While we still have the attention of those Class of 2020 MBA applicants who either have already gotten admitted in Round 1 or who are looking like they’re highly likely to get there in Round 2 (yay!), we thought we’d talk today about something you may or may not have thought of:
Studying for the GMAT or GRE was likely eye-opening, in reminding you of how much math you’ve forgotten, but that type of studying is not the same as being in school.
Where you’re like responsible for READING and you have to PREP CASES and ohmygosh there’s even more READING to do.
If you’re lucky enough to be headed off to grad school in the Fall, then we wanted to give you a quick reminder that, like, yeah. It’s gonna be WORK!
For anyone who’s been out of school for more than like 5 minutes, the reality of the academic environment and how hard it is can be easily forgotten. You’ve been practically obsessed with getting into bschool literally a year or more now, when you take into account the time spent in tackling the GMAT and figuring out the app cycle and going through the entire process to this point. You may have overlooked the fact that you’ve signed yourself up for SCHOOL. A quick primer on what that’s about may be worthwhile.
If you were a good student in college, you may fall back into those productive study habits without too much turmoil once you’re on campus. If you were never really that good of a student….
We recently were sent a free review copy of This Book Will Not Be on the Test: The Study Skills Revolution by Paul Rivas.
Here’s what Paul said when he sent it to us: “While designed to help families get their money’s worth in college, everything in the book is probably twice as important for grad students.”
Doing well in school requires effort. It’s work — and a different type of work than you do in your job. The type of focused concentration required to learn something new is a form of mental pain. It’s literally painful to learn, at least it can be when the topic is totally new. That experience of work being painful is something you probably went through when you first started your current job, but you may not remember how awful it is. Be prepared for the shock of it; it may take you some time to acclimate. You’ll be going from an environment where you were doing well, possibly even coasting, where you had full command of your discipline, where you knew what was expected on the job and were able to perform satisfactorily such that they actually kept paying you to do it…. To a totally opposite situation, where not only do you have to show up and focus on a lecture, and then another one, and then probably a third one after that, but then you have to go home and open up the books and study the stuff that made no sense to you in the classroom, and actually teach yourself the topics that the professor was going on and on about.
It’s like 180 degrees from the place of comfort and confidence that you had been in on the job. It’s likely to cause some angst.
This is particularly true given what you have signed up for: GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL. If you’ve not before been in grad school — or at a Top 10 institution of any kind — you may be in for a rude awakening when you land in your MBA classroom and realize that school actually started long before you arrived.
This Not on the Test book that came across our radar is not going to give you instant insights to all the study secrets of the world. You can probably find much of this same information elsewhere on the internet. So we’re not going to advise you to go buy it, though you might want to at least read through the preview on Amazon or go to his website and check out his blog .
However, if you weren’t a straight A student in college — or even if you were — you could find value in some of the practical tips that Rivas offers.
Some of it may seem basic when you read it, especially if you read it BEFORE you are back in the academic environment. But honestly, that may simply be due to a lack of perspective. It’s like if you hear that women are advised to breathe during childbirth. You read that and you’re all, “Well duh.” But then if you’re in a childbirth situation, you understand, “Oh. That advice really means something.”
Same deal here.
Rivas has a series of rules, such as one about planning out your time, and another to take responsibility for your learning, which could be considered fairly rudimentary — unless you’re someone who does not do these things, and suffers the consequences of that without realizing it.
Here’s a nugget that resonates with EssaySnark:
“If you approach the real world [meaning, life outside of school] seeking nothing more than the external validation of an A grade, you’re in for a world of hurt. Aiming for As amounts to doing the minimum required to meet an arbitrary and inconsistent standard, whereas aiming for awesomeness amounts to committing to a lifelong process of incremental improvement, of which straight As happen to be a convenient by-product.”
Yup, we agree precisely with all of that.
You may not have this orientation to learning today, but the way to make school the most enjoyable is to find a way to enjoy school. Sounds either hopelessly circular or perhaps idealistically unrealistic, but we hope that you’ll discover the power of this for yourself.
You may not want to learn accounting, or marketing, or statistics. Nobody is naturally interested in all subjects that they will require you to take for your MBA. However, if you’re able to appreciate the process of learning itself, then even something unappealing or difficult can still be tackled and learned, because you’re figured out ways to both motivate yourself to do the studying, and tricks to use to retain the material that’s so difficult for the brain to hold onto. Like the periodic table of elements in chemistry, or all the equations and different acronyms in corporate finance.
Or it’s possible that someone trying for the GMAT or the GRE for the first (or the umpteenth) time could find value in some insights at the beginning of Chapter 6:
“You’re not a poor test taker. You have poor study skills.
‘You don’t have test anxiety. You have anxiety because you know you haven’t mastered the material and are not going to do well on the test. The problem is that you don’t know why. (Poor study skills.)”
A huge chunk of this book is stories from the author’s experiences as a college tutor, and as he warned when he sent it over, it’s really written for parents. The real “meat” of the material in the context of actual advice to use for studying doesn’t start until page 93 — of a 130-page book. So it’s probably not really ideal for all of your soon-to-be MBA students.
But. If you read this post with some trepidation, knowing in your heart that you had trouble applying yourself to school the last time you were there, then take this as an early intervention, before you even need it. Bschool will be far more reading than you can ever stay on top of, and nobody will be watching to see if you fail. Good intentions won’t make you successful. You’ll need to do school differently this time if you want to get different results. Getting early prep and developing systems that work for you from the very beginning will be key.
And, ask for help! If you find you’re not keeping your head above water, don’t just pretend that everything is fine. There’s a lot of unspoken peer pressure in bschool where everyone pretends that they’re doing fabulous, even if really they’re not. Don’t let things go too far if you’re in trouble. All schools have resources available but they won’t be able to help you if you don’t seek them out.
From Lao Tzu:
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”