have attended Fuqua admissions events with current students or recent alumni may have heard about the infamous Term 2 (which ended for me in November). After Term 1’s two relatively qualitative courses, we are launched into a term with 3 mainly quantitative courses. It’s quite a big step up in terms of the volume and complexity of work, especially if math is a distant high school memory that was only recently dusted off for use in the GMAT, like it is for me. Of course, I had also heard all about Term 2 before I started the program, and I thought I was mentally prepared to take it on. What I didn’t anticipate was my emotional reaction to it once I got there.
Initially, all I could do was complain about how hard it was. The first few weeks were miserable for me, and I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But then, one of my teammates told me, “Michelle, if you keep focusing on how difficult it is, then it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, just do whatever you can do. Try your best, and let that be good enough.” I took his words to heart. Once I adjusted my attitude and started using the resources Fuqua provides, like my study team and the highly available professors, I started feeling and doing better.
When you’re in the thick of the term, it always feels as if everything is going way too fast. In the meantime, you still have your job, your family, and other commitments. Before starting at Fuqua, I had developed my list of priorities: school, job, family. However, I learned that this list has to be flexible, and the priorities will change constantly. The most critical thing I have learned is to trust my judgment on what is most important at any given moment. Sometimes I might decide that it is more important for me to relax with my husband than to catch up on my school reading or my work emails. This MBA program is more of a marathon than a sprint, which makes self-care key to avoiding burn out. I can tell you that I have never regretted making such decisions.
On the last day of classes for Term 2, the professors did a retrospective on all that we had learned. I realized that even as the time had zoomed by, I really had gained a lot of knowledge. My husband and friends observed that I act with more confidence in myself. I had also reached a comfort level with the rigorous Term 2 routine. But Fuqua doesn’t let you stay in this comfort zone for long. As I mentioned before, with Term 3 comes a new study team and a brand new set of challenges — my class just changed teams in mid-December. I’m still adjusting to some extent, but I know that with the tools I learned of maintaining an open perspective, being flexible, and trusting my judgment, I will meet these challenges and continue my growth throughout the rest of the program.