20 Biggest Regrets Of MBA Students

biggest regrets of MBA students

You got into the right school. You made the right connections. By graduation, you’d landed a dream job in a dream company. Yeah, you accrued some debt. In the end, you’re doing something that matters and living where things happen.

Isn’t that the definition of success?

For the Class of 2023, business school has faded to memory. No more coffee chats, cases or clubs. Now, the Best & Brightest MBAs are charming clients and cashing checks. On the surface, these graduates maximized the time they spent and resources they used. They built life-long friendships, traveled the globe, and mingled with newsmakers. Looking back, these MBAs also admit they made mistakes – feeding anxieties and missing opportunities that stunted their growth and sapped their energy.

Susana Jaramillo, INSEAD


Take Carolyn Duke, an educator who transitioned into human resources thanks to her MBA from the University of Texas-Dallas’ Jindal School. Now interning at Texas Instruments, Duke also served in leadership roles with MBAs for Christ and the National Association of Women MBAs. While Duke embraced leadership outside the classroom, she wishes that she’d enrolled in more courses outside her comfort zone.

“With my team being full of amazing individuals, I relied too much on their expertise to complete the financials or book keeping for our projects,” Duke acknowledges. “This hindered me when it came to lasting learning opportunities in accounting and finance. While getting my MBA, I should have used every chance to get out of my comfort zone to learn something new and strengthen my weaknesses.”

INSEAD’s Susana Jaramillo takes this a step further. Now an intern at McKinsey & Company, Jaramillo admits that her big regret was fixating too heavily on grades during business school. “I truly believe the MBA experience is all about the people, the parties, the trips and the student life… you’ll probably never remember the grades you got, but you will definitely remember the conversations you had and the people you met, hopefully they will be part of your life forever!”


At Indiana University’s Kelley School, Cedrick Agorbia-Atta believes that four out of five classmates could identify him. Just because they recognized his name doesn’t mean they knew who he really was. Reflecting on his two years in Bloomington, Agorbia-Atta believes he should’ve deliberately budgeted time each day to bond with classmates on a deeper level.

“It’s very easy to always stick to your small group of friends or to get lost in the monotonous cycle of going to class, working in temporary groups, and having short pleasant chats at social events,” he tells Poets&Quants. “What requires a lot of intentional effort is having a good 20-minute conversation with a school mate before a class starts, at a tailgate or during a happy hour. I wished I did this more to learn about who some of my classmates were, what truly brought them here and what their experience has been. These candid conversations help you connect with people authentically and make lifelong bonds.”

Jon Ilani, Johns Hopkins University (Carey)

For MBAs, adds Jon Ilani, these relationships – forged from shared passions as much as unforgettable lessons – are the biggest takeaways from business school. That’s why he urges future students to relish the experience.

“I realized that time goes by incredibly fast,” explains Ilani, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School. “There were moments when I was so focused on completing assignments, extracurricular activities, and networking that I didn’t take the time to enjoy the experience and appreciate the people around me. Looking back, I wish I had taken more time to slow down and savor the moments. I realized that the people I met and the connections I made were some of the most valuable aspects of my MBA experience.”

What are other regrets of MBAs about their business school experience? Each year, P&Q surveys the Best & Brightest MBAs and MBAs To Watch on a key question: “Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?” From slowing their pace to following a diet, here are 20 ways future MBAs can avoid the mistakes of the Class of 2023.

1) Recognize You Belong: “I would not be afraid to share my experiences right away. I have no business background or much civilian work experience, so I had massive imposter syndrome when I started business school. I didn’t feel that my military background and experience would provide helpful insights in class, so I rarely spoke up for the first few weeks. I slowly started speaking up more and was surprised that my classmates appreciated my unique insights. I have learned from people of many different industry backgrounds, ages, countries, and jobs. I wish I could tell myself that I belonged and my experiences were valid from day 1!”
Kacie Ryan, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

2) Connect With Professors Earlier: “I would have tried to connect with my professors earlier on in the program. I think as first year MBA students, we forget that the professors are more than just teachers in the classroom. They are experts in their fields who have connections to all different types of peoples and companies. They are excited to listen to your ideas and give advice because they really do have a great perspective on what’s going on in the industry.”
Olivia Glick, USC (Marshall)

3) Live In The Moment: “If I could re-do my MBA experience, I’d only change one thing – reducing the busyness of my schedule. I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did and was able to have the impact I wanted, but I would have slowed down, making more time for my family and friends. This was a great lesson to learn before re-entering the professional world. I feel prepared to be more intentional and thoughtful with how I use my time, talents, and treasures.”
Tyler Kelley, University of Virginia (Darden)

O’Shae Bridges, MIT (Sloan)

4) Know The Value Of A Network: “Throughout my MBA experience, I came to understand the immense value of MIT’s vast network. Although I primarily engaged with the Sloan School of Management community, I now realize the missed opportunities to connect with like-minded MIT undergraduate and graduate alumni who share my passion for building community-centric ventures. As an alum, I am committed to leveraging the diversity of the MIT network to achieve my venture goals and to strengthen the community of BIPOC startup founders in the Southeast region of the US. The power of the MIT network is undeniable, and I am determined to make the most of it.”
O’Shae Bridges, MIT (Sloan)

5) Learn About Other Industries: “I wish I had taken more time to learn about other industries. As a healthcare enthusiast interested in health-equity strategy, I skipped most other industry conferences, classes, and guest speakers if they weren’t directly tied to healthcare. On a whim, I attended a space energy conference at Haas because my close friends coordinated the event, and it made me realize how narrowly focused my last two years were. There are so many cool ways to learn about other industries, and Haas is an innovation and entrepreneurial hub that touches all industries. Having the privilege of knowing that I’m passionate about healthcare, I should take any opportunity to learn about other industries, even if only to become a more informed and well-rounded business leader.”
Charlie Yates, UC-Berkeley (Haas)

6) Take More Finance Courses: “If I could go back and do something differently, I would take more finance courses in the MBA program. I struggled a little with Managerial Finance in the second quarter as it was my first time studying finance and it was a very intense course! However, I should have pushed myself to take more finance courses and accepted it as a possible second concentration. Finance is the language of business; regardless of whether one works in finance, it is a great skill. I wish I had learned more about stock options and portfolio management, as they would have helped me make sound investments in the future.”
Rishabh Kakkar, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Next Page: Slow down and Open Doors With Your ‘Student’ Status.

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