[Posted by Felicia Jadczak, MS-MBA, Class of 2011]
One of the primary reasons why I decided to apply to business school was to make a move and get ahead in my future career. I had just been promoted in my job at the time, but there was no space for further growth. After five years in the same field I was more than ready for a change. I knew that business school was a doorway for something bigger and better, even if I didn’t quite know what that “better” would actually turn out to be!
I remember showing up for the first day of Pre-Term, hot and sticky, wondering if I should have worn business casual, worried about how I would fit in with the rest of the class. I was a liberal arts major: my specialties were English, French, and writing, and I had only taken one math class in my entire undergraduate college career (it was the lowest grade I ever received, in case you were wondering!) I imagined that the other students would be crazy intense ex-investment bankers, ultra-competitive, with closets full of suits and ties, shiny shoes, and leather briefcases. I could just picture the months ahead: long nights of struggling alone over big fat finance textbooks and mind-numbing spreadsheets. That first night I wondered why, oh why did I ever think I belonged in business school? Admissions must have made a SERIOUS mistake by accepting me!
Well, it turns out my fatalistic predictions were only partially true. To my surprise, there were many other people who were just as nervous as I was. There were other English majors! There were other people who’d never opened up an Excel spreadsheet in their entire lives! There were very few bankers, and shiny shoes and suits only emerged on presentation days. There were long, long, sleepless nights of pouring over big fat finance textbooks and mind-numbing Excel spreadsheets, but they were not spent alone. And most importantly, competition was almost non-existent.
One of the very first lessons I learned in school was that we’re all in this together. I still remember the first Saturday morning I showed up to school, planning on somehow making my slow, slow way through a MyFinanceLab homework set, and wondering how I would ever manage when I already felt behind in class. I ended up working on the problems with two other classmates who were more helpful and supportive than I could have ever imagined possible. It was an eye-opening experience and one that was repeated many times over throughout the year. Yes, you might not be an expert in one area. But you probably are really good at something else that another classmate thinks is impossibly hard.
Yesterday evening, as I sat enjoying a mid-week drink with many of my cohort members, I realized that not only have I managed to make it through the first year alive, with enough skills and training to succeed (so far) in a very challenging summer internship, I’ve also somehow come away with a fantastic network of friends and colleagues. I count people from my first semester, second semester, and study teams among some of the best friends I’ve made since coming to school. My cohort has proved to be an invaluable source of support, tutoring, friendship, commiseration, and endless new ideas for social activities. And I wouldn’t be working where I am today if not for the help of an MS-MBA alumna who promoted my resume with her former co-workers.
Yes, business school has proved to be one of the hardest experiences of my life. But no, I wouldn’t trade the hard work, frustration, challenging situations, and incredible fun of the past year for anything.