How to ace in the MBA classroom? A cheat sheet for international students…
After writing the dreaded GMAT and TOEFL exams and clearing the interview rounds for admission into the Trinity full-time MBA programme, I thought I was ready to ace the MBA classroom. But boy, was I overconfident! If only I knew this before, my first few months in the MBA classroom would have been less stressful. I want to share my experience and wisdom, if you may, with the prospective students who are coming to join the Trinity full-time MBA programme. This blog is especially for international students who have already got the admission letter and planning to come to join the Trinity MBA programme.
I have a Bachelors in Technology undergraduate degree and before coming to Trinity College, I had more than six years of work experience in technology companies such as Accenture and Reuters. I did pretty well in GMAT and TOEFL exams and was confident about my abilities when I joined the college.
Turn your study mode ‘ON’
If you have been out of college for more than two years, then it may be really hard for you to get used to all the classes. The full-time MBA programme is really intense and the classes run from 9 am to 5 pm, with an hour and a half for lunch. It gets even worse when you have team assignments and meetings. So you are expected to stay way beyond 5 pm.
The amount of information that is been shared in the classroom gets overwhelming sometimes, especially for people who have been out of college for a while. It took me about a month to get used to sitting in long hours and taking all the information. You need to match the pace with which you take in information to the pace in which it is been shared.
Unlike me, you can do that even before your first class. You can start reading newspapers, novels and some of the topics that I describe in this blog. I found that reading for a solid 1.5 hours without any breaks while sitting at my desk was really productive. Start with the topics that you like and then move to some topics that you don’t. This will give you a habit of reading and taking in information without distraction and the ability to sit on your desk for long hours.
Read the global news
15% of your total grades involves classroom participation. So everyone in the class is encouraged to speak up. Most of the topics in the MBA programme are related to the things happening around the world. If you don’t have a habit of reading newspapers you should develop one! Fortunately, I had this good habit of staying up-to-date with the global news but some of my classmates struggled really hard with this one.
It would be great if you can subscribe to some newspaper, print or online version, and start reading through the global news such as global politics, oil prices, OPEC, Brexit, Trump, and Eurozone. These are the most common topics inside the classroom and you don’t want to be googling this stuff when the professor is asking questions.
Financial Times and Investopedia are your friends
By this time you already know the drill. Read, read and read, you will thank me later! Subscribe to the financial times if you want to ace economics. The first assignment that was given to us in economics was completely based on the current financial position of Ireland. If only I knew this earlier, I would have saved a lot of time. It took me two weeks to complete this assignment because I had to go through all the financial news on Ireland before I could develop my own opinion for the essay.
It would be better if you can read developments in the Irish economy, European Union and Brexit. Most of the assignments will be based on these topics.
For Corporate Finance, Investopedia is your best friend. Investopedia is a very good resource of the topics taught in the Corporate Finance class. Investopedia has a subscribe option where they send you a topic on your email daily and this service is available for free! The knowledge gained through these daily emails will give you some insights into the definitions and jargons of Corporate Finance.
Learn to work in a team
Trinity MBA programme is designed around teams. On the second day of the induction programme, you will be divided into teams of 6-7 people. Most of the assignments and some of the exams are team based. So you need to develop the skills to work in teams.
The course materials and the assignments get overwhelming sometimes and you need to learn to divide and conquer. If you are not used to working in a team, it may be difficult for you to work well with others. Come in with the mindset that you are here to learn. Most of your jobs, after MBA, will involve either working in teams or managing teams. Teamwork is great if you learn to enjoy it and can be a nightmare if you don’t like working in teams.
Come with a business idea
Entrepreneurship module has no exams and students are evaluated based on the assignments. There are two assignments and both involve creating a business plan based on a new and unique idea. It would be great that you utilise this time, before MBA, to come up with a unique business idea. Once you come up with this idea, you need to think if there are already any competitors in this space.
If you come prepared with a business idea, at least 50% of your job will be done. Most of the teams in my class struggled with this and wasted a lot of time in brainstorming to come up with a business idea. You can save that time and utilize it enhancing your business plan while the others will be struggling.
Learn academic writing
As I am from an engineering background with English as my second language, I faced a lot of issues in writing essays. I still remember how stressed I was while working on my first assignment in MBA. Academic writing is different, you have to research the topic and cite the source of your research. ‘Harvard Referencing’ is used in Trinity and it is mandatory for everyone to cite the source of the research. Plagiarism is taken very seriously in Trinity and you should refrain from copying work of others.
It would be really helpful to you if you can learn the Harvard referencing. There are tons of resources available online and you should utilise these resources to the best. Additionally, look at some sample academic papers to understand the method of writing these papers.
MBA is a professional learning course and not entirely an academic course. You should understand what you want out of your MBA. While you are preparing for your MBA, utilise this time to do a lot of self-reflection too. What do you want from MBA? What are your goals both personal and professional? What is success for you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are some of the questions that you can try to find an answer for. Leadership and Professional development is one module that runs throughout the MBA programme. This module requires that students understand their self development goals and utilise MBA to develop these goals. This module is worth most credits and answer to the above mentioned questions will definitely help you ACE this module.
Interested in learning more or have more questions? Leave me a comment below!