Well, you are seated; the belts are fastened and locked. The car creeps slowly to the point of no return and all your muscles strain in the anticipation of the wild ride. That’s pre-term orientation, when you get a vague idea of what your life is going to be like during the next four weeks. Then it suddenly dives, sending your adrenaline level soaring; acceleration and “free falls” take turns in fractions of a second and you don’t know any more whether you’re right way up or upside down. After a couple of dives and loops you finally relax (after all, you don’t have very much control over anything else) and start enjoying the speed and the thrill, and then… all of a sudden it’s over. You get off. Exhale. Exhausted and excited. That’s Fall A. Fast and fascinating.
The first week was the most difficult. Starting from Day Zero business school tests your stamina and pushes your limits in all possible ways. You basically have only two classes a day, yet the quantity and quality of material is too much for a mortal without super powers (e.g. extending time or staying “alive and kicking” without any sleep). From the very beginning you are supposed to analyze cases, build economic models, read dozens of pages to just prep for classes. Economics, statistics, general management and organizational culture challenges, compelling discussions, “cold calls” make your life exciting and miserable at the same time. During week one I tried to absorb and complete everything without compromising quality AND participate in all the activities as well. The first thing to trade-off was my eight-hour sleep. Pretty soon I found out, that it was not enough (moreover, the scarce hours left for sleep are not efficiently used since the brain never stops processing information). At a certain point you have an epiphany that it’s not about time management (if only THAT were the issue!). Here you start to understand and apply econ concepts from the ManEc course: allocating your scarce resources to gain maximum benefit evaluating opportunity costs. Many things suddenly disappear from your life, as you can’t afford a huge waste of time such as an hour in a manicure salon or going shopping. On the other hand, things that really matter crystallize and you make a point of keeping them.
Amazingly enough in week two I discovered that I had adjusted, relaxed and started enjoying the ride. Partially it’s in human nature. We can adapt to any circumstances. However, a lot of credit should be given to the school itself.
First, one of the greatest things about Tuck is the focus on teamwork. Before coming to b-school many prospective MBAs are somewhat skeptical about teamwork in general and study groups in particular. It’s understandable. Let’s face it: very often (if not most of the time) we are struggling on our own in life, work, studies etc. We are used to facing challenges, enjoying success and taking credit as individuals. However, at Tuck you discover how collaboration can increase efficiency exponentially and how much you can learn from your classmates in study groups. At the end of the group discussion of a case there is always a decent deliverable and your understanding goes even deeper after class discussion.
Second, complex business concepts and phenomena are somehow made totally accessible. If you put in some effort (i.e. read, understand, participate) you master them. I am definitely surprised by the fact that I can ALREADY knowledgeably speak about economics and statistics (having zero background in both). Furthermore, the concepts you learn creep under your skin and you start applying them in your thinking about everyday things and reevaluating your personal life and professional experiences.
Four weeks of Fall A raced by. We all survived. We all learned a lot. Now I know that I can study efficiently in any available time spans, read fast, prioritize, process huge amounts of information without system failures, stay awake and functional even with very little sleep. Moreover, I somehow managed to attend recruiting events, develop relationships, play hockey, hang out and at have lots fun at weekly Tuck parties (those are a blast!).
PS: The breathtaking ride takes place in a serene idyllic setting.