One of my biggest regrets about my life at ISB, my alma mater, is I didn’t use all the resources at ISB the way I should have or rather the way I had planned to.
The moment I stepped into the hallowed portals of the school, I got caught in the frenzy of classes, scores and grades. I was surrounded with brilliant people. I was taking classes taught by brilliant professors. And of course, there was the cold calling that scared the jeepers out of me. Enough to keep me awake, pulling all-nighters, trying to cope with the pressure.
Despite all this, I continued to fare badly at academics. It soon turned into a vicious circle. The more I spent time with my books, the more my grades went south. Because I came from a highly-specialized IT background, my thought process and in turn my ability to understand new concepts had become siloed. My undergraduate and postgraduate subjects were vastly different from the ones taught at my business school, all of which further made it difficult for me to quickly comprehend the courses. Furthermore, a one year MBA programme, unlike its two-year sibling, is hugely demanding. Before you know, you have moved from core terms to electives to doing some live projects in between, to finally your graduation day.
Looking back, I can see where I went wrong and what I could have done right.
Here are few suggestions for you as you prepare for your BSchool journey –
Take up a pre-work course
If you don’t have an accounting or finance background, consider taking a primer course on these subjects. You can subscribe to free online video based courses or you could look up other online resources. However, the sheer volume of such resources could quickly become overwhelming. Most business schools offer a pre-work course, sufficient for you to understand the basics of subjects such as finance, marketing, statistics and more.
Don’t let GPA become your sole focus
Unless you are planning to apply to the top 3 management consulting firms. A decent GPA (3.0 and above on a scale of 4) should suffice. Most companies that come for campus hire assess you on a holistic level which include your work experience and your ability to do well in the role they are scouting for. Focus on sharpening your knowledge as well as communication and networking skills.
Participate in the campus events
Make time to actively participate in club activities and campus events. Student life is as it is tough with loads of assignments, class tests and mid- and end-of-semester exams. Whilst it’s important to unwind, resist the urge to do this too frequently or else you’ll end up missing out on some great opportunities to know your batchmates and to learn about interesting things such as emerging industry trends from guest speakers who are mostly industry stalwarts.
Acknowledge and manage your introversion
Nobody ever complains about a dull moment during life at a business school. You’ll be hopping alternately between class participation, group assignments, exam preparations and parties. Everything at business school is designed to maximize your interactions with your peers. For introverts, this may be discomfiting, particularly during classroom sessions where you’re graded for both asking questions and responding when called out by professors. An introvert myself, I used to take time to understand what was being taught which naturally meant I wasn’t fast enough when it came to responding during class participation. I was also highly reluctant to make my presence felt for the sake of grades. But as mentioned earlier, business schools are designed to encourage conversations and exchanges and as such, what may seem overwhelming for introverts, are in fact hugely appealing for their outgoing peers. Should one therefore, pretend to be an extrovert to do well during your MBA? Clearly, there are no right or wrong answers because it depends on individual preferences. But it’s important to remember the one or two years spent at a business school would only form a short phase of your life. Make the most of it. Talk to as many people as you can. Go beyond your study groups or roommates or quad mates. Expand your network. In due course, you’ll find people with shared interests, individuals you’d enjoy hanging out with.
Get out of your comfort zone, every once in a while
If you want to do public speaking or test your newly acquired marketing skills to solve a business situation but are too shy to try, then remember it’s good to push your boundaries. How else will we grow? Do something that makes you uncomfortable, set new goals for yourself. You’ll feel great when you accomplish them.
Beyond the recommended
Finally, keep an open mind. Go beyond recommended books or reading list. Instead pay attention to books mentioned by professors in passing. Some of the finest books are those not necessarily part of the curriculum but may rank high on influence quotient, shaping your thoughts to help you become a fine business leader.