At Boston College, the first year of the full-time MBA program is divided into four sessions. As soon as you can say “MBA orientation,” students hit the ground running with four classes that span a mere seven weeks. It is a semester’s worth of material condensed into a short time frame. Just as you are getting used to the professor and the curriculum, it’s already time for finals.
That’s right, finals. The word makes me shudder. Midterms. Homework. Citations. These are words that evoke painful memories from my high school and college days. Transitioning from the working world to taking finals within three months was an adjustment, that’s for sure. Instead of contemplating my next work vacation, I was now struggling to re-familiarize myself with my TI-83 calculator. I turned it on, now how do I turn it off? Great, the battery has corroded from seven years of neglect. It has to be an antique by now, right? Do I still have Tetris downloaded on here?
Looking back, it’s hard to believe it’s already been almost three months since orientation in late August, which was followed by a one-week class called Intro to Strategic Management. Before I knew it, I was taking Economics, Statistics, Accounting, and Managing People & Organizations. It was like drinking from the fire hose.
While adjusting to this rigorous class schedule, students are encouraged to begin searching for internships immediately. In addition to classwork, clubs, networking, and making new friends, we have the responsibility of staying on top of our job search. Fortunately Boston College has a fantastic Career Services department that is willing to help you every step of the way. With only 100 students in the first-year of program, this allows them to get to know you extremely well.
One of the pluses of the demanding seven-week session is the immediate bond I’ve forged with my classmates. It is a stressful time, however everyone is on the same boat, and looks out for one another to succeed. Many times I have witnessed students helping one another when they are struggling to understand a concept or a subject for an upcoming exam.
This period of time is intense, and there’s no way around it. Even if you consider yourself organized, it is a challenge to stay on top of your schedule. I am not the most organized person in the world, yet am a bit of a perfectionist, so as you can imagine, I struggled a bit at first.
What advice would I provide to someone about to enter the program? The adjustment period will take a few weeks. The sooner you accept that there will be a learning curve and a few bumps in the road, the better off you will be. There will be mistakes. You may underestimate how long a case will take, or you will not get to every problem set because you are exhausted. You may even (gasp!) revert to some old habits from your undergraduate days. I’ll admit it – I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day one week because I ran out of food and was too tired to go grocery shopping.
When all seems lost, take a walk. Seek advice from faculty or staff. They are more than willing to talk you through a difficult day and provide perspective. The key is in knowing that you will eventually get through this period of time with flying colors. You will be a lot better prepared for the second session having had the experience of the challenges of the seven weeks.
I am a good case in point. Now that I’m already into the second session, I can tell that I’m much better prepared to tackle the demands of new classes and even more classwork. My organization skills have improved dramatically. I’ve learned to cut out what isn’t vital from my schedule and focus on what absolutely has to be done and work backwards from there.
The best part of surviving the first seven weeks? Those strangers that I nervously sat with on the first day of orientation are now great friends of mine. Getting to see friendly faces every day makes the remaining journey much more manageable.