Academics, Social or Recruiting? Pick Two…

Law School ImagesYou might have thought your two years of business school would be a breeze. It would be a good break from the working world, a chance to recharge your batteries. You think about being back on a college campus again. You think about finally being a college student with some money in your pocket. You might even see current business school students sharing pictures on their Instagram of a recent spring break vacation or ski trip. What fun you might think!

Well, we’ve got bad news for you. When it comes time to actually start going to business school, you’ll be busier than you ever could have believed. You’ll look longingly at the days when you had a real job and were getting paid a lot of money to reach your objectives. Now, it’s all about the future returns on not only the investment of your tuition dollars, but also your time. In fact, you’ll have so much that you want to do, that you’ll have to find a way to balance your time and invariably, something that is really important will have to be sacrificed.

Typically, there are three legs to the business school experience: academic, social and recruiting. You’ll probably only have the time to pick two, so let’s look at each option and break them down.

On the academic side – well, you are in school. You are there to learn, to become a better professional in your chosen career, so maybe it would make sense to invest a lot of time in your classes, projects and other academic work? However, many people think they are in school to get a better job, and a dirty little secret is that often recruiters don’t really care about your MBA grades. Many schools don’t even give out letter grades or calculate a GPA! Other schools ask you not to list it on your resume or report it to recruiters. So how important is academics to business school? It will be up to you to prioritize or not.

The recruiting side is obvious to many. Since you are paying so much for a professional degree, you better get a really great career out of it. From preparing for interviews with case prep and company research to attending all of the various networking sessions and spending time with alumni, networking may prove to be an important priority for you just to get your foot in the door for an interview.

Finally, there is the social aspect to business school. There will be plenty of time for happy hours, club events and free time to take vacations. But, have you ever tried to take part in a case discussion while hungover? Or tried to spend time at a recruiting event when all of your section mates are at the weekly happy hour? There will be many social opportunities and distractions during business school and you’ll have to figure out how to manage many different commitments while still maintaining sight of the priorities you had before you stepped foot on campus.

At the end of the day, there is no right answer. Be true to yourself and what brought you to business school and you’ll make the right decision. Just remember that you can’t do everything!

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What Counts as Significant International Work Experience?

For international experience to be significant it has to be something that you can write about at length and appropriately in a b-school essay.

  1. Can you articulate how you lead a team in a multi-national or cross border environment? This is what the adcom would want to see if you were writing an essay. A lot of applicants have worked occasionally overseas. More important is what you learned, how it changed your perspective, how you overcame an obstacle and how you produced a positive team outcome.
  2. That is, what you got out of it and what you can put down on paper is what will set your experience apart from other applicants. That is where I consider the line drawn with respect to whether or not an experience is significant.
  3. With respect to any extracurricular international experience (start-up, professional volunteerism, etc.), if you can write about it effectively as part of your positioning then it