Much has changed since I arrived in Ithaca five months ago to attend the Cornell MBA program at the Johnson Graduate School of Management. Instead of the standard question, “how are you doing?” friends and family nowadays handily default to, “how is business school going?”
Sometimes I am not sure how to answer since the Cornell community, both academically and socially, have engulfed much of my life. Are they asking who my friends are, what extracurricular activities I am involved in, when I have any free time to do non-academic activities, where my career interests lie, or how classes are going? Perhaps they are asking about how being in a small town like Ithaca has affected my MBA experience. Regardless, it has caused me to reflect.
Since I believe that life is full of lessons, here is a list of the five most important lessons I learned during my first semester in the Cornell MBA:
- Professors are truly invested in your growth and success - not only in their own classroom, but also outside of it. A number of my professors have become friends and personal mentors.
- Your core team is family. The notorious core curriculum is built so that we have to rely on others for support to get through the challenges of classes, career hunting, and case competitions. It is a chance to become better leaders and more effective team members. My core team came from a broad range of experiences and backgrounds, but that was our greatest strength. Learning to leverage everyone’s individual strengths is critical to team camaraderie and success, and I learn that daily.
- Give yourself time to adjust to the pace and rigors of the business school environment. You are faced with a constant stream of early morning quizzes, school work, case competitions, team projects, weekend exams, recruiting events, and extracurricular commitments. Business school is difficult and sometimes I feel lost as I figure out how to handle the plethora of tasks that need to be accomplished. Many of us have had to cut down on hobbies and passions that were a regular part of our lives before business school. But part of a management education is the essential skill of mastering time management. Prioritizing is a critical skill to master.
- Let your classmates be your crutch when you fall and need help getting back up. Whether it is emotional or academic support, your classmates have your back, and I’m thankful for each one of the 279 supporters I can rely on in my own MBA class.
- Every once in a while, give yourself a break. It is easy to get caught up in the frenzied life of an over-committed student. It is easy to forget to slow down and breathe. Business school is not all about academic achievement, you also have to give yourself a chance to form relationships with your classmates, to enjoy relaxing activities, or to sit back for a moment and clear your mind. Go on a hike, take a yoga class, or play music. Business school is a sprint to the finish line, but if you burn out too quickly, you will have a difficult time finishing strong.