If you’re reading this, you’re probably either in the UF MBA program, considering joining the UF MBA program, or in some other way interested in finding out more about the UF MBA program. No matter which of those categories you fall in, it’s important for you to know one thing: the UF MBA program loves case competitions.

A case competition is a trial-by-fire way of applying your MBA knowledge to real-world problems. Although they come in varying lengths (24-hour, one week, three-week, etc.), the underlying format is the same: a company will provide a team of MBA students a problem that the company is currently facing, and that team of students will develop a recommendation and present that recommendation to executives from the company. Simple, right? The catch: there are typically 10 or more teams from other schools that have all received the same problem and will be presenting to the same company, which is where the competition part comes in.

As of writing this, I have participated in three case competitions: the 2015 and 2016 UF MBA Internal Case Competitions, and the 2017 Katz Invitational Case Competition at the University of Pittsburgh. I have been fortunate enough to be on the winning team for all three of these cases, which I attribute to great team dynamics and great people around me. The part I want to emphasize, that you probably wouldn’t realize if you haven’t competed in a case competition, is the hard work that goes in to a successful case presentation.

Take the Katz Case Competition for example. The actual competition was the last weekend of January, and the case was released 3 weeks prior at the beginning of January. For prep, I figured we would do some general industry research prior to the case being released, and then have a few weekly meetings during the time we had the case. Boy, was I wrong.

Before even getting the actual case, our team did a full-scale practice case on the energy industry, which we presented the first week of January. If you’re doing the math at home, that means that we were working on a case over the holiday break, facilitated through Skype and coffee. And when we got the real case, we would rarely go a day without at least a quick get together. Most days, we would have a meeting that would start at 6pm and last anywhere from 9pm to midnight. All told, we probably invested around 60-80 hours each in to the case, but in the end it was all worth it to hear our name called at the awards dinner and receive a giant check for $10,000!

Overall, case competitions have been a highlight of my MBA experience. They are not for everyone, but for me I love the journey from initially getting a case and knowing nothing about it, to presenting a sound recommendation and defending it with a 70+ slide appendix. The best part, though, are the friendships you develop with your team after struggling through the long nights in small study rooms, and ultimately celebrating your successes. Because of all that, I’m already looking forward to my next competition!

Written By: Ryan O’Farrell, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2017