Now that I’m starting my third week at business school, I feel like I’m finally settling into a routine. My days are pretty long, but I know that I’m packing a lot in. The hardest part so far is finding time to be social while getting more than a couple hours of sleep! I’m hoping that I’ll get more efficient with the academic stuff as I get used to being back in school, which will give me some more time to play with.
But truthfully, my days look nothing like I thought they would—in fact, after five years on the job, it was pretty hard to imagine what my life would be like in b-school. So, I’m putting my typical weekday down on paper. If you’re contemplating grad school , too, read on for a glimpse into a day in the life of a student.
My alarm goes off! It’s definitely a little earlier than what I’m used to , but I need the time to get ready for the day, eat a hearty breakfast, and review my notes before jumping straight into classwork.
I meet with my discussion group—a group of five other students from different industries—to talk through our notes for the day’s upcoming classes. Many schools assign small learning groups like mine so that we can get the chance to discuss our work in small settings. It’s been a huge help for me: Everyone in my group has a unique background and perspective, so it’s great to check my work against theirs and just learn what I can from their ideas.
My first class of the day starts. At Harvard, we have all of our classes with a section of about 90 people, and we stay in the same classroom (in assigned seats, no less) while the professors move from room to room. Each class is taught via the case method, a Socratic teaching style where the professor doesn’t lecture but rather (cold) calls on students and works with us to teach the daily lesson. The conversation is structured around our homework, which usually consists of reading a case (a short booklet describing a real-life dilemma for a company or individual).
After our first class, we get a short mid-morning break. I usually spend most of this time waiting in line because they didn’t put enough women’s restrooms into the building where our classrooms are. Maybe they should have an operations professor look into the problem?
10:50 AM–12:10 PM
Class #2 begins. I like the case method because it’s extremely engaging—I’m definitely paying much more attention to what goes on in class than I did in undergrad. It probably helps that I can be called on at any time, and that 50% of my grade is class participation, so I need to be able to get a comment in every now and then.
It’s finally time for lunch—after a couple classes in a row, I’m always ready to eat. There aren’t a lot of options on campus, so I usually walk over to the student center with most of my classmates and grab a sandwich or a salad. This is actually something I’m hoping to change; eating out for lunch every day is getting expensive! Hopefully this week I’ll be able to start making time in the morning to pack my lunch .
My last class of the day. Professors are extremely, extremely strict about getting to class on time, so I always give myself a couple extra minutes to make it back from lunch.
I wish I could say that I jump straight into prepping for tomorrow after my classes wrap up, but I’ve found that I need some down time before diving back in. I’ve been using this time to wind down a little bit by checking email, clicking around on the internet , and reading the news.
After taking a little me time, I head to a meeting or reception for Social Enterprise—an initiative at Harvard Business School that helps students and alumni pursue careers that are focused on social change—or another club activity. There are over 70 clubs available—everything from the Finance Club to the Wine & Cuisine Society—and they usually focus on sponsoring speakers, conferences, and social events. It’s still early in the school year, but it seems like club meetings typically happen in the late afternoon or early evening. I’ve been enjoying them so far—it’s always great to hang out with people that have the same interests and passions that I do.
This is when I start getting ready for the next day. I’ll start prepping tomorrow’s cases and hit on any admin stuff I need to take care of, such as buying my plane ticket home for Thanksgiving, writing an email to my grandparents, and taking a survey for the financial aid office.
Now, it’s gym time. I’m all about food, so I’ve made a little rule for myself to encourage exercise: I have to go to the gym before eating dinner. Sure, I could use this hour for work and get to bed a little earlier, but getting into the habit of working out has been a priority for me—and it gives me a boost of energy to keep working a little later into the night. Like most schools, we actually have a really nice gym, so it’s not too bad!
After my workout, I head to dinner with some of my classmates. Even though we hang out all day in class, my section loves to do all sorts of social things together. Despite the fact I haven’t been in school for very long, I feel like I’m really starting to get to know them well—and having that tight-knit social network is definitely making the long days more bearable.
9 PM–12:30 AM (or later)
Now it’s time to do homework until I finish (or pass out—whichever comes first!). Each case assignment typically takes 1.5–2 hours, and we have to do one for each class. Prepping a case involves reading through it, preparing detailed answers to prompts provided by the professor, and taking additional notes on anything else that stands out as something that could be discussed in class. Case prep is typically our only homework, so usually I can wrap up in time to get at least 5.5 hours of sleep. (B-school is definitely not for the weak.)
That’s it so far—I hope this gives you a window into what the beginning of grad school is like! You’ll notice that there’s nothing in here about finding a career—I’m sure my schedule will change a lot as I start internship recruiting closer to winter break. I’ll make sure to keep you posted as my life starts to change.
Photo of student courtesy of Shutterstock .
Make sure you check out Part 1 of this article before you begin reading more of our thoughts on the recently released U.S. News and World Report‘s 2017 ranking of Best Business Schools. Now let’s take a deeper look at some of the surprises this year’s rankings presented:
We were quite surprised to see Columbia (#10) come behind Tuck and Yale this year (ranked #8 and #9 respectively). Columbia has a very high yield of admitted applicants who choose to attend the school, and it has been working hard to foster a more collaborative culture. However, Tuck’s employment statistics and remarkably high percentage of graduates receiving a signing bonus (87%!) play well to the U.S. News methodology. We shouldn’t sell Tuck short, though, as other intangibles at Tuck not included in this ranking — such as student satisfaction, alumni network, and tight-knit culture — also rate among the highest of any MBA program.
Yale snagged Dean Ted Snyder from Chicago Booth back in 2011 after he presided over its precipitous rise in the rankings. His magic potion seems to be working at Yale as well, and we’ve dubbed him the “Rankings Whisperer.” He thoroughly understands the drivers of rankings and pushes all levers to the max to improve the standings of his schools. Yale has begun to move away from its ties to the social and nonprofit sectors, driving up average starting salaries and recruitment percentages, but perhaps distancing the program from its roots.
University of Virginia’s Darden School always seems to be the sleeper success story, and this year is no exception. With its best placement in more than a decade, Darden came in at #11. Darden’s reputation amongst peer schools and recruiters is not as strong as most other programs ranked in the top 15, but it has a very strong starting salary/bonus and other statistics.
Be wary of average salary numbers
The U.S. News ranking incorporates average salary plus signing bonus in its rankings, which in theory, is not a bad thing. After all, many applicants desire to gain an MBA, at least in part, to improve their salary potential. However, we recommend that you look at salaries just like the rankings themselves—by using the numbers in a broader context. After all, the difference in average salary and bonus between Harvard (ranked #1 overall) and Cornell (ranked #14 overall), is less than $5,000 per year.
If you analyze the data industry-by-industry (as we have), you’ll find that there’s little difference in salaries coming out of the top 10 to 15 programs. The biggest difference is the percentage of graduates who are able to land positions in highly selective industries, such as private equity. But here’s the rub: most of these highly selective industries are looking for extremely qualified candidates who have pre-MBA experience that fits their needs. So even if you manage to squeeze into Harvard or Stanford, if you don’t have the pre-MBA experience that these firms are looking for, then you’re going to have a tough time getting an interview, much less landing a job, in the highest paying private equity or venture capital positions.
Also, some roles, such as in investment banking, do not have as high of base salaries or signing bonuses, but a high percentage of your income will come from performance-based quarterly and annual bonuses. Other roles simply pay less, such as marketing and product management, but remain very attractive to a significant number of MBA graduates. Schools with a higher percentage of graduates taking these roles, such as Kellogg, can have lower overall salary averages, when their graduates make as much or more than peers within their chosen industry. None of this information can be captured in the U.S. News ranking.
Bottom line: Are you likely to make more money coming out of a program ranked #5 than ranked #20? Yes. But should you let this number dictate your decision between #7 and #12? Not necessarily. There are many other factors to consider, such as whether your target companies, industries, and so forth.
A holistic approach
We’ve provided a bit of context and analysis around this year’s ranking, and we encourage you to use these lists as merely a starting point in your research process. We encourage you to take advantage of ourVeritas Prep Essential Guide to Top Business Schools to assist in your process, as it’s now available for free on our website!
In addition, if you’re interested in finding out your chances of admission to the top schools, you can sign up for afree profile evaluation to explore your individual strengths and weaknesses. Veritas Prep has worked with thousands of successful applicants to the top business schools, and we look forward to assisting you on your own journey!
Travis Morgan is the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep and earned his MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He served in the Kellogg Student Admissions Office, Alumni Admissions Organization and Diversity & Inclusion Council, among several other posts. Travis joined Veritas Prep as an admissions consultant and GMAT instructor, and he was named Worldwide Instructor of the Year in 2011.