Admit Day wasn’t quite as extreme as I had anticipated, which is a shame as I was really looking forward to that Poetry Slam. But it was surprisingly helpful. There were moments of “being on our best behavior in front of the Dean,” as well as more unguarded conversations with the Student Ambassadors over pints of beer. We all looked like zombies by the end of the day, but I guess I should consider it training for business school – like training for a marathon, but with more alcohol and less comfortable shoes.
So what did I learn at Admit Day? Oh, so many, many things.
Lesson #1 – There’s Always a Weird Guy
You can’t quite put your finger on it, but there’s definitely something off about this dude. He’s arrogant, aloof, and doesn’t really seem like he wants to go here. You wonder how he got accepted to the program. Rich dad? Perfect GMAT? Simultaneously captivating and repulsive, Weird Guy is like a car crash you can’t look away from.
Lesson #2 – The Rest of Your Classmates Are Pretty Cool
Sure, there’s that awkward first hour or so when you’ve exhausted the usual “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” questions. But after some trial and error you hit upon that one topic that you all have in common. It might be sports, movies, or a favorite city. It might even be that terrible MBA interview you’ve been too embarrassed to talk about until now. But suddenly it clicks, and you find yourself thinking, “Thank goodness, these people are actually pretty cool.”
Lesson #3 – No One Knows For Sure If They’re Actually Going Here
Well, except for that one really enthusiastic guy. Everyone else is waiting for that last interview invitation or hoping to get off the waitlist at Dream School. And it’s OK. We all know it, even the adcoms and the Dean. The only exception to this rule might be Admit Day at Wharton…but I imagine that even a few of those folks are hoping for a call from Harvard.
Lesson #4 – None of Your Questions Are Unique
No matter what you ask, the Student Ambassador will smile and nod before launching into a well-worn spiel. Your questions and concerns are cute to them in a nostalgic/painful sort of way, and there is absolutely nothing worth asking that they have not heard before. Also…
Lesson #5 – Your Worries Are Stupid
Remember way, way back in the summer before high school when you cried because all your friends were going to a different school and you hated your clothes and you just knew you were going to fail all your classes and get lost on the first day and the seniors would laugh at you and give you wedgies? And then none of those things happened, but a bunch of more important stuff did? It’s like that.
Lesson #6 – It’s a Lot More Casual Than You Expected
One question on every admit’s mind is, “What do I wear?” Keep in mind that we have worn business formal to every single event in our short pre-MBA careers, so it’s something of a shock to discover that real MBA students wear jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops to class.
Lesson #7 – This Is The Real Thing
One alum told me to start networking with potential classmates immediately. Not just at Admit Day, but for the next six months. I thought he was nuts. “Why submit myself to more uncomfortable mixers than I have to? That’s what the next two years are for. Besides, we might not even end up going to the same school.”
But I did it anyway. I made awkward conversation, passed out cards, and followed up by email. And then a funny thing happened. It started to feel real. All the work and planning and introspection was no longer abstract – I could see myself six months from now, surrounded by new friends, ready to seize whatever opportunities came along.
Lesson #8 – Yeah, Even the Crappy Stuff Starts Today
One of the best pieces of advice I picked up was from the director of the Career Center, who advised us to start conducting informational interviews as soon as possible. That way you don’t have to spend the first few months of school figuring out whether you’re pursuing the right career path. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, and everyone feels good about helping students. By marketing yourself as a future business school student, you gain access to all sorts of people who otherwise might think you were just fishing for a job.
That’s my truth about Admit Day. What’s yours?