Tips and advice for future MBA students studying in the UK
It is time. You have researched the best Universities in the world to do an MBA. You have probably studied hard and taken the GMAT, possibly more than once. You’ve applied to business schools, gone on campus tours and waited eagerly for your offer letter (and hopefully scholarship) to arrive. Congratulations, the first day of school is not too far away!
I have gone through this same journey and am now, granted I don’t make a mess of my dissertation, 2 months away from completing a fulltime MBA at WBS. It has been an absolutely wonderful year. I’d like to think I have become a little more knowledgeable and even at 34, more mature. I will admit, I never had a clear image in my mind of what the year would be like, but it has surpassed any of my expectations and was full of surprises.
Below are 8 tips, some practical, some academically focused and some that you might expect to hear from your mother (apologies in advance). I hope they are helpful.
1. Bring a warm coat and an umbrella. You are coming to the UK; it rarely gets above 20°C
(68 °F) degrees and the much of the time it rains.
2. For the Americans, both North and South, this is the time to accept that you will most likely never receive a mark higher than a 79, ever again. In all honesty, your marks will most likely hover in the mid-60s and every now and again cross the distinction line into the 70s. Every time this happens will be a moment of glory. For the UK this range is standard, even good. The sooner you learn to accept that 80s and 90s are a thing of the past, the less painful receiving your marks will be.
3. Limitations. Professors love limitations. You will be taught a theory or framework, how it can be applied and then the theory’s limitations will follow. Your professors will expect this from you as well in both your assignments and exams. From the beginning, aim to make it a habit to address the limitations of any theory or framework you discuss. It will gain you points and bring you closer to that prised 70!
4. Rent a car. As a foreigner you are given 1 year from the date of arrival to use your home driving license in the UK (https://www.gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence). You can certainly visit the bigger cities, Manchester, London, Birmingham by train but the true beauty of living in the UK is its small villages. Coventry City Centre is misleading; the surrounding area is stunning, storybook-like countryside. A 30 minute drive you’ll find Stratford-upon- Avon, the home of Shakespeare; an hour away you can spend the weekend meandering through the cosy white stone villages of the Cotsworld; Warwick is also only a short drive away as is Leamington Spa, Stoneleigh Abbey and Coombes Abbey. Do yourself a favour and rent a car when you can.
5. Let your intuition guide you. You will be in a class of 100+ adult students. Everyone will have an opinion and like or dislike one-thing or another. Try to stay objective and remember that often a person’s perception is framed by their past experiences. It may be true for them, but that does not necessarily make it true.
6. This is the year to make yourself uncomfortable. Stretch yourself. If you are usually not social, push yourself to socialise. If you are sure that you want to go into consulting, push yourself to learn more about technology, healthcare or finance. Engage with industries outside of your current realm of possibility. In Term 2 you will have a chance to go on two, one-day treks where you will visit major companies from a chosen sector. If you come from technology, go on the Public Sector Trek to Westminster. If you’re like me and come from a more alternative background such as entertainment, go on the Finance Trek (the Dublin Finance Trek was brilliant!). Allow yourself to be open to the possibilities and opportunities that the MBA will bring.
7. Do not underestimate how fast the year will go, make the most of it and get involved. Just recently Warwick hosted the GE Healthcare Challenge. At the last minute a WBS MBA team approached me to join as they needed a new team member. I have no experience at all in healthcare other than the few times I was admitted to the hospital and accepting would force me to change my electives. I asked if I could sleep on it. That evening I reminded myself that opportunities like these are why I chose to go back to school, so that I could be stretched and take on opportunities I normally would not sign myself up for. The next day I accepted the offer and I will be forever grateful that I did as it was a wonderful experience.
8. Help each other. An MBA cohort can be competitive or it can be cooperative, it is up to you. My advice is to help each other and create an open and cooperative atmosphere. Everyone will gain more from it and ultimately you get what you give.
For the published post on WBS' MBA Blog:
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