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"Full Time" MBA

Posted by Joyce on 21 January 2010

Family and friends like to scoff at my claim that I study full time. Glancing at my calendar, it’s not hard to see why. It's in stark contrast to Alex's calendar several posts down. Important to note is that I did NOT skimp on electives. I’m taking the maximum number allowed, and would take even more if the school let me.


I suppose one could view this as a testament to the flexibility of year 2. You see correctly—entire months of December and February completely open. And I’m especially tickled by the 72-day stretch between Jan 8 to Mar 22 where I have no classes whatsoever.

A question I sometimes get is "What’s up with your class selection? You’re attending one of the best finance schools in the world and I don’t see a single finance elective."

Consider yourself in the following situation: you majored in finance in undergrad, interned at a combination pension-endowment fund at 22, shuffled your feet for a few months at a brokerage before eventually settling into the world of corporate finance for 5 years. Then you come to London for your MBA and ace your mandatory core finance class without a lick of studying.

My question to you: are you still going to load up on finance electives?

Have I deserted finance in the manner of a burned-out banker? Hardly! I absolutely adore finance, and have every intention of bringing it with me to every new role I take. (Future co-workers beware; I have a tendency to preach the power of NPV like a missionary out for converts.) But I didn’t come to London to become deadlier in something I already do reasonably well. In stereotypical fashion, I was atrocious in strategy, hadn’t a clue about marketing, and networking? I’m that sorry person who walks past the business class section of a plane and wishes with envy in her heart to one day be able to comfortably strike up a conversation or exchange business cards like I always see them doing before take-off.

But anyway, in light of my featherweight schedule, what else do I get up to in between?

  • Technically still on my summer internship, but on reduced hours since Homeland Revenue restricts me to 2.5 days per week. The internship itself has been superb. I was curious about how “business” a work environment could be when the office is a congestion of 4-inch heels and fashion magazines—but oh do they know their business, and have the financial results to prove it. So, do keep your minds tuned to “business” when I reveal that one of my projects had me riffling through French lingerie catalogues for a week...
  • About 1 day a week on Second Year Project. We’re developing a business plan around the winning project from our stream’s Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities tradeshow—hot chocolate! (The good kind, not stuff that comes from a pouch of powder.)
  • Working on the novel / reading other novels. I’d like to say this is totally unrelated to the MBA, but part of it is because my brain screams for genuine fiction after reading yet another Harvard case. Don’t get me wrong, the content and intended lessons make the Harvard cases great tools, but the authors’ attempts to inject meaningless contextual drama is tedium. "Steve Smith admired the skyline from his office window before returning to the glow of his computer screen. He sighed. 11:47pm, 134 unread messages, and an 8 o’clock meeting tomorrow morning where he’d have to present the strategic future of the company. Where to start..." How about starting by getting to the point?
  • Catching up with classmates, getting to hear about everyone’s grand designs. Bonding with my wonderful flatmates Nicole and Don, and enjoying the best that British reality tv has to offer.
  • Lots of sleeping in. Loading up now in anticipation of a return to full time work life.

Sometimes I wonder if this jives with what most people expect a full-time MBA to be like. The only justification I can offer is that you get a lot of built-in “worry time”. In practical terms, that means a lot of time worrying about recruitment, worrying about the economy, worrying about classes, and worrying about how to distract yourself from worrying too much. I suppose those can *sometimes* be legitimate activities, but it’s pretty cool how much time frees up once you stop reading every article in the FT, or brooding over the postings on careers portal.

Oh, and if you had any lingering doubt about how much time you’ll have available for all of life’s little extracurriculars, have a think about how much time the average student spends on Facebook.


I came across your blogs while researching LBS as a prospective school, which I have become completely engulfed in btw... just wanted to let you know that I adore your superb writing and spent the time to read each post in its entirety. I look forward to more!

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