A Day in the Life of an MBA Student

What is a typical day like for an MBA student? We asked one of our instructors to keep a log to show you what his day involves. Since so many future business students want to know what to expect, Marc has provided a great introduction to life as a first-year MBA student. Keep in mind, though, that each person's experience will vary based on his or her educational background, work experience, undergraduate degree, graduate school, course selection, and interests. Nevertheless, this introduction will give you a general idea as to the classes, activities, and workload you can expect.

Marc received his B.A. in economics and history, magna cum laude, from the University of Rochester, and his Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He is currently getting his MBA at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. You might be thinking, "With all of those degrees, why did he choose to pursue his MBA?" According to Marc, he wanted to greatly refine his business, finance and entrepreneurial skills, develop insights into how corporations should be run, and meet some of the most interesting people around.

7:30 AM: I leave my apartment, ready for a full Thursday at UCLA. I live three miles away from campus, just off of world-famous Sunset Boulevard and a few miles West of Santa Monica beach. As I pull out into traffic, I open the driver’s side window and feel a short burst of ocean breeze waft into the car. While driving, I mentally review my class schedule for the day.

Real Estate Class at 8:30 followed by a ten-minute break and my class on Leadership at 10:00. A quick lunch after that, then my favorite course, Corporate Strat. At 2:30, I’m meeting four friends in the library—we run a portfolio for the Student Investment Fund and we meet each week to discuss our investment results. In spite of my crazy day, it isn’t all work–later, I’ll be heading to Beer Bust on the school lawn where all the MBAs meet over food and drinks—a true B-School tradition. After that, I’m off to hear a presentation by Ed Ziman, a real estate entrepreneur. If I’m not wiped out at the end of the day, I’ll spend a few hours hitting the books for assignments due on Monday.

I definitely have a full day ahead of me, but I enjoy the activity; I’m here for the complete B-School experience.

8:30 – 10:00 AM: Complements of LA rush hour, I get to Real Estate Investment 5 seconds before class starts. If I didn’t know LA’s side streets, I would have spent half the day in traffic….

As I slide into a seat near a couple of business school friends, Professor Pickens dives into an analysis of a case about a DC-based real estate partnership investing in a Marriott Hotel. Pickens is an especially engaging teacher, and has an affinity for cold-calling on unsuspecting students:

“Steve, what was the hotel market like in the 80’s in Northern Virginia?”
“Ann, who are Marriott’s competitors in the area? Ritz Carlton? Holiday Inn?”
“Vinay, how would increase the hotel’s revenue and profitability?”
“Marc, why is the hotel restaurant’s revenue declining?”

I field my question, nailing three of the four reasons for falling revenue, but a 2nd year student chimes in to say that Marriott’s management turns over every year, so corporate has to hire new managers annually. The class is one of my favorites because of the high level student interaction and the knowledge that the professor brings to class—Professor Pickens runs a real estate investment fund in his spare time. He loves to talk about the market and how he solves real business problems in his business. This type of access to professors and experts is one of the most important componenets of Business School.

10:00 – 11:30 AM: My next class—Leadership—starts with a discussion of the dynamics of running a team. The class is based on participation, and the professor stresses open discussion of personal experiences. The course is one of the “soft subjects”—managing people—and introduces ideas that are foreign to my finance background. By the end of class, we all feel confident with our ability to construct teams for different purposes—a key skill we’ll need once we graduate and take the reigns of corporate teams.

11:30 AM: I meet Josh, Beggs and Jose for lunch at the sandwich shop on the campus’s quad, where we talk more about what we learned in class. That’s one of the great things about B-School—all the students are highly motivated and always interested in digesting ideas outside of the classroom. During lunch, there are also a variety of club meetings and corporate presentations, especially in the Fall and Winter during recruitment period. After quickly eating my sandwich, I hurry to the PIMCO presentation at 12:00 in one of the larger seminar classrooms. PIMPCO is just one of dozens of top companies from around the US that come to campus throughout the year. The presentation is given by a number of managing directors and newer hires at PIMCO; they give a short show about the firm and its potential internships before answering questions. Those who are interested in the firm, which is one of the top fixed-income shops in the world, stay to meet the recruiters one-on-one and exchange contact information. I stay for a few minutes afterward as well to meet recent alumni working there before heading to Strategy class.

1:00- 2:30 PM: Corp Strat is one of those classes everyone loves. While it teaches practical skills for business planning, I find it most intriguing because it explains how the world works and why companies make the decisions they do. The professor, a California newbie with a young tan, talks about the strategic landscape that is affecting Google, Microsoft, and Ebay. Then my friend, Paul, joins his study group at the front of the room to present their ideas and research on how Yahoo should respond to this changing landscape. Every strategy session is a cathartic experience—if you think you know why companies make the choices they do, think again.

2:30 – 3:45 PM: Ah, my weekly portfolio management meeting. I meet John, Melissa, Fred and Kathy at the B-School library to review our investment performance for the Student Fund. This is one of my favorite parts of the week—we run half of the fund, over $1,000,000, and work together as a portfolio management team. his afternoon, we bat around investment ideas for new growth stocks to add in the fund and talk about how the stock market has acted for the week. Microsoft recently shed about 10% of its stock price; we decide to build a small position in the stock with a few hundred shares.

After that, I’m thrilled to hear that John has taken an internship with an LA-based hedge fund for the summer. One of the nice things about working with people at Business School is that we share in the success of one another.

4:00-5:30 PM: Finally, some downtime! I head over the Beer Bust on the lawn, where half of my class has already arrived. After getting a Bud and a slice of pizza, I see all those friends who I’ve missed over the week. Some are excited about new job offers from I-Banks and consulting firms while others talk animatedly about different projects they are working on. One good friend who worked for Airbus in Europe is planning his study abroad next semester—he’ll be attending a business school in Barcelona. If he thinks UCLA is social, I tell him, then he’ll love Spain.

7:00 – 9:00 PM: After squeezing in an hour of homework, I get to the off-campus conference center to hear Ed Ziman’s presentation. Ed steps into the room a few minutes after me—the crowd of fifty is too large for the small room—and speaks for 30 minutes about his experiences and career. Much to our delight, he spends nearly an hour taking questions from the students. I’m especially interested in learning about his tactics in negotiating deals. Having just sold his real estate company for $3 billion to GE, Ed Ziman is one of the best negotiators in the country. Of course, I take copious notes—this is as important a learning experience as any MBA class out there.

10:00 PM: Another day down, but thankfully this is only the beginning of the program. I’ll wait until next year, after my internship, to slow down a bit. I finally crawl into bed just after midnight, after having studied for another hour and calling a B-School friend to recap the day. Tomorrow is my day off from class, so I can get up late and head to the gym in the morning, before hitting the books all day.

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