Quick tips to surviving business school

Business school is nothing if not practical. I could draw a Venn diagram of the reasons why all of my college peers chose business school with “because it was practical” on one side and “because my parents told me to” on the other with most people falling in the center. If you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, they’ll probably say something cute like “firefighter” or “teacher.” If you ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up and they say “accountant,” they need a psychiatric evaluation. Crunching numbers on Excel is not exactly what dreams are made of.

But it is what paychecks are made of! And that’s probably why you chose to go to your school where you pulled all-nighters studying for your finance final, unsure if the tears coming from your eyes were the result of actual sadness or pure exhaustion, instead of going to a fun college, wearing Greek letters and drinking jungle juice on a Monday.

Choosing to go to a business school means making the choice to sacrifice a lot of things – fun and your soul being two of them – but it is something you can come out the other side alive from. Here’s what I gathered when toiling my way through business school.

School is no longer a joke

Having come to my college from high school where trying was uncool and at least a 3.0 was achievable without ever studying or opening a textbook, I was shocked at how much my peers seemed to care. In this alternate universe, the first row seats were sought after, people laughed at the teachers’ dry statistics-related jokes as genuinely as they could muster and finding a seat in the library was nearly impossible.

Of course, students caring is a good thing and ultimately peer pressures you into doing the same if you aren’t motivated already. Business school is not easy! There’s likely a few super tough classes meant to weed people out or lead them to a mental breakdown in the middle of the library when studying at 2 in the morning. Studying is no longer an option and failure, at least a few times, is most likely guaranteed.


Handshakes are normal means of greeting

We don’t do fist bumps at business school. No daps. High fives are for weirdos, a simple head nod will not do, and hugs are way too intimate. If you’re attending business school in the fall, it’s time to perfect your handshake. Firm, but not too firm to seem desperate. But not too soft, for fear of being perceived as weak. The “first impression” of business school is the first handshake.

Pro tip: if you do this when you meet people outside of business school they will think you’re a cop and laugh at you. 

You better hold that door

I don’t care if the next person coming is 100 feet away. The second you make eye contact with the person walking behind you, you have become indebted to them. You must hold that door. This is something that is either inherently known by those entering business school, or something learned the hard way.

I just fully grasped the concept of interest

If you don’t study accounting or finance nor have any intention to nor ever DID have any intention to but you are required to take accounting and finance classes, you will probably sit through the next four years of those courses feeling like you have a massive, cartoonish question mark over your head. But you’re in luck! If math isn’t your strong suit, check out courses in management or marketing. Those classes require a totally different set of skills – and yes, interpersonal skills do count as skills, to anyone in accounting or finance that is scoffing reading this right now.

You’re never not networking

If I had a dollar for every time someone pitched their startup idea or handed their business card to me at a frat, I would have a few more dollars than I have right now. Everyone is a potential connection. The football player that lives down the hall. The girl that cheats off of your math exams. The janitor. These people can all become an asset to you one day. So shake their hands firmly and send them a LinkedIn invite within 1-2 business days of meeting.

Chads have feelings too.

Just because he wears salmon pants and talks loudly into the latest version of the iPhone to his father about his mutual fund doesn’t mean he has no heart. For me, going to a business school meant learning to embrace all types of people. On a super soft note, everyone has something to offer and all types of personalities should be welcome on teams. Dynamic teams come up with way better ideas.

It’s worth it in the end

There’s a lot of cool business jobs out there and though it’s hard work, it’ll certainly pay off. Business school teaches you hard skills and practical knowledge for real-world jobs. You’ll enter the adult world slightly more prepared than you were four years ago as a wee freshman, I promise.

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