1. What "smart" looks like
Once you get accepted into business school, it soon dawns on you that for the first time in a while, you'll be sitting in class with some incredibly smart people. Of the thousands of people that applied to the program, these are the people who were handpicked for the course. Thesemore akin to a sign-on bonus than a test score and with work experience at that company you've been dreaming about for so long, it can be quite intimidating.
But, you soon realise what "smart" actually means. It's not just the Russian maths grad who can engage in a meaningful discourse on particle theory, although they do exist and they are exceptionally clever. The smart people find things difficult, just like the rest of us. Some of them even get stressed by exams, although they'd never admit to it. The difference? They grit their teeth, and get on with the work that needs doing, where others may give up. Yes, I think smart has a bit more to do with application than raw intellect.
2. The work will challenge you
I came to b-school with a fair bit of work experience, level 2 of the CFA exam complete and an undergrad degree in finance. Yet I find many parts of the courses here new and challenging. This is good, I'd be somewhat disappointed if I came to b-school and learned nothing new.
Specifically, the challenges come from two fronts: content and critical thinking. The content can be reasonably difficult at times, mostly because you need to understand what you're doing, how the formulae you've been using for years work and why things are the way they are. Regurgitating formulas and crunching numbers just doesn't cut it. This brings me to my next point.
Critical thinking is a huge part of life at business school and it seems like you're never more than five minutes away from the question "why?" You cannot get away with canned answers very often. I was once told by a professor "not bad... for a textbook answer. So it's not that good. What do you really think?"
This can be tough at first, with several years of working life having conditioned you to execute at speed, rather than think deeply about what you're doing. However critical thinking pays dividends when you're challenged by your interviewer/boss/MD/PM on a topic that you've learned inside out and have devoted some serious thought to. Even if you end up being wrong (which will probably be often), they'll be impressed by the thought you've devoted to the subject.
3. It opens a lot of doors, but...
"You're set for life", "you'll be rolling in it in two years' time", or other polite, yet trite phrase are a common response to the news you're off to business school. It's tempting to believe these things, and in the back of your mind you might hope they're true, (if only things were that easy!).
The responses were somewhat true. B-school provides you with a brand-name to put on your CV, an enviable network, and employers coming to you for a change. It undoubtedly opens doors, but you've still got to walk through them.
Having a brand-name business school on your resume/CV will help get you an interview, but from there on, it's up to you. As has been pointed out on this site so many times, once you're in the room, you've still got to nail the technical questions, charm your interviewer, articulate your strengths and tell your story effectively to get the job.
Over to you WSO. Any thoughts, questions, comments or disagreements?
Mod Note (Andy): author's bio: James Crombie is a member of the 2016 Masters in Finance Class at London Business School. James started his career inas an accountant, where he worked while completing his undergraduate degrees in finance and biomedical science. He then worked as an analyst at an Australian firm covering Australian equities and derivatives and passed level 2 of the CFA exam before shipping off to London. He plans to work in in London upon graduation. He's a keen marathon runner, rugby player, and PG Wodehouse enthusiast and sits on the executive committee of the Investment Management Club at LBS.