Last we left off, I had highlighted some ideas for funding business school and deciding which programs to apply to. Now it’s time for the big reveal: what business school is ACTUALLY like. Spoiler alert: it’s crazy. I’ve been at MIT Sloan for three months now, and I’ve gone through almost every human emotion: elation, frustration, contentment, sadness, exhaustion, delight, etc . This portrayal might seem overly dramatic (and ok, maybe it is), but at least among my friends, this rollercoaster is pretty standard.
Let me start from the beginning. Orientation week is essentially one big adult summer camp program to catalyze bonding. I’m writing from my own experience, but it seems fair to say that most top schools have a comparable introductory program. First, they divide you into your core teams, an idea that goes by many different names at different schools but maintains the same purpose fundamentally. You’re grouped with a handful of other people with completely different academic and cultural backgrounds and expected to do all of your group work together. My team has a Greek girl and guys from Brazil, Texas, Martha’s Vineyard, Utah, and London. If we were an outfit, we’d be an eccentric, esoteric Marni one for sure. Then they throw everyone into a series of physical and mental challenges meant to unite the group–like building a raft. Whether this goes badly or very well doesn’t really matter. Regardless of how you feel about your team during this phase, it’s almost guaranteed to flip flop a few times over the course of the semester as workloads build.
In a blink, classes start. For me, this has been the hardest part of the whole experience. Most schools mandate your first semester courses, if not the whole year. Therefore, you are submerged into statistics, economics, accounting, along with a few softer skill classes to balance things out. It can be discouraging to feel so consistently overwhelmed, even with access to lots of free help. Moreover, many of your classmates will completely understand what’s going on because they have an applicable background. The experience is certainly an ego check. You may feel quite capable going into school, but after the first team project…you may not. But we should expect that going in, right? I knew I wasn’t great with the quantitative aspect – it’s one of the reasons I came to business school in the first place. Overall, I highly recommend keeping a sense of humor and getting comfortable asking for help.
Sounds bad, right? Ok, yes. But fear not because business school is about so much more than how you perform on an Econ midterm. There are the amazing friends that you’ll make. Already I have life-long friends, without a doubt. Also, it’s nice to branch out from the fashion community and meet people who have been working at nonprofits in India or diffusing bombs for the Navy (seriously, there’s a guy in my class who did that). Fashion can sometimes be such an insular world. But business school completely rips the lid off that outlook, opening you up to a zillion different possible paths.
Plus with all your new friends, you get to take advantage of some tremendous opportunities. In October, I went with the Luxury, Retail and Consumer Goods club to NYC to meet with top executives at Christian Dior, Tiffany, and Estée Lauder. It was a short (only two days) but wonderful trip with access to people I didn’t think I’d ever get to meet, much less at 27 years old. Outside of career advancement, there is also a healthy dose of purely fun activities. Formal balls where you get to throw on a gown, group sailing lessons, and spontaneous dinner parties-turned-dance parties are just a few examples.
Despite the anxiety of finals starting to creep in, I am having a fantastic time. It’s not easy – don’t expect it to be. Adjusting to having homework, moving to a new place, meeting hundreds of new people—these are stressful tasks. However, getting through some linear regressions and game theory is 100% worth it. Not only do you have moments in which you’re oddly proud of yourself for learning (or attempting to learn) such complicated yet valuable skills, but you also get to meet people who will completely change your outlook on life.
The first semester is generally thought to be the toughest. There’s not as much fun, global traveling or time to pursue personal interests. For all those fellow fashionistas struggling through – we’re nearly done! And for anyone else still considering business school, please hit me up in the comments with any questions or follow me on Twitter (@kendall_to_go).