Today we’re continuing our Q&A series with Bell Curves alumni who are currently pursuing or just recently finished their MBAs. Our last On the Record post was a Q&A with Goreleigh Willis. This time around Crystal Forde shares some of her insights and advice on the 1st year MBA experience.
Crystal is currently an MBA candidate at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where she is focusing on Health Sector Management and Strategy. At Fuqua she is a cabinet member of the Healthcare Club and a daytime MBA blogger, and has led a Global Academic Travel Experience Trip to India and co-chaired the Admitted Students Weekend. Prior to business school she spent five and a half years in various sales roles at Pfizer and AstraZeneca, where she had a strong track record of transforming territories by increasing market share and exceeding sales goals. Crystal holds a BBA in Marketing with Honors distinction from Oakwood University.
What’s the most surprising aspect of your first year in an MBA Program?
Time is a different beast in business school—things move faster than you can even think or imagine. As you prepare for business school, everyone will tell you that the pace of business school is really intense, but it is not until you experience it for yourself that you can really grasp the magnitude of the pace. At Fuqua we have six-week terms; classes meet for two hours, two times a week. That means you have 24 hours with your professor to learn finance, accounting, operations, and the like. I’ll let that sink in for a minute…24 hours! In addition to class time, you have to spend time with your learning team outside of class to complete assignments. Recruiting also starts pretty early in this process, so you have to attend company presentations and networking activities that happen pretty much every night during the fall. And let us not forget that one of the reasons you attend business school in the first place is to broaden your network, so you also have to make time to get to know your classmates. All business schools have tons of clubs that you’ll also want to participate in to get both leadership experience as well as exposure to career skills and things you enjoy doing. And lastly, you had a life before business school, and you often have to remind yourself of that and check in with your friends and family at home. All in all, the most surprising thing of my first year was how busy I was and how fast time flew. Time management becomes extremely crucial in business school and you have to learn to make time for what’s important to you.
If you had to tell prospective MBAs one thing about your school or about business school, what would be it?
Besides Fuqua being the most awesome place ever?!?! On a serious note though, I am really happy I made the decision to go back to school and even happier that I chose Fuqua. The one thing that I would say about Fuqua and probably business school in general is that the experience is what you make it. You can do everything or nothing at all. It is up to you to make the experience a transformational one rather than a transactional one. There are endless opportunities for you to get into whatever your heart desires and I encourage you to use the resources at your school to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Business school is academically rigorous and demanding, but it is a safe zone to explore. Use your two years wisely to truly stretch and challenge yourself.
What’s the best way to get ready for the rigors of business school?
If you’ve been out of school for a while or do not work in an analytical role, I would advise that you brush up on your math skills. Things pick up really quickly in school and you don’t want to be learning what “log” is when you’re doing statistics. In addition, if you can exempt any of the core classes, then aim for that, as it will give you more time to focus on electives of your preference. Beyond academics, it would be wise to start thinking about your career transition prior to your business school matriculation. There isn’t much time to “figure things out” and while there is definitely room for exploration, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin with recruiting. Having a career plan, and perhaps a backup plan, will help you navigate the recruiting process more effectively. Finally, and probably most importantly, get some rest before business school. Spend some time with your friends and family; have some fun and just chill out. Enjoy your few months or weeks of “funemployment”!
Did taking and preparing for the GMAT get you ready to tackle your classes?
Preparing for the GMAT eased me back in study mode. In addition, it helped me relearn a lot of math concepts that I had long forgotten that are essential to core business school classes.
For more information on how Bell Curves courses and tutoring could help you maximize your GMAT score to improve your graduate business school prospects, visit us at gmat.bellcurves.com.