Things I Wished Someone Told Me Before Entering UCLA Anderson

I'm halfway through the Fully-Employed MBA program at UCLA Anderson (we call it FEMBA for short) and I always get a ton of questions on what it's like being in a MBA program, how I juggle school and work, what the social life is like, how admissions work and more. My goal is to create a series of MBA posts to answer all of those questions and to help people like me, who, prior to coming into the program scoured the internet for any blog posts from people themselves (and not from the schools who may be a little biased). So here's my top 5 things I wished someone told me before I started the FEMBA program at UCLA Anderson:

1) Brush up on your math skills
Everything in an MBA program is calculating numbers. Strategy class? You'll be tearing apart income statements and balance sheets to compare numbers to find a company's true strategy (and not what they say they do). Marketing class? All about ROI calculations. And if you think you're already good at math, your first core class for the FEMBA program will be managerial statistics so hahaha good luck (kidding - I actually really loved statistics and aced that class).

But seriously, brush up on your math and Excel skills. Find that TI calculator you threw in the back of a miscellaneous box after college. Bring graph paper with you everywhere. Tap into that inner nerd. It will become such a part of you that you'll start talking in group texts about probabilities, variance and outliers, like the real text conversation below.

2) Never underestimate how overachieving your classmates are
So you think you're a type-A overachiever and you were always at the top of your class and you'll do just fine in a MBA program, right?

Guys, prior to my MBA class, I:
  • Started college classes at 15 and went full time by 16 
  • Scored in the top 12th percentile in the GMAT on my first try
  • Already worked and retired from a 10 year career in the entertainment industry AND had 6 years of work experience AND had my own revenue-generating startup business 
  • Got offered a merit-based fellowship (pretty rare for part-time MBAs)

Well let me tell you, all of those achievements and all of my "Type-A" tendencies mean NOTHING when you enter the program because EVERYONE is a ridiculous overachiever. Oh you know, Emmy winners, doctors, astronauts, Olympians - those are just some of the students you're going to school with.

So stay humble and work your butt off, because everything is on a curve and you're always compared to your fellow classmates.

With that said, UCLA Anderson has an amazingly collaborative culture, so while you are compared to your classmates, everyone is extremely supportive and helpful of one another and it's not a cutthroat environment at all. You'll always find groups to study with and classmates who will share notes and tips and resources. UCLA Anderson's motto is "Share Success" and they really cultivate a culture that shows that.

3) The MBA grading curve
And speaking of curve, let's talk about the MBA curve because this was one of my favorite findings when entering the MBA program.You're required to maintain a 3.0 GPA to stay in the MBA program. But 99% of students who enter the program graduate from the program.

How does that math work out (remember point #1 on brushing up on those math skills)? Many top MBA programs grade on a curve, meaning you're compared to your fellow classmates. I don't have (and refuse to disclose) the exact grading curve, but a lot of people will get A's, a lot of people will get B's and a few will get C's. That's it. No D's or F's (generally, but I have heard rumors about someone getting a failing grade). You'll find it pretty easy to keep a 3.0+ GPA but because it's on a curve, it's extremely difficult to get the A's in the class (look to point #2 on those overachievers).

Just to give you an idea, because of the curve and all of those competitive students, a 93% in accounting class was a B+. But a 70% in accounting was also a B. So you can't really fail but you'll have to work really hard to do well.

4) Detox and get fit BEFORE the program
This is the one thing no one told me before starting my program. You will gain weight. Almost everyone in my program did.

Why? Because now you'll have no time to work out, especially if you go to the part-time program. Between school and work and networking events and happy hours, you'll spend all your days working and all of your nights studying and drinking networking and you'll have no more time or energy to work out.

So get super fit before the program. Now that I'm in the program,  I ramp up my workouts and diets during school breaks and that helps undo all of the damage from the networking events and catered snacks at school.

5) It's an amazing experience I wouldn't change for the world
I'd be doing everyone a disservice if I didn't rave about how amazing my MBA experience is. When I was debating on whether or not to enroll in the program after being admitted, especially when calculating all of those MBA tuition fees, I talked to my friend (and Anderson alum) who told me there are just a handful of things in life that you spend your money on. You work hard for your money to get experiences - and the MBA experience is 100% worth it. I was skeptical, but once I entered the program, I found it to be 100% true. It's an incredible experience that has changed who I am as a person for the better.