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4 Things I Wish I Knew About Business School Before Enrolling

Cliques, cool kids, and Fear Of Missing Out. Business school can be a lot like high school—just that the grades don't matter as much

By Andrea Coulis

After all the hard work you put into preparing for business school, you probably have some idealistic expectations about how all your hours of effort will pay off, and you may be surprised when they go unfulfilled.

I’m here to help you minimize the shock by cluing you into four things that would have been helpful to know before I started my business school program:

1. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real

I have always been the student who wants to do everything. Track and Field? Let’s do it! Debate team? Why not! French club? I don’t speak French, but sure!

That may have worked in high school, but I learned within the first few weeks of business school that spreading yourself too thin can prevent you from having the passionate, enriching experiences that develop after diving deep into just a few carefully-selected areas.

Given the amount of student-led organizations, university-wide events, social gatherings, and weekend trips with classmates, it is literally impossible to tackle it all. Your FOMO will undoubtedly kick in, but do your best to ignore it and be strategic about what activities and events most deserve your time.

Remember, everyone’s at business school for different reasons, so try to forge your own path and participate in what truly interests you and/or helps you fulfill your goals. Choose wisely because you’ll learn that time in business school is incredibly limited!

2. High school isn’t over

While some high school phenomena disappear after graduation, one tends to experience a rebirth during business school: cliques. Most business school cohorts are similar to high school graduation classes—large enough that groups begin to form, but small enough that everyone knows each other’s business.

Believe it or not, some people will try to use business school as their second chance at being one of the ‘cool kids’. My advice is to remember why you’re there in the first place. Are you spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a second chance at being popular, or are you making an investment to advance your career, learn about a specific industry, and make meaningful connections?

When you start to see high school repeating itself, it helps to do a reality check and remind yourself what your ultimate goals are.

3. Grades generally don’t mean much

Given you’ve had to go through undergrad, career experience, and applications (among other things) just to get to b-school, simply graduating is generally proof enough to employers that you’re able to handle an advanced academic course load. Employers generally do not consider MBA program grades to be meaningful, and a growing number of business schools actually prohibit grades from being reported externally.

With the pressure of grades off your shoulders, you’ll be free to spend your time challenging yourself and learning as much as possible. Instead of cleverly picking classes that you’ll be able to ace without too much effort in order to maintain a GPA, you’ll be free to delve into unfamiliar and intellectually stimulating classes, stretch your mind, and grow as much as possible during this experience without getting bogged down by tests and scores.

The knowledge you walk away with will be far more valuable and long-lasting than an A+ paper you can hang on your fridge.

4. You won’t be the smartest person in the room anymore—and that’s ok!

If you’re headed to one of the top business schools, odds are you’re used to being one of the smartest people in the room all the time and having people refer to you for your expertize on the regular.

After your first class, you might be completely blown away by the brilliance and success of your classmates, and you may start to doubt that you deserve to be there yourself. When those feelings start to crop up, remind yourself that odds are everyone around you is experiencing the same thing.

Most of your classmates are probably also used to being the gem among stones, and now that you’re all in one place together it can be hard to adjust. Instead of letting it blow your confidence, recognize the situation as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be surrounded by hundreds of people who can enlighten you, stretch your intellectual boundaries, and help you grow as a student, as a professional, and as a person.

Andrea Coulis is a senior tutor for MyGuru, a provider of online GMAT tutoring. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and an MBA from the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School.

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