It’s Elective Time

As first-years complete term 4, we’re finishing up the last core curriculum classes with our section: in short order our schedules will be filled with electives. It’s going to be different adjusting to courses without the comfort of Section A. However, I’ll spend most of this post writing about the rationale and process of selecting electives.

On process, Darden students are able to choose electives through a bidding system, which I’m frankly a huge fan of. Each student is given 450 bid points and armed with statistics on last year’s required number of points to successfully bid into three classes (while three classes doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that you meet every day in the school week). From there, it’s up to you to figure out how you’re going to allocate your bid points, to hopefully come up with a schedule that works. Probably the funniest part of the process is hearing people whine about the bidding system after missing out a on a class or two: this is either due to (a) the student developing a poor bid strategy, or (b) the student wants to get into all of the most popular classes. Either way, the process works, and yes, I may be a bit biased as I got all three classes I bid into. For those students with unsuccessful bids, there is a second round of bidding, followed by drop / add period. In reality, there are only a few courses that are really tough to get into: with most, a bid of 1 of 450 points will get you into the class.

On rationale, selecting classes at business school doesn’t differ that much from my experience in college. That said, differences do exist. Please see below some main drivers of class selection, highlighted in no particular order:
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Recruiting Roller Coaster

At this point in the year, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my recent interview experiences. Recruiting is obviously only a piece of the business school puzzle, but an important piece none the less.

As someone that recruited primarily in consulting (some of the first firms on campus, after banking), I’m lucky enough to be done with the process. The tone of this post will be a bit more upbeat than some of my first-year colleagues, just because I got lucky in the process and will be spending the summer with one of my top firms. Reflecting on the past few weeks, please see below my thoughts (often surprises) on a few takeaways from the process.

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What I Learned This Fall

When people speak of what they learned in business school, they usually speak of the skills they gained. Clearly, a technical knowledge is not as important in business school as it is in medical school or law school. In many ways, this distinction is even more evident at Darden, where skills like teamwork and persuasion are emphasized in learning teams and in the classroom (versus completing a problem set by yourself). Still, for me, much of the value of this last semester has been actually learning new business concepts that I can apply in the future. I mention this because I think in the application phase people never really get a sense for what they’re going to learn in business school, which is important (although I’m not sure it differs that much by school). Some of the most useful things I’ve learned or best individual cases:

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Glory Days

First off, apologies for the lack of originality, as I’m sure almost all Darden bloggers cover this topic at some point. Regardless, much of Darden’s awesomeness is attributed to its well-rounded student body, and one series of events perfectly exemplifies that awesomeness: Darden Cup.

For anyone unfamiliar, Darden students take classes with the same students for the first year, forming a section of approximately 65 students. Sections (there are 5) develop a lot of pride, and compete with each other through a variety of charitable and athletic competitions throughout the school year. On the athletic side, the Darden Cup tournaments this past fall included softball, football, and soccer. Even as someone who is an average participant in each sport, the events are literally some of the most fun I’ve had in years. The format of each event usually involves some type of round robin, where each section will play at least two other sections, before sections are seeded and enter playoff play. In sports where you participate in playoff games, you’re usually playing four games, each lasting around forty minutes. In totality, I’d describe these events as college intramurals on steroids. To elaborate:
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More Like Work or College?

Is business school more like work or college? Each side has its merits. Below I summarize my thoughts on each, and provide a conclusion.

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Everybody’s Hands Go Up

With the emphasis on discussion through the case method at Darden, class participation comprises a significant portion of the grade for each class. While grades matter much less than in undergrad, most Darden students want to do pretty well in class (surprise, surprise, a group of ambitious individuals want to do well on a comparable performance metric). There is a lot of thought that goes into people’s heads on how to contribute to class. Here are my thoughts:
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Expect the Unexpected

Hi all. This serves as my inaugural post with the famed Darden student bloggers, which I couldn’t be happier to join. As I mention in the “Profile” tab, I’ll tend to focus my time here more on the social side of things: my goal is to accurately represent what it’s like to be a First Year (FY) at Darden. That said, this post will serve as more of a grab-bag. I believe one of the best ways to articulate how the Darden experience deviates from its peers is to describe differences from my initial expectations. Without further ado, my top 5 surprises since starting Darden one-plus month ago:

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