Free Time in Business School

JD-MBAs are frequently asked about how easy business school is going to be this year as compared to law school last year. Will there be less reading, fewer exams, less competition. Well, for all of our sakes, I hope they are right. Law school was demanding and rigorous, not to mention competitive, but that made perfect sense given 1L has long been considered the hardest year of any year in a graduate school program. But despite that, it looks like the intensities of day-to-day work at Kellogg will still be difficult. But perhaps in just a different way.

Oddly enough, it looks like at Kellogg, we won’t necessarily have a whole lot more free time than we did last year. In fact, we might actually end up with less. That’s because unlike law school, where the focus in on studying and getting the best grades possible and where students can push work off to complete later in the semester, the work in business school is more iterative and has more deadlines.

In fact, MBA program are a bit like a three-part adventure. First, you have to study and do the work. And while for many industries grades don’t matter, for others they do play a factor. Second, you have to spend a lot of time on recruiting. And in some cases, this can take up a substantial amount of time. Unlike law school, where firms often rely on grades and journals to make recruiting decision, business jobs look more at things like fit, professional background, and interesting experiences, so the process is more nuanced. And third, you have to network. Not only for jobs but also to get to know your classmates, section mates, alumni, and even professors.

In general, students should expect to spend a lot of time on each of the three activities, and over the course of the year their time spent will probably come to even out. Don’t get me wrong, these three things don’t all carry the same weight, but time spent on each of them also won’t stay static because their importance changes as the year moves forward. For example, in the first quarter classes and networking will take up a lot of time, whereas in the second quarter recruiting will really pick up. And by the third quarter, networking will be most important again.

That said, it’s probably best to view this generality with at least some mild skepticism. Will every student really live up to splitting their time amongst these three? I suspect not, as some students will be more interested in studying, others more interested in leading clubs or activities, and another group who are married or running their own companies so will have dozens of different priorities that I didn’t even consider.

Personally, I have already become pretty busy. People are already spending a lot of time on our orientation MORS class, where we have a final exam this Friday. Similarly, I am already on the board of a couple of clubs and those activities are starting to pick up. And at the same time, I’ll be attending NBMBAA conference in just a few weeks out in Los Angeles so have to get ready for that. But perhaps most importantly for the time being, we’re all still new here at Kellogg, so I’m also doing the best I can to get to know my classmates, not only the ones in my section but also those in my class and in the class of 2011. Definitely a busy period without much free time. I suspect it will probably get a lot worse once classes start next week.

And that’s what’s so great about business school. The students are diverse and as a result people they will get involved in different activities which will enrich the setting for everyone here. And in the end, the diverse student body, with a rich compilation of skills and experiences, and ability to navigate the different elements of business school is what makes top schools like Kellogg unique. Despite the lack of free time, it’s a great luxury to be here, one that most people can’t even fathom until they come.

We’re all looking forward to the rest of the year. Stay tuned to hear how it goes.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 Business School, Law School

2 Comments to Free Time in Business School

Holly Guzman
September 15, 2010

Business school may have less focus on academics although those are important because you want to be competent as a future CEO but that networking piece is hard. I am also a first year MBA student and I have to say that the hardest thing about it is time management. I agree that there is SOME free time but there are so many things to do that allocating that time that you are not in classes is very difficult particularly if you want to get involved on campus. Most students have a desire to give back to the school and participate in all activities whether they are social or professional.

I have many friends in other graduate programs, who do not understand that networking is key for business school students. We are constantly looking for opportunities to engage with one another in and out of the classroom. The reason most students are paying over $150,000 for a 2 year experience is to enrich their lives with the multiple perspectives being offered by their classmates. When you are in a classroom working on a case, it is beautiful to watch people from all different work, ethnic, geographical and more backgrounds discuss their points and offer different approaches. That is the value of networking, whether it is in a study group where you derail from the topic at hand “wasting yet another valuable hour” but end up in a deep meaningful conversation about life or in a long meeting as a board member of the marketing club and learn something interesting about marketing in Asia. And yes, we want to get jobs too but being armed with all this additional knowledge that you learn by interacting with classmates makes you a much better candidate.

Jeremy C Wilson
September 16, 2010

@Holly Guzman Holly,

This is great! Thanks so much for visiting my site, and for the long and thoughtful response. I’ll note that since writing, my section had a discussion with the new Dean of Kellogg (Dean Sally Blount), and she mentioned that she thought the academic component of business school was very important and that all MBA programs needed to put a strong focus on academics again. I know other schools have said something similar about management education.

But I also think you also bring up a good point about learning. That learning isn’t just about reading cases and doing problem sets but it’s also about learning from experiences, learning to work with and through other people, listening to people’s stories and understanding there perspectives. And all those things are equally as enriching. Thanks for your insights, and good luck in your first year!


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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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