Hypothetically speaking this post was supposed to be delivered at the end of Orientation, but at that point I didn't really have much to say. Or rather, I had a lot to say, but my mind was unable to coalesce all the random thoughts into articulate words. Three months later, all the random thoughts are still floating around my head haphazardly, but I have so much free time during this winter break, I thought what the hell, let's try to reminisce.
The easiest type of post to write is a list - so here's my top 10 takeaways from my first quarter at UCLA Anderson.
1. I really like LA. Having come from a lifetime of living in Philly, there was definitely a bit of a culture shock coming out here. Yes, the driving culture sucks and traffic is as bad as they say. And even the "walkable" areas of LA aren't really that walkable. But it's a fun city. There's a lot to do. It's a diverse city. And yeah, it does have great weather. I went a month and a half before we had our first rain. In between it was literally all sunny days. One thing to note, the mornings and nights do get chilly, so bring a jacket or hoodie.
2. Anderson's orientation was fantastic. It's a lot of bonding and icebreaking exercises, but I thought they did a great job of creating an open and inviting atmosphere where you really felt like you could approach and get to know everyone. It sets the perfect tone for the school year to kick off. Eventually, cliques will form, but I think the spirit of openness and camraderie they established during orientation has still carried through and made the experience a lot better.
3. Take as many waiver classes as you can - and pass them. You'll hear this advice from every second year you speak to. And coming in, you might think, "yeah I'm gonna prepare and take a bunch of waivers". And then you get here, start meeting people, having some fun and the conversation will sort of unfold:
"Are you taking any waivers?"
"Nah. Well, maybe. I've been thinking about it. Are you?"
"I was thinking about it too. But now I dunno. It seems like if I took the class it'd be an easy A."
BZZT. WRONG. Not that the class wouldn't be an easy A, but the workload required to get that A is not worth the hassle. I took two waivers, accounting and stats. I only prepared for one, stats. I passed that one, and it made a huge difference in making my schedule more manageable, both throughout the year and during finals week. I'm pretty sure this helped boost the grades for the other classes I did take, because I could spend more time on them. Additionally, the waiver test you take will be easier than all the materials covered in the course. If you've taken the classes in undergrad, you've probably learned everything they will teach. So do yourself a favor and prepare and take the waivers.
4. Go to Vegas. At least once a year, and ideally once a quarter. Because there's no better bonding than when you're sitting in a row with your buds at a Black Jack table just raking it in. And there's no better commiseration than when you're all losing money together at a cold craps table.
5. Try to do well in your classes. You'll often hear that grades aren't a big deal in b-school. While that's sort of true, know that 45% of a class gets an A- or above, at least in the core classes. If you're not part of that large subset, you're going to kick yourself, because it's like you finished the season with a sub-.500 record. Don't be like the 2012 Lakers. Be like the 2012 Clippers.
6. If you get sick, shut it down. And you will get sick. Because b-school is like this echo chamber of grossness - germs get in swirl about and never leave. So when you get sick, throw off your responsibilities for a day or two, shut it down and recover completely. I've seen too many people operate at 60% miserableness for 2-3 weeks at a time.
7. Go out a lot. Even before coming to b-school I was a bit skeptical about the educational value of b-school. The first quarter hasn't really allayed my skepticism. But from a social perspective, it's been better than I thought it would be. B-school, actually, is a lot like undergrad, except you're not as totally clueless. You'd be surprised at how much this adds to the experience. This is why you'll hear a lot of people say b-school was one of the best times of their lives. So go out often, because it's not often you get to hang with a bunch of people with similar goals in a similar lifestage as you.
8. Sign up for more than you think you can do. Sort of a riff on the previous point, but a bit more academics/school centered. This is paraphrased advice from my section leader. The idea is do more than you think you can do, because you only get this one chance. So make the most of it.
9. Get to know the second years. Admittedly, I haven't done a particularly great job of this. But they're you're classmates too. A second year told me (probably also another case of my section leader's advice) that they're just as eager to meet the first years, but just as nervous, since we have our own cliques and they have their own cliques. So reach out and get to know them.
10. Aspire for something bigger. The school's job is to help us find jobs in the fields we want. They will have a narrow focus in mind. Our job is to go in with a bigger dream in mind and challenge the school every step of the way to think bigger. If you aim higher, it'll also make your job search easier, because you'll have a much more compelling story for the recruiters and interviewers.
I said I had ten. Here's a bonus eleventh. Just have fun. Business school is not srs biz. It's not Rocky vs. Ivan Drago - it won't make or break you. So have a good time with it. The time really does fly by.
Late addition - Find an awesome roommate, because going solo is an emo pity parade, while two+ is the start of an award winning lolcat brigade. Seriously, I'd only have half the fun if I hadn't lucked out with a very cool roomie. (Unfortunately, I don't have much practical advice on how to go about actually finding a good roommate, beyond talk to people and trust your instincts.)
And now... lazy picture spam...