December 20, 2013 5:52 pm

The highs and lows of business school life

Johanna Singer

Throughout the year MBA students from schools around the world have been blogging about their business school experiences. From travelling to far-flung places, to studying into the small hours, to preparing for nerve-racking job interviews, the students have described the ups and downs of their lives on an MBA programme.

Linda Groarke, who began her programme with the Open University Business School almost a year ago has some timely advice for all those considering taking the MBA plunge. Be prepared for the vast amount of reading she warns. She points out that “There’s reading and there’s master level reading. Nodding off at night to the latest instalment from your favourite author is very different to critically reading, analysing and forming an opinion of the material you’ll find yourself reading on the course.”

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One student who anticipated that his workload would increase with his second year had a pleasant surprise. Derek Laan is doing a dual degree at Kelley School of Business and Sungkyunkwan Graduate School of Business. He is spending the second year of his programme at Kelley and has been delighted to discover that this year is going to be a little easier than his first – academically at least. But this has not been the experience of Veena Viswanathan, who is studying for an MBA at Insead’s Fontainebleau campus. For her the first term of her 10-month programme has been a whirlwind, so much so that she made a list of all things she used to enjoy that she has had to forego. Reading for pleasure, lychee martinis and “sleep, precious sleep” are all on the list.

But as Marco Biava at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business says, at least he now understands the true meaning of “intensive”. The “pace of learning, the quantity of material absorbed and the busyness of our daily lives have been much higher than I had ever expected,” he says.

Some of the intensity of any MBA programme comes from the pressure of the recruiting season. For Hammad Hussain and his fellow students at IMD the pressures have been intense. They increase when students are “dinged” – rejected by recruiters. Being dinged by a recruiter is a difficult experience he says, but he believes a necessary one if you wish to learn how to face adversity and deal with failure as a leader later.

But while many students turn up on campus each day suited and booted in preparation for their interviews, for others, such as blogger Johanna Singer at Columbia Business School, interviews will not take place until the spring. This difference in the recruiting timeline can be stressful she says. Her banker classmates will have their internship offers months before she even interviews and it is easy to feel one is falling behind and is merely an onlooker. But as she writes in her blog “It can be easy to forget that everyone is following a different path until the differences become visibly apparent and this should not be a cause for anxiety. If anything, additional stress only works as a distraction from one’s own career goals.”

Now with the holidays upon them the MBA bloggers have put their books to one side. Christine Cheng is enjoying some time in the city of lights away from her MBA programme at Essec before returning to her home to visit family and friends. She is however, already looking forward to the next phase of her MBA programme.

If you are a current MBA student and would like to blog about your business school life please email linda.anderson@ft.com
Happy Holidays!

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