Five things I wish I knew before I started my MBA

darren mba graduationI finished my part-time MBA in May. For three years, all I did was complain about how much I hated going to school and how much I wanted to be done. But then, a funny thing happened.

It was over. Just like that. I walked across the stage, got my degree and more than likely, ended my academic career. I was 30 years old when I got my graduate degree.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. I structured my life around getting my MBA for years, and then, once I had it, I forgot how to live. It’s taken me a few months to get back on my feet, during which I have examined what it means to get an MBA and what I learned while doing it. Sure, I learned a lot about accounting and finance, but these are the big picture lessons I took home.

Would I do it all again? I think so.

So, if you’re just starting or thinking about starting, heed my advice and commit these five things I wish I’d learned before I got my MBA to your memory.

There’s a lot of math – This might seem obvious to the people who actually did the research, but I think I expected getting my MBA to be more about management skills and decision-making than good, old-fashioned math in classes like economics, finance and accounting. I had to study twice as much as most students because my math skills were so poor, but, as a result, I did twice as well.

Group projects are guerilla warfare – From the moment you sit down on the first day of class, you should be sizing up your potential partners. You’re going to need a numbers person, a presentation person, a writer and a researcher. You can only be one of these. Let nothing stop you from acquiring the other three. Once you’ve acquired them, use the tools you have (Facebook group for projects? Yes!) to keep things running along. Accept no dead weight.

You will be a shell of yourself – Accept it now. You won’t be able to do the things you used to do. You won’t be able to go out on a weeknight. You’re a student now. You belong to the books. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. I took a vacation every year. The trick? You have to put in the extra work. It’ll be six months after you graduate before you start feeling like yourself again.

You really do have to manage your time – I worried myself sick (literally) every semester I was in grad school except for my last one, when I finally got serious about my health. I exercised daily, ate well and cut alcohol down to a few drinks on vacation. You might not feel like you have time to take yourself, but the truth is you don’t have time not to.

You can do it – You really can. Yes, it’s going to be hard and yes, you’re going to be stressed, but if you decide to be successful, and you put the time in, you will be successful. I often talked myself out of opportunities because I thought I wasn’t good enough. Once I got started, I wasn’t going to stop until I did it as well as I possibly could. I’m glad I did.

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Darren

Darren White is the Darren in Hey Darren. He lives in Fort Worth and likes music.