The 7 Things That Will Vastly Improve Your 1st Year in the MBA Program

I wanted to leave some advice for the incoming class that will make your life a little easier as you start this crazy thing called the MBA program. So I present you another Buzzfeed-style list to vastly improve your 1st year.

1. Redefine success.

Guess what? This isn’t undergrad where you got to take awesome classes in your major, like Children’s Literature and write papers on Harry Potter (was that just me? Good times.). Instead, you’ll be taking classes across a wide variety of business subjects and it’s unlikely that you’ll be getting As in all of them; Accounting, Marketing, Data Analysis, Operations and Finance all have very different skill sets. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for the little wins! (laundry, making time to see a friend, turning in all your assignments on time, getting above the average on a test) Which leads into my next point…2. Grades are not important. Focus on the bigger picture.

Most likely, you are not attending business school to stay in academia and become a professor, so getting straight As shouldn’t be your focus. Instead, your goal is to get your MBA and get a great job that you love afterwards. The most important things are to learn new skills, get to know your fellow students, and be better prepared for leadership positions in a company. The school wants you to be successful and go on to be great alumni that strengthen the reputation of the program.

3. Go to happy hours.

Make friends! Your fellow classmates will go on to be crazy successful and you’ll definitely want them in your network now and for years after graduation when they’re all CMOs, CEOs, CFOs, and CHROs. Don’t be the person who no one can remember!

4. Spend time with your core team outside of school.

You will spend a lot of time with your core team in your 1st year. Things will be stressful and there will be weeks that you feel like you spent every waking minute together. So, just make sure to take the time to know each other on a personal/social level. Go to dinner, explore the city, go to a trivia night, do karaoke, drink! It will make the stressful times a lot better.

5. Invest in your mental health.

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself. Again, there will be crazy weeks, but make sure you’re doing what you need to do to stay happy and focused. For me, I usually set goals and rewards, or took the time to enjoy a TV show with dinner so that I didn’t get sad or even more stressed than I needed to be. Work smart! For me, it wasn’t worth the dozens of extra hours to get my grade up in Accounting when I knew that I would never use those skills again, but I spent extra time in the classes that I knew I would use after graduation.


6. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The MBA curriculum looks daunting at first, so just focus on it week by week, and you’ll get there– I promise! Don’t think about a semester’s worth of work; focus on what you need to accomplish this week and next, and then get it done. Stress can be demobilizing, so as long as you keep moving along, you’ll be fine.

7. You WILL get through this and you WILL be successful!

Other people have done this and you will, too! And trust me when I tell you that there will be intense weeks where you wonder why you’re doing this, but eventually you will learn a lot in a very short amount of time and all of that blood, sweat and tears will be distant memories. You will find strength you didn’t know you had and you’ll find yourself enjoying the coursework, your classmates, your impressive professors– and before you know it, you’ll be looking at graduation and feeling very sad. It’s a crazy journey, but I know I’m stronger for it and well-equipped to go out into the world and do great things. Best of luck! 

Photo Sources

  1. I adulted today.
  2. Happy Hour:
  3. Yoga pose:
  4. Hedgehog: