Monday, October 1, 2012

MBA Life in High Gear

If you’re serious about applying to business school this year, you’ve already had a busy few months studying for the GMAT, exploring different MBA programs, and soul-searching for essay responses that show why an MBA is right for you. Applications (and, later, interviews and admit weekends) on top of work make it feel like you’ve kicked your life into high gear. Get used to that feeling — it won’t go away any time soon.

From our first day at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, my classmates and I have been moving fast. Ross threw down the gauntlet the first week with the Ross Impact Challenge: Develop a for-profit venture that addresses a social-sector problem in the city of Detroit. In six days, my 10-person team learned an enormous amount about the hunger gap in Detroit. We conducted on-site research and had conversations with community partners before putting in long hours to brainstorm and refine our solution. As I stood in front of the panel of judges and answered questions about our proposal, I marveled at how Ross’s purported “action-based learning” was not just a buzzword.

After our trial-by-fire introduction to action-based learning and collaborating with teammates, we have only done more of both. Academics brings a different set of challenges but here, too, my classmates serve as teammates. Some of the core curriculum courses come with assigned group work and study groups. Fortunately my peers are happy to work in organic teams and catch me up on Econ even when it’s not required. (I studied Ancient Greek in college — I need all the catch-up I can get!) This past week also saw our first recruiting events as well as my first case competition. Recruiting will take up a significant amount of time this fall, but my MBA2-led career group has steered me in the right direction.

When you consider which schools to put on your short-list, think about your learning style and how you want your MBA program to shape your education. So far, learning at Ross has been anything but clean: We’ve rolled up our sleeves and dug into a variety of tough problems inside and outside of the classroom. Think about what kind of learning environment you want in a school and, more important, which programs take you there from Day One.

Elizabeth Mills, Forté Fellow
MBA 2014, Ross School of Business at Michigan
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