First-year MBA: Value outside the classroom

I’ve almost come to the point where I feel guilty relaxing to watch some Netflix because that just means I’m procrastinating on something for school… even if I don’t know what it is. In my first post on the “First-Year MBA” series in August, I mentioned spending 12-hour days in Bauer Hall.

If anything that average has gone up during September. The crazy part is, I never had more than 3 hours of class in one day, and we don’t even have class on Fridays anymore!


Consulting Platform industry session with a representative from Emerson.

I’m quickly learning the first-year MBA experience is defined just as much by the time you spend outside the classroom.

The biggest change from August, when we were in the Gateway: Olin! (GO!) orientation program and the first few weeks of class, was the start of what Olin calls “platform industry seminars.” So let me back up. The Olin MBA allows you to choose an optional focus from five different industry areas:

In order to allow first-year students to explore and learn about these areas, give them a better idea of real jobs and roles, and introduce them to industry professionals, each platform schedules a series of speakers. The best part is none of these sessions overlap with classes or each other, and you are encouraged to attend as many as you like.

I focused on the marketing sessions, but I’ve explored sessions from each platform. I’ve heard from executives in companies from, Booz/Allen/Hamilton, McKinsey, Boeing, Accenture, Nestle Purina, Emerson, Viacom and more. The chance to get an on-the-ground perspective from so many diverse companies in an industry and then meet them in the networking reception afterwards is invaluable. Yes, these sessions took up a huge chunk of my afternoons, but they were always worth it.

Students line up to meet recruiters at a Meet the Firms event.

Students line up to meet recruiters at a Meet the Firms event.

Before I knew it, we were halfway through September, meaning it was time for the first of two Meet the Firms career fairs. This is great if you know exactly what you want to do and have lots of free time to research and target all the firms you’re interested in. But if you’re like me and your career ambitions are fuzzy at best, and you are swamped with homework and group projects, it’s a pretty daunting event to prepare for barely one month into your MBA program.

Unfortunately, internship application deadlines wait for no one. Deadlines at the best firms are as soon as early fall and Meet the Firms is an important precursor for both students and the companies to get to know each other. So I wrote out my target list, grabbed my new padfolio and WashU business cards, threw on my suit, and had some great conversations with a slew of different companies. Out of about 22 firms I talked with over the two Meet the Firms events in back-to-back weeks, I would say four really stood out. Hey, it only takes one, right?

The rest of September was a challenging, exciting, and exhausting blur. My class continued to bond outside the classroom through stuff like our Cardinals baseball game outing. It was particularly fun for a lifelong fan like me to introduce so many new people to the Cardinals and baseball in general. (I even organized a Baseball 101 session for some of the curious international students).

Cardinals game at Busch Stadium.

Cardinals game at Busch Stadium.

Also, now that the second-year MBAs have returned to Olin from their summer internships, we’ve enjoyed getting to know them, too. They introduced us to Olin’s impressive assortment of over 30 full-time MBA clubs, associations and other extra-curricular groups that are now in full swing again. Applications for case competitions, elections for student government, club leadership positions and random conferences on topics like sports business offer endless opportunities. I wanted to be really careful about getting over-committed (as was my tendency in undergrad), but I’m really excited to get involved with programs like InSITE Fellowship, PepsiCo Case Competition, Net Impact, and the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association.

And, of course, between all those opportunities, career fairs and platform industry sessions, the heavy load of classwork and late nights at Bauer Hall continued. As September ended, we wrapped up our first “Mini A” half of the semester and had final exams for two classes. But if there’s one thing I learned from my second month of the MBA program, it’s that the learning extends far beyond the classroom. So make the most of it.

This piece is one of a series that chronicles Cole’s first-year MBA experience at Olin Business School. Cole says he hopes these posts can offer a valuable, genuine student perspective of life at Olin. Stay tuned later this month for a post on Cole’s pre-MBA travel adventures with Switchback Kids

In Career, Student Life
Tag ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve the equation: *