So you’ve made that first decision that it’s time to go back to school and pursue a Master’s in Business Administration; congratulations!  But, there is a nagging suspicion in the back of your mind that your “nontraditional” background is going to hold you back.  Don’t worry, I was you.  With a degree in Political Science and career as an intelligence analyst, my path to business school is not typical.   In all honesty, the summer leading into my first semester, I was a little intimidated.  I had excelled in my undergraduate studies, but the vast majority of my courses were qualitative in nature.  I was worried that I would be behind my classmates and wondered if I was at a disadvantage.

Now, with less than a semester left until I graduate, I can proudly say that I haven’t failed out yet.  Just joking.  Actually, I’m doing quite well, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I feel proud of what I have accomplished.  Sometimes being a liberal arts student in a business world can feel daunting, but I have picked up some tips and tricks to help me keep it in all in perspective.

1) Manage Time

While my essay writing skills from undergrad haven’t been particularly useful, my ability to manage time has been crucial.  Nothing independently about our curriculum is impossible.  The most difficult thing is balancing all the demands: recruitment, extracurricular, social, and networking, among others.  I thrive with structure, so I keep a weekly planner and write monthly goals in addition to the daily tasks.  Quantitative classes are all about practice, so keeping up with the work on a daily basis makes a huge difference for me.

2) Be Responsible for Your Learning

In my senior year of college, I had found my groove.  I felt confident in my Poli Sci classes and largely knew what I was doing.  B School is a new ball game, and each class has had a little bit of a different twist.  If there is a concept I’m just not getting or a problem that is particularly difficult, I make sure to pool my resources by reaching out to classmates, finding more information on the internet, or going to a professor’s office hours.  Additionally, I am aware of the gaps in my technical skills, and I am taking classes, both through my program and in my free time, to bridge those gaps and prepare me for success in the business world.

3) Focus on Development and Growth

They told us from day one not to obsess about grades, instead placing grades in context with everything else we are learning beyond the classroom.  Confession: that is still difficult for me to do.  We have been told in every academic environment that grades equal success, but in business school, that isn’t always true.  Whenever I am feeling frazzled about a quiz score or upcoming exam, I try to take a step back and focus on the skills I am developing and how they will help me in the longer-term.

I’ll leave you with one last parting thought.  Those of us who are “nontraditional” are increasingly common for business school.  My classmates are teachers, lawyers, doctors, and veterans, in addition to the more traditional professions.  In a competitive and globalized job market, quantitative acumen is not only important but many times a prerequisite.  Students from all walks of life and backgrounds can benefit from a business education.

Written By: Katherine V. O’Hara, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2017