Across town at Booth, Jonathan Osser, an actor who became a talent manager, made the fateful decision to stay around Chicago instead of shuffling off with his peers. Looking back, he believes the return in relationships and knowledge far exceeded the investment in time and money. “Being in a heavily international program, students are constantly leading “treks” back home, allowing students to come with, often visiting their families and home towns,” he observes. “Opportunities to travel with such immersion are rare, and the select experiences I’ve had doing so have surpassed any potential organized travel organization’s ability to provide an authentic experience.”
Networking and traveling weren’t the only seminal experiences that the Class of 2018 regrets missing. At the Darden School of Business, the workload for the core classes ranks among the heaviest in the world. That’s one reason why Catherine Aranda devoted her time to academics. The tradeoff, she says, was missing out on applying what she’d been learning to case competitions. That’s not to say classes weren’t important. If Rodrigo Studart could do his two years at Booth over again, he wouldn’t have been afraid to participate in class earlier. Turns out, Aranda and Studart shared many of the same fears.
“I thought people would judge me for eventually making small mistakes or not providing the correct answer,” Studart notes. “Later on, I realized how Booth is a safe environment and how MBA is the perfect time for taking risks and making any kind of mistakes.”
PERFECT PLACE TO TAKE RISKS
Such risk-taking can also take the form of the classes selected. At Stanford, Sarah Anne Hinkfuss pursued courses within the Graduate School of Business. It wasn’t until she ventured into a design class that she realized the relevance of coursework at schools “across the street.” “I would’ve also enjoyed stretching myself in computer science classes, at the law school, or nurturing my Spanish or Arabic language skills,” she laments. “I always figured I was too busy and wanted to get the most out of the GSB, but I overlooked the value of the broader context at Stanford!”
That context extends beyond courses and clubs too. Devin Underhill was wildly successful at Darden. An admissions dynamo and member of the academic honor society, Underhill landed a dream consulting job at the Boston Consulting Group. On paper, Underhill had achieved his mission. Despite his achievements, he still can’t let go of the opportunity he let pass by him: Starting a business.
Admittedly “risk-averse,” Underhill sounds a common refrain among the Best & Brightest: There is no better time or place to take risks than business school – especially for launching new ventures. That sentiment is shared by the University of Minnesota’s Ashley Ver Burg Soukup, a case competition standout. “There are so many resources available to student entrepreneurs, and being in school is the safest time to fail,” she observes.
NEVER ENOUGH FRIENDS IN BUSINESS SCHOOL
Then again, it helps to be in school to fail. That was the lesson learned by Emory’s Alex McNair. The president of three clubs at Emory, McNair wasn’t immune to the “senioritis” that “kicks in HARD” after landing a job offer. While McNair hardly slacked during his second year, he arranged his class schedule to better take advantage of certain luxuries – a decision he regrets in hindsight. “While it is nice to wake up, watch the Today Show, and leave my apartment for the first time at noon every day, I also missed out on some things with my classmates by only having my classes stacked two days a week.”
If you polled the Best & Brightest on their biggest regret, they would undeniably say that they wished that they’d spent more time with their classmates. In fact, Stanford’s Samanthe Tiver Belander and HEC Paris’ Priya-Darshinee Ramkissoon even use the same phrase to sum up their misstep: They regret not “putting myself out there more.”
In Belander’s case, she had chosen class work and “fitting in to be myself fully” as her priorities. For Ramkissoon, it was more force of habit. “I naturally tend to maintain a small circle of friends, a default attitude I reverted to upon arriving at HEC Paris,” she says. “However, I found I got to know a few classmates really well much later in the MBA, many of whom have turned out to be very close friends as well.”
Of course, the Class of 2020 can’t expect to come away with hundreds of new friends. Still, the nature of the business school – with cohorts rich in diverse backgrounds – makes regret about not knowing classmates better sting all the more. “At 330 people, Saïd Business School’s cohort is relatively small compared to other schools,” says Oxford’s Elly Brown, “but it is still more people than you can get to know well in a year. Even as my time draws to a close, I am still striking up new conversations with classmates that reveal hidden talents and characters, and it makes me wonder what other stories I won’t get the time to uncover.”
ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS
The Class of 2018 doesn’t just regret not missing out on classmates. Many feel the same about faculty too. “I was so overwhelmed by the incredible backgrounds my peers had that I didn’t stop to appreciate the wonderful work my professors were doing,” adds Yale SOM’s Heather Harrison. “If I could do it again, I would have been more persistent about attending their office hours and dropping by to ask them about their research and opinions.”
That’s not to say every member of the class would do things differently. Michael Provenzano, a salesman par excellence at Carnegie Mellon, graduates with no regrets whatsoever. “This may sound pretentious, but I honestly don’t have [any regrets],” he states. “I’ve stuck to my core goals and the Tepper School was flexible enough to accommodate them. Coming to Tepper was the best decision of my life.”
Looking ahead, perhaps the Class of 2020 can take a cue from Emory’s JP Ortiz, who views his MBA experience holistically. “There are so many more classes that I would have liked to have taken, trips that I would like to go on, people to spend time with. Time flies when you’re having fun, so enjoy it!”
DON’T MISS: Best & Brightest MBAs: Class Of 2018