Second-year MBA student Sam Jiang ’21 offers first-year students his own tips for maximizing his studying efficiency.
When speaking with prospective SOM students, I get asked about the academic workload a lot. During your first year at SOM, it’s fairly common to feel like academics are taking up a lot of time. With each of your four to six core classes assigning multiple readings each week, alongside an avalanche of individual assignments and group projects, it can often feel overwhelming.
Yet, nobody is an island. Business is all about finding the right people to help you do the job. In this article, I’d like to share the four main resources that I drew from to maximize my studying efficiency.
Resource #1: Your Learning Team
When you start at SOM, you will be placed into one of five cohorts, and then into a seven- to nine-person learning team. These teams are constructed to include diverse academic and professional skillsets, and chances are there’s at least one other person in your learning team with experience in anything you might be struggling with. Roughly half of the academic work during your first year will be group assignments, so make sure to lean on each other’s strengths.
How this happens is up to your team. My team took an active approach and organized a number of study sessions in the fall, where our group members taught each other about their respective areas of expertise. Charlie Feng ’21 explained accounting to us like a pro, and Salva Tormo ’21 taught us how to conduct in-depth industry research and design McKinsey-style decks. For someone like me, without a background in accounting—or McKinsey—my teammates were godsends.
Resource #2: Other Classmates
In the event that you do find a particular class challenging, take the chance to ask your classmates for help. Each person has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. SOMers love helping each other out, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know your peers. Find the experts (they’ll make themselves known in class) and reach out to them. One hour studying with them can beat five hours studying on your own. Some will even go the extra mile: Gary Yan ’21 hosted an informal Investor study session that bumped my Investor grade from pass to proficient.
Resource #3: Tutors
If you’re having trouble with a core class, email your professor to ask for a tutor. After they say yes—they will—reach out to the Academic Affairs and Student Life and you’ll be assigned a second-year tutor who did well in the course. This is completely free for you, as your tutor gets paid by SOM, so it’s a win-win for both parties. There were three classes for which I requested tutors, and in each case, they significantly reduced the amount of time I needed to study. “I don’t understand anything; can you please help?” is a valid question, and after a tutor walks you through the material, you might realize that you had retained a lot more than you gave yourself credit for. Shout outs here to Davis Mangham ’20, Theo Trampe ’20, and Wira Ramanto ’20 for showing me the light at the end of the tunnel.
Resource #4: Review Sessions
Every week, TAs from each core course will host a review session covering the week’s material, usually with practice questions. At the end of each quarter, there will also be a final review session featuring a mock exam that the TAs will walk you through. Weekly TA sessions are optional, but the final one is well worth it: even if you only did minimal studying throughout the quarter, it should be enough to get you up to speed. Drew Madden ’20 was the undisputed hero of my class for carrying us through multiple finals sessions as the head TA, and, knowing his successor, I believe the Class of 2022 will be in good hands, as well.
Future SOMers, I wish you the best of luck and synergies.