It dawned on me today — in the 5 minutes I lifted my head out of my intern haze — that at this time last year, I was preparing to move to Charlottesville.
Which means, right this moment, about 300 First Years are preparing for the very same thing.
I remember being very well-rested having quit my job at the end of May and traveled around Southeast Asia for awhile. I remember being excited to move somewhere new after feeling I’d stagnated in my last year or so in Florida. And I remember being scared that I’d just traded a career I’d once loved for a big ol’ honkin’ bunch of unknown.
That fear was rooted in a few different places.
Fear I wouldn’t be able to hang academically at Darden and would fail miserably. (Reality: Totally unfounded. If you’re smart and put the effort in, you can do it. You wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t.)
Fear my classmates would be a bunch of business automatons who only talked about “leverage” and “value-adds” and had no appreciation for anything that didn’t fit in a spreadsheet. (Reality: I’ve met a wide variety of interesting, smart and engaging people at Darden, some of whom have become dear friends. But they do occasionally use the phrase “value-add.”)
Fear I would never find anything I’m as passionate about as I was and am about journalism. (Reality: The jury is still out on this one. I’ve discovered a passion I never knew I had for entreprenuership, especially businesses that solve social problems. But nothing yet has given me the rush of writing a 1A story or reporting on deadline.)
And I have to imagine that this year’s incoming business school First Years have some of those same fears right now. You’re not alone and chances are you’re over-reacting. But I realize saying that won’t help. I certainly wouldn’t have listened.
What I hope you WILL pay attention to is my quick list of things I wish I’d known before I arrived at Darden. These are the easy things you can do to make your first year at b-school a little easier:
– Take time off from your job. Travel. See friends. Hug your mom. It’s going to be a lot of work so you need to relax now.
– Tell your friends that after you get to Darden they probably won’t hear from you for about 5 months. They should not be alarmed, but should instead send care packages and happy thoughts your way.
– Did you know you could calculate stuff in Excel? Build crazy models? Type the word “if” and make magical things happen? If not, try to take a quick course in Excel. But if you don’t have time, you’ll survive.
– Sign up for the Accounting pre-matriculation course Darden offers. It’s worth every penny.
– Bring all those crazy costumes, funny hats, feather boas, 1980s outfits and other odd bits and bobs to school with you. You will need them. I swear.
– Do NOT hire U-Haul to move your stuff.
– If you’re living in Ivy Gardens, fill a piggy bank with quarters for the laundry room.
– Say yes to every invitation you get the first month at school. Darden is a lot more enjoyable if you take time to get to know people (even if your drowning in work). But don’t be surprised if it involves a game of flip cup.
– If you’re a nontraditional MBA student, read “Ahead of the Curve” by Philip D. Broughton. It’s a great primer on b-school for the uninitiated (like me).
– Start thinking now about what you want to do when you leave school. You don’t have to make any big decisions but if you narrow down your interests, it will help a lot in the months to come. Trying to recruit for consulting, investment banking, microfinance and marketing all at the same time will be hell on earth.
– Get excited. You’re about to have an awesome experience. … I’m kind of jealous that I don’t get to do it all over again.