by Johanna Singer, ’15
My first fall semester at Columbia Business School has been an absolutely whirlwind, filled with new experiences and a fair amount of adjustment. Trying to focus on academics and a new, very active social scene while attempting to make headway on a new career was a challenge, to put it lightly.
During the two weeks of orientation the first year students were well prepared by the second years. We were given unlimited advice and guidance to help us navigate the business school world. Though in reality, without having experienced it yet, this advice was difficult to fully appreciate.
One bit of advice from orientation that stuck with me throughout the semester was that while there are three pieces to the MBA experience, career, social and academic, you cannot do all three well at the same time. I remember thinking to myself when I heard this, but that’s why I’m here! That is why I quit my job, moved and essentially uprooted my life. I am here to learn, make connections and get a fantastic new job. I couldn’t quite imagine how it was not possible to do all three simultaneously and successfully and I thought that this piece of advice really could not apply to me.
Four months later, after countless case readings, class discussions, company presentations and information sessions and happy hours, I fully abandon any attempt to prove this lesson untrue. I quickly learned it was important to make sacrifices. Solely focusing on academics would leave me feeling as though I were missing out on getting to know my classmates and, on the other hand, neglecting academics would leave me feeling behind in classes. I learned to juggle responsibilities as well as rearrange priorities depending on timing and my own personal goals. While one week would be dedicated to my career or academics, largely dictated by due dates, the next could be very social.
Guidance that I initially dismissed, quickly became a valuable lesson and a bit of a saving grace. With the help of this advice, my first semester was a great learning experience on the importance of understanding when to make sacrifices and realize priorities.