Three things I’ve learned from three months in business school

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. These people had gmat scores more 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 in Australia at Ernst & Young as an accountant, where he worked while completing his undergraduate degrees in finance and biomedical science. He then worked as an analyst at an Australian Asset Management firm covering Australian equities and derivatives and passed level 2 of the CFA exam before shipping off to London. He plans to work in asset management 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.

Comments (13)

Best Response
Oct 19, 2015

Good post. I always love seeing posts by current students talking about their experiences.

However, let's refrain from hyperbole such as "these people had gmat scores more akin to a sign-on bonus than a test score." The last time I checked, the GMAT was out of 800 points. A $800 signing bonus would be pretty pathetic.

Onto the other points. I can't speak for mfin/mfe, but from my mba experience, I had very different takes on 1 and 2. Yes, there were plenty of smart people at b-school, but overall I wasn't that impressed with the intellectual caliber of my classmates. The variance was enormous; there were some who were downright idiotic, and I had no idea what they were doing here while there were others who were pretty freaking sharp. In terms of the classes, I learned some stuff, but most of it was fluff. The most valuable aspect I learned from the classes was learning how to work in teams and communication, in particular articulating and defending your views in front of others. The accounting, valuation, corporate finance, strategy, operations, were not rocket science. Again, the MFin program may well be different and I'm sure more quantitatively challenging than an MBA.

For what it's worth, I turned down mfin/mfe to do an MBA, but I gotta admit that I would've enjoyed the classes far more at mfin/mfe.

    • 3
Oct 20, 2015

Ha. Was thinking the same thing about the gmat scores. However, great post by OP and great comment. +1 each.

MBA is a ticket to the game, but you still have to play. Hard.

    • 1
Oct 20, 2015
TorontoMonkey1328:

MBA is a ticket to the game, but you still have to play. Hard.

SBs for you and for OP!

Oct 20, 2015
  1. B school is about networking, not about academics
  2. The guys dress like crap, the single women get dolled up looking for future husbands
  3. The gays always dress up
    • 3
Oct 20, 2015
socola2003:

1. B school is about networking, not about academics2. The guys dress like crap, the single women get dolled up looking for future husbands3. The gays always dress up

I could not agree more. Girls at my school were ON POINT when it came to makeup and fashion. Even for 9 AM finance classes, some of them would come in all dressed up. Guys would wear sweats, hoodies, etc. Lol.

Also the latin americans partied the hardest and probably threw the best parties.

Free Consultation

Vantage Point MBA's clients are accepted to the top MBA programs at a 3x higher rate than the average acceptance rates. Request a consultation with their team to learn how they can help you gain admission to your dream schools. Learn more.

Oct 20, 2015
MBAGrad2015:

I could not agree more. Girls at my school were ON POINT when it came to makeup and fashion. Even for 9 AM finance classes, some of them would come in all dressed up. Guys would wear sweats, hoodies, etc. Lol.

Also the latin americans partied the hardest and probably threw the best parties.

Sounds like my undergrad

Oct 21, 2015
MBAGrad2015:

socola2003:1. B school is about networking, not about academics2. The guys dress like crap, the single women get dolled up looking for future husbands3. The gays always dress up

I could not agree more. Girls at my school were ON POINT when it came to makeup and fashion. Even for 9 AM finance classes, some of them would come in all dressed up. Guys would wear sweats, hoodies, etc. Lol.

Also the latin americans partied the hardest and probably threw the best parties.

Despite the hoodies, they still had mad swagger bro.

Oct 23, 2015

"Girls"? Aren't they like 30 years old? I think their best days are behind them...

    • 1
Oct 20, 2015

" 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."

This.

Oct 31, 2015

test

Oct 21, 2015
Comment