What I Learned in the First Semester of my MBA Program

By Jeremy Ferguson, MBA ’16

Has it really been two weeks since the first semester of classes ended? Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! Fun: did you ever think you would hear somebody describe an MBA program as “fun?”

I’ll admit there were times that I felt overwhelmed and would ask myself, “Why did I go back to school again?” I think everyone experiences that at some point in their transition into an MBA program. But what can you do to ensure you have the best experience? You have two years, and the clock starts ticking from the moment you step foot onto campus for Orientation. Make the most of it!

Take the time to get to know your classmates. In the Carroll MBA program, we are split into two cohorts/sections for the first semester. Particularly at school, we spend all of our time with the same 50 people all day, every day. But just because you have classes with the same people doesn’t mean you are truly getting to know your classmates. It takes effort. But trust me, putting forth that effort is worth it.

In the beginning, you may feel that you don’t have the time to attend social events. There were so many times that I tried to make excuses using homework, readings, or being too tired. I realized that while what you learn in class is beneficial, what you learn from your classmates can be even more insightful. Everyone in my class comes from a different background, and with that comes their diverse experiences. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from your classmates both inside and outside the classroom.

And one final note: your classmates can really help you make it through the first semester of classes. Put the effort into making friends, and it will pay off in the end when you’re celebrating the end with them.

Absorb as much as you can, but prioritize. It’s no secret to anyone that has researched MBA programs that you will be “thrown into the fire.” You will have so much information thrown at you in your first semester of classes, and it will be overwhelming. It took some time for me to realize that, between classes, homework, reading, social events, internship searching, and personal time, there was no way I could read everything assigned and be 100% prepared for classes each day. It’s obviously a great goal to strive for, but don’t stress yourself out over it!

My advice is to become a master at time management and organization. A daily routine for me is making a task list and prioritizing each item. And like I said before, don’t be afraid to make a social event a priority. Growing your network can be just as important as reading a few extra pages for class – after all, your post-MBA objective is to find a great job at a great company, right?

Slow down, relax, and reenergize. This is very, very important. It is so easy to burn out in the first few weeks. Each day, I make it a point to take at least 30 minutes to an hour to do something I enjoy. It’s amazing how much this can help clear your mind and give you the energy to finish those assignments for class. In my experience, not doing this and working straight through all day can actually be counter-productive.

Some suggestions: watch your favorite television series, cook a nice meal for yourself, or call your parents/best friend. They probably miss talking to you. Make it about you.