25 Ideas To Make The Most Of Your MBA

An excerpt from the new book Case Studies & Cocktails by Carrie Shuchart and Chris Ryan

An excerpt from the new book “Case Studies & Cocktails” by Carrie Shuchart and Chris Ryan

If you’re committed to giving business school your all, the next few years of your life will be some of the most energizing, exhausting, challenging, surprising, and amazing of your life. You will meet people who will inspire and engage you. You will have once-in-a-lifetime experiences, whether around a dinner table or on a trip around the world.

Here are 25 key points to keep in mind to make your MBA experience all that it can be:

1. Befriend second years. They were just in your shoes, have all of the cheat sheets, and have figured out what’s really important.

2. Plan to spend a large amount of your day (or all of it) at school. Even if you’re only in class for 15 hours a week, you’re a full-time student, and the campus is now your office.

3. If you want to do something about your job search before you go to school, do informational interviews–find out what people do, why they still do it, and what else they would consider doing.

4. Budget for the summers before, after, and during business school as though you won’t have additional income.

5. Don’t have the first hook up–everyone will know.

6. Don’t get completely wasted too soon. Everyone will know about that, too.

7. Make sure to do a little bit of everything. Sometimes, you should blow off your friends to prepare a case, sometimes you should blow off your case to go out with friends.

8. Clubs: join a lot, but be committed to only a couple.

9. Ask a professor out…to lunch.

10. Listen more than you talk, particularly when working in teams. Out of conflict can come some great things, even if they’re not what anyone originally wanted.

11. Recognize that you are making an investment in your future and your goals, which can mean spending money on travel and other learning opportunities. (Note: Bottles of Dom Perignon do not count as ‘learning opportunities,’ but dinners with classmates do.)

12. Figure out your personal organizational system ahead of time. Buy the necessary technology or notebooks to be productive and efficient. (TrapperKeeper, anyone?)

13. You’re not an MBA just because you’re getting one. Whatever you do do, don’t forget who you are and why you’re there.

14. Be prepared to be overwhelmed. It’s okay to cry, just try not to do so in front of your professor or future manager.

15. Don’t front about who you are. You’ll be found out in a flash.

16. Before you graduate, take at least one course that scares the shit out of you.

17. Establish your team’s expectations early and revisit them often. Adjustments are par for the course.

18. Don’t be late. You said you’d be there, so be there.

19. Take stock of your public image. Professors, administrators and your classmates all know what Facebook is.

20. Recognize that every one of your classmates brings something to the table. Be willing to talk with all sorts of people, but also take the time to develop solid friendships.

21. Remember that your classmates are your colleagues, not your competition.

22. Travel.

23. Follow your passion, even if it isn’t what you told the admissions committee it would be.

24. Don’t take yourself too seriously, or no one else will take you seriously enough.

25. It’s not life or death; it’s business school.

Carrie Shuchart and Chris Ryan are the authors of “Case Studies & Cocktails: The ‘Now What?’ Guide to Surviving Business School.” This article is an excerpt from the book. Shuchart, who has an MBA from Columbia Business School, is a consultant with McKinsey & Co. in Los Angeles. Ryan, who has an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, is director of product and instructor development for ManhattanGMAT in New York. Both Carrie and Chris are also long-time instructors at Manhattan GMAT. As part of an ongoing initiative to serve its students beyond test prep, Manhattan GMAT commissioned and published this book.

Case Studies & Cocktails: The “Now What?” Guide to Surviving Business School


  • Chris Ryan

    Hi all,

    The 25 points come at the back of a 650-plus-page book as more of a fun recap than anything else. Trust me, Bosa, if you take a look at a physical copy in a bookstore, you’ll see enough textbook-like material in there to keep you happy. For example, Chapter 16 (Statistics) contains over 90 pages of rigorous yet digestible preparation for your first-year class on the subject.

    Every question you asked, Bosa, is addressed in the book. There’s a chapter devoted to working with your team, while Part 4 (containing 6 separate chapters) is all about recruiting, including both networking and interview preparation. It’s not a full interview prep guide — there are whole books written on, say, case interviewing for management consulting firms — but we give you a very good big-picture take, I think.

    Stacy, we had the expletive bleeped as s#*t in the text. I don’t know whether that makes us more mature than you thought or not. I hope you get a chance to take a look at the book as a whole and judge it that way.

    Best of luck with b-school, both of you!

  • Stacy Phillips

    Reading “shit” is quite a turn-off, enough frankly to make me wonder about the maturity level of the authors (and editor) . . .

  • It’s good to see something that addresses MBA life post-acceptance. Books like “What they teach you at Harvard Business School” are good for getting a feel for the general experience. But something more systematic and textbook-like would be useful. The 25 points above are interesting, but are probably easily forgotten once the hustle-and-bustle of school begins!

    Concrete areas someone should address include:

    a) Networking: What specifically should you say in an email to alumni?
    b) Interview preparation: When should I start, and how focused do I need to be? What if I genuinely don’t know what I want to do?
    c) Managing groups: How should I interact with study group members, and what happens if there’s a falling out?

    To the extent that this book covers stuff like the above, you could sell/offer the info in some short written/video form to schools for use in an induction package.