Al Dea (Kenan-Flagler, ‘15) had a good idea of what was coming his way for his first semester of business school. But just because he knew what was coming didn’t mean he was fully prepared to handle it. By leaning on his classmates and helping them in return when he could, Al navigated his way through his first semester.
Name: Al Dea
School: University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)
Here’s what you need to know
First semester of business school was a challenge! Honestly, looking back, sometimes I say to myself, “how the hell did I do that!?” But the reality is that everyone always survives and so did I. There were multiple highs and lows – it really was a rollercoaster which made it more difficult. A high of my first semester was getting to know my classmates really well. You spend so much time with people you break down barriers really quickly. There were a handful of people I became friends with right away, and getting to know them and spending time with them was really great. It didn’t matter if it was just getting lunch or coffee, building those relationships was really meaningful. A low was getting a mid-term grade back, and getting a grade that was significantly lower than I expected and nowhere equivalent to the work I put into studying. That was pretty humbling!
Business school was challenging in many ways. Previously in consulting, I had dealt with working long hours, but for the most part, when I was home, or done with work, I was done. Similarly, when our team flew home on Thursday nights, we didn’t see each other or talk again for a few days. In business school, you are always on, and always around your classmates. In Class, at recruiting events, in study rooms, at social events, (even roommates!) It makes the experience so much more immersive, but at the same time, it’s sometimes very overwhelming. Prioritizing was another key challenge. It meant sacrificing some things, but it had to be done in order for me to move forward.
While it wasn’t much, I did have some personal time. When I did, I tried my best to stick with running. I just checked my RunKeeper and I averaged probably one run a week during the months of September-December. It got much better in the spring, and it got really good during my second year (especially during second semester!) One thing I did a lot of was reading. I consume a ton of content, especially digitally and on mobile devices (phone, tablet, etc) I tend to read stuff that is about business, so I justified it by saying it was relevant to my coursework 🙂 Finally, I tried to be social, if anything, just to do something else besides school work. I don’t drink (medical reasons) but I do enjoy going out and seeing people so I usually made it out once a week.
In general, my days were pretty jam packed, from 8AM-6PM. There always was some variability (there wasn’t always a recruiting event) but generally speaking I was “on” from 8AM-6PM and then in study/work mode from 7PM-11:45PM. I tried to be in bed by midnight each night. I wasn’t always successful.
- 6:45AM – Wake Up
- 7:10AM – Leave for School
- 7:30AM – Arrive, at school
- 8:00AM-9:20AM – First Class (Stats)
- 9:20-:930 – Coffee Break
- 9:30-10:50 Second Class (Accounting)
- 11-12:20 -Third Class (Finance)
- 12:30-2 – Lunch/E-Mail/Career Club Meeting
- 2:00-4:00 – Team Meeting or Homework/Studying
- 5:00-7:00- Recruiting Event
- 7:00-8:00 Dinner
- 8:00-11:30 – Study
- 12:00 – Bed
Weekends I usually could sleep in, but there was still always something going on. Saturdays were usually personal days which I could use at my leisure. I would usually spend a chunk of my day doing work at a coffee shop but I’d always end early in the day and try to make time to see friends or go out. Sundays were usually football and group work/study days. I would usually have the morning to myself, but a good chunk of the afternoon/evening was devoted to school work or groupwork.
Something that helped me was having good friends to study with. 2 of my other classmates, Najee and Jeff, and I became pretty good friends, but we also had complimentary skillsets. Both of them came from non-business backgrounds and I had business experience. We also all loved structure, so we’d spend most of our evenings in the libraries, coffee shops, and study rooms together reviewing notes, working on problems. Naturally, they would teach me things I didn’t understand (basically anything that involved math) and vice versa. I think that was a huge help to me from both an academic standpoint and friendship standpoint.
Ask for Help Early – Don’t wait, don’t be afraid, don’t panic. It can be easy to feel insecure or like you’re a failure for not knowing something but it’s far from the truth. Business school can be incredibly humbling, but ask for help when you need it. You’ll probably be surprised at how willing people are to help you.
Give Help when you can – Similarly, there’s probably someone out there who could use your help. Try to be a good classmate and extend a hand. You’ll make friends and also reinforce concepts that you know since you’ll have to explain it to others
Timebox – At some point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, so don’t spin your wheels too hard; put a timer on it and go with what you have.
Really Get to know your classmates – You’re going to be spending a lot of time with the people around you. Truly get to know them and build relationships with them. One of the easiest common denominators amongst people is food, so I would host people over at my apartment once a month and cook (I use that verb liberally) dinner. It was a great way to get to know people outside of the school or perhaps normal social environment, and I built some great relationships from it.