Advice From a Current MBA Student

Julie is a member of the Darden School of Business class of 2011.  I love reading about her business school and travel experiences on her blog, Life of Julie, and I am so excited to have her guest post today.  Thanks Julie and best of luck finishing your MBA!

Advice From a Current MBA Student

Three years ago, I was scrambling to study as much as I could for the GMAT. At that point in time, I knew very little about what programs were out there and was more focused on memorizing the multiples of 12 and trying to remember all my trigonometry formulas from high school. Now that I sit with less than three months to having my degree in hand, it’s remarkable how much I’ve learned and grown and changed.

So what am I learning? Darden has a strong focus on general management (in fact, I think we were recently ranked #1 by someone), so rather than coming out with knowing exactly how to value a CDO, I’ve had a broad exposure across marketing, accounting, finance, operations and quantitative analysis. On top of that base, I’ve been able to focus on learning other things that interest me: social entrepreneurship, health care, design thinking and systems thinking being only a small sample of the courses Darden offers.

You may wonder what the value of a broad MBA would be. Before I really get into that, I feel like I need to clarify that we definitely cover the technical skills. When you get an MBA, you’ll learn how to run regressions, value a company, perform a conjoint analysis and calculate accounting ratios. More importantly, I’ve learned how to evaluate the information I have, make a recommendation and defend it. The world of business was a lot more black and white before I came to Darden and I’ve learned how to evaluate situations using the tools and the knowledge that I have, understand the appropriate stakeholders and recommend a course of action even in the midst of grey.

Many of you may be considering an MBA, so I’ll offer up my two cents on the process. First, the GMAT is important, but it’s not the end of the world. So study for it, and if you’ve gotten a score within the range of the schools you are applying to, then stop worrying. Second, the MBA application process requires a lot of self examination and I highly recommend taking the time to figure out where you’ve been, where you’re going and what you’re looking for in an MBA. Not all MBA programs are created equal. Some require a lot of technical rigor while others force you out of your comfort zone through class participation. Some have a tight-knit community (usually as a result of being in a small community) and others feel more like commuter schools. Many people simply look to the rankings, but I promise you that you are doing yourself a disservice if you base your decision solely on choosing a #10 school over a #15 school.

The differences between programs really does matter and I urge you to learn as much as you can from current students, alumni and school visits before you decide where to apply and attend.  Good luck!

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