8 Things I Didn’t Expect about Grad School


It seems impossible that I’m already in my second semester of business school. Initially, I had planned to share more about how things were going throughout the semester, and initially, I had planned to blog more in general. One of my weaknesses I’ve learned about myself (as much as I hate to admit it) is time management. It’s not for lack of trying, but I always end up taking a lot longer to complete a task than I had originally allotted. For example, I might think a particular assignment will take me two hours, but I can easily spend four hours on it. So, if anyone has any suggestions for setting a realistic schedule and sticking with it or just general time management skills, I would love to hear them!

The last five months have been a whirlwind, so without further ado, here are the top eight things that surprised me this semester:

  1. Intensity of the workload
    • Obviously, I should have expected this, right? Well, I did, but I underestimated just how intense it would be. I was always a good student during undergrad, but the pressure in grad school is different. It isn’t just about memorizing information and repeating it on an exam. It is so important to learn the information and be able to make a recommendation about a situation, and then be able to defend your position. It can be a lot of pressure to be prepared like this for every class!
  2. Relearning how to learn
    • This sounds silly, but it took me a little while to remember how to learn. Switching gears from a corporate work environment to learning new concepts and frameworks and thinking critically every day was quite an adjustment. It was almost like a jolt to my brain and took me a while to accept that I would really need to spend some quality time with the material to fully understand it.
  3. Amazing classmates
    • I was truly so impressed by the caliber of the other students in the program. Everyone has such different backgrounds and work experiences, and it is so interesting to get to know everyone. Knowing that everyone is in the same boat – we’re all full-time students again in all the same classes – really fosters a great sense of community. Plus, I’m so impressed with how much everyone is willing to help one another (i.e., it pays to know someone who has a PDF of the textbook)!.
  4. Group work
    • There was a lot of group work this past semester. Northeastern assigned us all to a five-person learning team, with whom we did almost all of our assignments. I know it is a testament to how closely we’ll need with others in the business environment, but I also found it so helpful to have a group to rely on. I know groups don’t always jive as well as we did, but I felt so lucky to have a built-in group of four friends to work through everything with.
  5. Loving some classes and really not loving others
    • I  knew I was interested in marketing going into the program, but I was surprised by just how fascinating I find the job of a marketer. There are so many facets of marketing, and it really required me to use both sides of my brain – the analytical and the creative. I know both aspects are something I’ll need in a job to be happy in the long-run. On the other hand, and I’m not actually surprised by this, but I am now fairly certain that I probably won’t be pursuing a career in accounting.
  6. Time management is hard
    • Like I said above, I actually found this to be one of my weaknesses this semester. I would actually set aside time to work on each class (and actually mark it down on my Google calendar), but I would never stick to it. Recently I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic on Audible, and one thing that really stuck with me is her mother’s mantra “done is better than good.” I honestly think that an extra hour spent on an assignment once it is done will really only yield a marginally higher grade. Is that even worth it? I’m going to try to get things done and move on this semester.
  7. Studying can be lonely
    • As much as I loved to work with and study with my learning team, I felt like I didn’t get as much out of our sessions together unless I had spent some quality time alone with the material ahead of time. My dad always used to tell me that “studying is lonely business,” and right now I’m finding that to be true with the long hours I’m putting in alone at my desk.
  8. The need for a creative hobby
    • I am so glad I started this blog during my last semester of undergrad when I really felt I needed something “fun” to do on the side. Although the blog didn’t get as much love as I had wanted to give it, I’m so glad it existed for me to have some sort of outlet. Like Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Big Magic, we all have this innate desire to create. I love photography and writing and fashion and making pretty things, and even though it may seem frivolous at times, this blog gives me meaning and direction.


Sometimes I avoid sharing too much about what’s going on with me/my life/in my mind, but I hope this post gave you a little more insight into what the life of a full-time MBA student is all about.

Also – any time management tips or app recommendations would be SO appreciated!


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