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4-5 Month Mark: Share Your Rants, Raves, Reflections


You’ve made it through 4-5 months of MBA life:

  • What’s been the biggest surprise?
  • What’s been the most disappointing?
  • What do you wish you knew before you started?
  • etc…

First-years, let’s hear it! Anything goes

@Remund @Neethling_McGrath @Sarah @claresimonis @CSegura @sabainak @lily.trieu @samuelmroth @ikechukwu_edeagu @anna_trusen @jade.jia @t.ceithaml @Mathias @stugrondel @danc @aritra


Hey Darren!


  • It is very humid in Pittsburgh
  • It is still difficult to wake up for 8:30 am classes
  • Getting used to living on a student budget takes more time and effort than I thought
  • Tepper and CMU is very intense – there have been 100 hour weeks


  • Not getting to be a greater part of the CMU community outside Tepper – primarily because consulting recruitment starts so early. However, I am planning to take courses outside Tepper in the coming semesters.
  • Women represent only about 30% of our community. We need to change this.

What I Wish I Knew

  • Recruitment starts before classes – a top consulting firm had a full day boot-camp a day before classes started
  • Case competitions are brilliant


  • Amazon Prime is a student’s best friend


Biggest surprise…
How much I loved the professors at McCombs! I’ve also found that I’m enjoying classes that were really difficult for me in undergrad. I really struggled with accounting and finance back in the day but really enjoyed it this past semester - probably because of how amazing the professors are. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the academics during the application process but it’s incredible how much you learn in 5 months.

Most disappointing…
It’s really easy to let MBA life take over everything. I’m someone who really enjoys working out, volunteering, and being involved in the community. Because the MBA experience moves so quickly, I found myself saying yes to everything and spending a lot of time on campus - cutting back the time I spend working out or doing other activities I enjoy. I’m trying to change that this spring!

What I wish I knew…
EVERYONE in these programs are super accomplished. At first, it’ll be easy to compare yourself to your peers and feel some anxiety or imposter’s syndrome…let it go! We’re all there because we add unique perspectives and value to the class. Spend your energy trying to get together one another and help one another in class/recruiting - less time trying to prove that you belong there!


Thanks @rafaym and @lily.trieu! Sounds like the scarcest resource at b-school is TIME.

I want to add another possible (and quick!) way to contribute to this thread:

What PHOTO best captures your b-school experience so far?!


What’s been the biggest surprise?

  • I am constantly impressed by the caliber of my classmates. While I knew that the Illinois admission team held high standards, it is hard to believe that I go to school with some of these people. These classmates have been on the cutting edge of innovative new energy systems, dedicated their lives to combat poverty in Southeast Asia (all while furthering a demanding career in finance), and have been liaisons for multi-national business operations in Latin America, just to name a few. I feel incredibly privileged to go to work side by side with the people that I do.

What’s been the most disappointing?

  • When I hear about the difficulties my international classmates are having with finding an internship, it is truly depressing. Some of these students have the most impressive profiles, are amazing people to get to know, with an absolute wealth of knowledge and skills in their repertoire, and some recruiters refuse to even speak with them while others rudely dismiss them when approached during networking or job fair events. I completely understand that companies are often times limited by factors outside of their control regarding their consideration of an international candidate, but there is no reason for anyone to be rude to these students when they are just trying to further their dreams.

What do you wish you knew before you started?

  • The internship search is a huge part of the first-year and adds another dimension to the whole B-school experience. While securing an internship is without a doubt one of the most important things to focus on as you move through this incredibly intense experience, investing time in something that has no bearing on your academics when your time is so limited to begin with is extremely challenging.

As for a pic, I think this one taken during the total solar eclipse (which just so happened to align with our orientation) captures both the awe and wonder that I feel most days when I get to work with some of my peers and professors.


The Surprising

  • The overwhelming milk (and other food) options.
  • How overwhelming the MBA program can get. I definitely underestimated what people meant when they said it’s like drinking from a fire hose.
  • That it takes an army of admissions folks to bring together a group of individuals, from all over the world, all driven to drive change in areas they feel passionate about.

The Disappointing

  • The underwhelming public transportation options in Tempe.
  • Coming across internship posts that interest and excite you—only to find out you do not qualify as an applicant due to your visa status. In addition to what @CSegura said, it can get discouraging when you could apply to just a few internships from a long list of companies at an MBA conference, which you likely had to fly to so you could attend.

What I Wish I Knew Before I Started

  • That there were student discounts for many things in many places (whether brick-and-mortar or online).
  • That the MBA program was not only a place to learn academically—it was also a process that would challenge my personality, pushing me to my limits in ways I never knew before.

Quick Semester 1 Review

Admissions folks often said, back when I was still applying, that the program was a highly transformative experience. After the first semester, I realize now that this is definitely true. I would have to agree with @lily.trieu in that the MBA program can very easily take over everything, and that it could even make you question how/why you got admitted in the first place. At least for me and some of my classmates, this is certainly true. In spite of the challenges, what makes it all manageable are the very supportive classmates and (also equally important!) school staff.


Hey Darren!

What’s been the biggest surprise?
How difficult some of the group work has been. Rewarding, but difficult. My class has 60 different nationalities and my pre-assigned study group has 6 nationalities out of 6 team members, and we are all the better for it, one hundred percent, however it takes patience and discipline to extract the maximum benefit from each person in the group. This is the real leadership and soft skills you learn in the MBA. And this is just one example of where we practice this kind of stuff. In addition, we do group presentations, projects that require us to interview people in the wider university and the general public, and there countless other opportunities to practice soft skills .

What’s been the most disappointing?
One year really is too short to experience Oxford to it’s fullest, but we are certainly trying! So I’m a bit sad that the course is only one short year.

What do you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I had spent time practicing increasing my reading speed. There is just so much great material in the course and in the wider university to read and absorb. I want make the absolute most of this time away from work but I’m limited by my average reading speed.

The Oxford Union is the University’s debating society housed (naturally) in an amazing old building with an superb library (one of literally tens of libraries in Oxford, each hundreds of years old) and we get free membership with our fees. It is fantastic. Each week there are very popular speakers to listen to and learn from, such as famous actors, high profile politicians and other notable figures.

Bow ties and academic gowns are common in Oxford:

MBAs on a field trip to the Mini Cooper plant in Oxford:

We were treated to some snow in Oxford this Winter. Here is The Queen’s College looking spectacular:

Alec Baldwin speaking at the Union:


@rafaym @lily.trieu @CSegura @Remund @stugrondel thanks for bringing a little piece of your MBA life to this forum!

The 2019 US News MBA Rankings just came out (here’s a quick summary from Clear Admit). Just wondering, how important do you feel rankings are? Do they impact your MBA experience as students? I’m intentionally keeping this open ended. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Hey Darren!

First, big shoutout to CMU Tepper for moving up 2 spots in the US News rankings this year! The student body and administration is actively working towards improving our ranking in the coming years, and the inauguration of the Tepper Quad this summer will help push our school closer to our goal.

Okay now – rankings are a great first measure, but they hardly scratch the surface. It is safe to say that one of the most important aspects of choosing an MBA program for most candidates is career prospects. Choosing a program based on industry focus, program speciality, curriculum offering, and on-campus recruiting resources is a far better method than relying on rankings.

As an example, almost all major consulting firms recruit on campus at Tepper. Moreover, if you are interested in operations and analytics consulting, Tepper is one of the few core schools that major firms recruit at for those practices.

To get a sense of what a school might be able to offer you, looking at career and industry statistics as well as profiles on LinkedIn is very helpful (Tepper is at a slight disadvantage here – our small class size means that we put out relatively fewer graduates in the market).

In conclusion, rankings are a great first impression and worth celebrating. But if you are going to spend upwards of $150K, it pays off to make a more informed decision. Certainly, people who make a considered decision are in general more successful in my limited experience.


Great question Darren! I’ll echo a lot of what @rafaym said - rankings are definitely a piece of the puzzle and McCombs is proud to consistently rank as a top tiered program but it’s not the only thing that excites students. We just moved into our brand new, beautiful building for the MBA program and believe that dedicated spaces for entrepreneurship, design thinking, and collaboration will really contribute to the way McCombs graduates go into the workplace. I’m sure that in 2019, this will be reflected in the rankings as well!

To build on the previous comment, it’s critically important to understand the career prospects of an MBA program by looking at career statistics but it is also incredibly valuable to align a program with your personal values and culture. You’ll be spending a lot of time and money during your MBA process - you want to make sure you’re surrounding yourself by people who are helping you reach your goals. The best way to do this is by speaking with a lot of alumni, current students, and visiting campuses. This will tell you much more than just rankings!


After using rankings as a first screen, it sounds like careers and culture are critical factors to consider


I also thought I’d share what @Mathias posted as his top 3 lessons after 4 months at LBS: