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Blake Bartter

Things I Wish I'd Known: Advice for Incoming Wisconsin MBA Students

by Blake Bartter Thursday, May 7, 2015

Business school is one of the most fun times of your career; however, it can be difficult to uproot your current life and re-locate to a new city. I myself found this process somewhat difficult to plan for as I approached the beginning of school last August. I had so many questions and worried about how my 1st semester of school would play out. For example, would I have time to get a part time job? Go to the gym every day? Keep up with the school and recruiting demands I knew were coming? After a year of school, I can confidently say that I have figured out the answers to most of these questions, which is a relief. Now I’m here to give the answers to the most pressing questions in hopes that it will help someone else prepare.

MBA Spring Ball with Bucky

Life from Day 1: The day orientation starts you will be in the thick of business school. Prior to my experience, I thought Business School Orientation would be like my undergraduate experience, where you spend time doing fun activities and getting to know your peers. While there is a lot of this during the MBA Orientation Experience, you will be taking one class and preparing for an accounting proficiency exam. I remember jumping in with both feet to manage my workload, and in retrospect have realized that I missed out on some of the bonding activities that happened during the MBA Experience. My advice is to make sure you get your work done for class, but it is just as important to go out to The Terrace with your new friends to grab a beer. Orientation beings the long trek that is the 1st semester of school, so make sure to plan ‘fun’ things into your calendar every week to help you manage stress. 

Living: When you get to Madison in June or August, you can’t think of a nicer place to be. However, come November-February, you may wonder where those warm fuzzy feelings for this town go as the weather dissipates with the changing seasons. Best way to deal with this, LIVE CLOSE TO GRAINGER. While it may not be fun to make that 10 minute walk to school every day from your apartment, the alternative of waiting for your bus/multiple buses in the cold, and having them come late (therefore making you late for class) is worse. There are lots of great living option near school that will save your finger and toes on those cold and rainy days.

Recruiting: In the CBPM center, you have a unique opportunity to have access to companies you want to work for from day 1. Each week during 1st semester you will have 1-3 activities with companies looking to recruit from the Business School. These activities can range from a Happy Hour, to a dinner and even some visits to companies headquarters. This is the #1 reason why I chose the CBPM program and still feel that it is one of the most valuable parts the MBA experience at Wisconsin. However, what I was not prepared for, was balancing my school work, group meetings, workouts, and for me wedding planning, with all of the required events. I have always prided myself on being a great manager of my time, but the 1stsemester of school took organizational requirements to a whole new level. This was even more exaggerated for me because I knew that companies were judging my interest in them from day 1 and it was important for me to put my best foot forward. My advice for incoming students, prioritize your activities. If being 100% on for each company function is most important to you, make sure you schedule the rest of your day to line up with that- this will save you during 1st semester. 

Meeting Lucky on our General Mills Campus Visit

Meeting Lucky on our General Mills Campus Visit

Odds and Ends:

-          Working Out: 1st semester requirements (both school and for the CBPM Center) make it hard to get physical activity in everyday, but this can be managed for the dedicated gym go-ers. Every student will have free access to the SERF or NAT gyms on campus (only once the semester has started), which is a great way to save precious dollars as a grad student. The only drawback of these options are the facilities and the undergraduates. Both gyms are small (being re-built in 2016!) and crowded with undergraduate students. If you need to get in and out of the gym quickly, you might consider alternate options for your work out. Madison has a many great yoga, Pure Barre, and spin studios, as well as a few Crossfit and regular gyms. While all of these options cost more than the free options on campus, they can really be worth the price to get in and out and on our way.

-          Wisc Card: Your Wisc Card (which you will get before school starts) is your key to the Wisconsin Campus. It gets you in the gym, access to meals and dining halls, in and out of the CBPM Center at Grainger, break out rooms and the MBA locker room. Hold on to this at all time. Also- get after-hours access for Grainger right when you get to campus if you plan to be here when the building isn’t open. This will happen to you more than you know with group meetings. Also- put money on your Wisc Card (You will be able to do this online). While this might feel like a very undergrad thing to do, you get 5% off of your purchase at the Capital Café (in Grainger), The Terrace, Gordon Cafeteria, and many other places around campus.

-          Locker = Lifesaver: Like I said, Madison can dish out some seriously ‘fun’ weather, especially it seems on days you need to be dressed in business professional for an interview. My advice, make your locker in the MBA locker room your second bathroom/closet. Students keep everything in their locker from just a second jacket and pair of shoes to the works: deodorant, make up, shower gear (we have two showers in the locker room), etc. I promise you will be glad you heeded this advice at least one day during your two years here.

All said, while 1st semester can be daunting, you will meet some of your best friends for life, experience an awesome town, get to take part in undergraduate rituals like Game Day again, and on top of it, constantly expand your mind. Who could think of a better way to spend two years of your life?