“Sorry, I can’t… I have to study.”

How many times do you have to skip out on fun with friends or family gatherings because your MBA homework and studying is out of control?

I turn down invites and disappoint friends and family members more times than I would like, but as I move further along in my MBA coursework, I realize that the academic work does not have to completely control my schedule. It’s more about being smart about how I study and plan for each semester. The point is: you can be strategic in your approach and enjoy your grad school years (and come on, MBAs love strategy):

Manage your courseload.

When course registration time rolls around, you should be thinking about how next semester is going to play out, and how you can make it easier for yourself. I understand that sometimes you don’t have an option to choose what is next in the course sequence, but take advantage of any freedom you have in this department. Think about what kind of courses you can take, and what kind of semester you will have. If you know investment analysis is going to be tough, why not balance that out with marketing or business ethics? Do what makes sense for you. When midterms come around, you [hopefully] won’t be freaking out about what you have on your plate, because you took time to balance out your courseload.

Check that syllabus.

Once you start, check your syllabus. In some programs, I’ve heard of professors working with each other to ensure students do not have multiple exams in one day – how amazing is that? For everyone else: once you get access, take that course calendar and start mapping out your deliverables and exam dates. Taking fifteen minutes to jot down key dates for school will help you figure out what weeks will be hectic, and when you might be able to plan a weekend trip. A lot of the “coursework” posts on MBAchic recommend doing some planning in the beginning, but it does help: in one semester, I had four weddings happening over three consecutive weekends (yes, that means two weddings in one weekend)…. it. was. ridiculous. In order to pass my classes, I had to plan ahead.

Review in groups.

Study with friends after you’ve already logged some of your own study hours. Use your classmates’ brains to better understand concepts and apply models. Don’t wait until the night before the exam, though, and do not show up completely unprepared. No one wants to waste time bringing someone up to speed when reading a case would have cleared everything up. Ask questions and take the material to the next level – ask the group a ridiculously hard question (one that “the professor would totally not even ask”) and see if your group can figure it out. Make sure you add value to the study group, or good luck getting a future invite.

Don’t turn down every social engagement.

This is a little tricky: I’m not saying to drop studying for each party invite you get, but do not completely withdraw. You’re studying to get your MBA – you want to do your best and walk away with the best possible GPA. But you’re also a human – all work and no play is a horrible combination (MBAs understand the power of personal and professional relationships… networking is huge in b-school!). Give yourself a chance to kick back and have some fun (I’m looking at you, over-scheduled part-time students). Personally, I make it a point to make it out to parties and outings with friends, and if I have a lot going on, I will stay for an hour or so and head home to hit the books. Your friends and family get it; they know you’re in grad school, and they’ll be happy you made the effort to show up. If not, get new friends (just kidding!). This MBA will take a lot of work, but don’t let it take over your life. Make sure you enjoy the ride and spend time with the people you love.

What do you do to balance academics with the rest of your life? Share the wealth!
{ photo credit: ashworth community }

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