You Got Into Your Target MBA Program. Now What?

You Got Into Your Target MBA Program. Now What?

Congrats! You’ve made your MBA decision. So now what? Here are some lessons from a recent grad in her last week of business school.

GET YOUR A** UP AND WORK! (*Kim K. Voice*)

The best part of this experience for me has been the opportunity to try. I had the chance to work at a venture capital firm, consult multiple startups, be the president of a major professional club, intern at a major media company, and become a trained career advisor. Together, these experiences have enabled me to grow in a way that simply working full-time could not have. I am really grateful to have had the chance to learn by doing and dip my toe into different pools that otherwise have much higher barriers to entry.

Know that there is a lot of career flip-flopping in business school. Someone will covet the role or company you left and vice versa. Be kind, extend your knowledge and your network, and hope that people will do the same thing for you in return.


Business school has a funny dynamic where the students are often each others’ teachers. There is a knowledge exchange that sustains your “education” outside of the formal curriculum. Our varied professional backgrounds, expertises, nationalities and more are selected by admissions to curate a class that provides balance and new perspectives to one another.

Beyond this classroom exchange, there are occasions where you may be seeking a career path that your peers have moved on from. Respect peoples’ individual pursuits and do what you can to help people get there if you have done it already.

Rhetoric around graduating as a completely, self-actualized human being can be (unfortunately) false
There is a difference between only feeling satisfied once goals are reached, versus feeling content in the process of trying to achieve them. In the application process, it is a misconception that this degree will answer all of your life’s big career questions. This graduate degree is an amazing chance for discovery, yet is not a band-aid solution to career satisfaction. Revel in the process of learning and living as a business school student, but know that you are the same you going in and going out of this program. Enjoy the journey and challenge that growth and development brings before, during, and after school.


It is an expensive degree. Try not to sweat the small costs of things and enjoy the experience. This is easier said than done.


The social media narrative of a full-time MBA is one of massive weeknight parties, multiple international trips, and swanky internships. This can all be very true and is an amazing chance to be young and live in the moment. I went to Asia twice in six weeks during my last semester! However, what you don’t see are the more mundane experiences that create opportunities for sustained interpersonal growth, and sometimes, struggle. You’ll want to say yes to everything: the in-semester internship at a cool startup, the Wednesday night wine club events, the position on that board you’ve been eyeing, your classmate’s birthday party across town. There will be a lot of decisions you may have to make that can either please you and your goals, or someone else’s. And on many occasions, they do not do both things. Choose wisely.


There will be something to do at almost every moment of the day or night during the semester. Classes, clubs, interviews, parties, trips, speakers, group projects, you name it. Business school is a massive exercise in prioritization. School schedules are not thought to be as rigorous as a day job. However, the competing priorities that may comprise your schedule can prove otherwise. In the early days, be as open as possible and say yes when cool events or occasions come your way.

As time progresses, you start to understand what exactly you want to use these few years for – job experience, network building, etc. Then, you can determine when and where you can say no in order to stay balanced. It is so important to avoid exhausting yourself. It is an intensely fun few years, but if you don’t take mini moments to reflect and stay focused, time and energy get away from you quickly.


Be a student not only of the school curriculum or the market, but also of the world, your class, and of yourself. There is life beyond school even if you are deeply immersed in the day-to-day of student life. It is important to be intentional about how you spend that time. I spent the little free time I had reading, writing, and learning how to craft my personal brand in a way that’s authentically me. I don’t mean my personal brand in social media terms, but rather, how I want people to remember me and my impact on the community. I’m a media nerd, content enthusiast, yogi, friend-group straddler, overthinker, and tell-it-like-it is human who cares a lot about how I make people feel. I try to bring all of these versions of myself to classes, dinners out, job interviews, and moments of self reflection. Ask yourself: who are you and how can you bring all of your layers to this experience?


Find your people, but don’t be afraid to branch out too. The nature of being back in school has a sneaky way of bringing out high school social qualities in people. Friend groups form fast, from friends-of-friend connections to country affiliations, people find their “people” within a matter of days or weeks. For me, I have found homes within the Black community, my cluster, and clubs. However, I’ve worked really hard to generate a network of friends and acquaintances beyond my usual track. I made this happen by signing up for trips without my safety net of friends, joining and taking leadership positions in clubs where I didn’t know anyone else, and just saying hi to people I think I could be cool with but otherwise would not cross paths.


If you know, you know.


I wouldn’t be where I am today — walking across that proverbial stage — without my family, friends, and mentors. Thank them for giving you guidance, being a sounding board, and setting a standard and regard for the pursuit of education and always learning in order to do better and be a better contributor to this dynamic world.

You Got Into Your Target MBA Program. Now What?Kali Ridley is a New York-based MBA grad, writer, and ex-brand editorial marketer at Google. A member of the Columbia Business School MBA Class of 2023 who graduated from Brown University with honors in nonfiction writing and English, her work sits at the border between nonfiction and journalism, offering perspectives on a different, younger generation of Black women and their experiences at the intersection of business, race, education, and social trends. Find more of her work in The Indy.

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