Keep your mouth shut initially
Before people know you, it’s risky to say something potentially offensive because people won’t give you that free pass. A lot of early activities involve drinking, so you may be tempted to make a wild joke, but be careful, or you’ll end up with a 3-way split: 1/3 will be amused, 1/3 will be indifferent, and 1/3 will hate you. It takes a while to get that last 1/3 to not hate you anymore (or to at least be indifferent).
Make friends with bilingual classmates
They’re more useful to travel with and you never know when their language skills can be used to placate a foreign-born local merchant.
When it comes to job history, language is key
It’s statistically impossible for all 400+ students to have enjoyed their summer internship. But everyone says they did, because we’ve all learned that when discussing work history, you have to pick your words very carefully. I honestly feel that one of the most important skills I learned was how to speak in this insincere manner. I didn’t “get pissed off and quit my job abruptly.” Rather, I “assessed my role and decided it wasn’t a good fit for my skill set.” My internship didn’t “suck”; it was “challenging and I learned a lot.”
Choose your roommates carefully
If you have roommates who also go to business school, people will think you’re insulting your roommate if you don’t invite him or her to absolutely everything that you ever do. So pick your roommates carefully. Just remember that picking a roommate is like picking a stock – it’s fine to have a crazy, volatile roommate when things are going well. But when things are going poorly, you’d much prefer a calm and composed one (think high beta vs. low beta).
You actually DO learn stuff in business school
But you don’t learn things super in-depth and you don’t deal with complicated formulas. That’s why anyone can get in to business school – once you get here, it’s not that hard to survive. Of course, that’s also why they prefer admitting people with crazy life experiences – since your academic background doesn’t matter, you might as well admit interesting people.
Strategy classes are the best and worst classes you’ll ever take
They’re the best because the assignments are self-contained (no research needed), the assignments can be done quickly, and it’s usually pretty satisfying to apply your business acumen to real-world situations. They’re the worst because many professors think a laundry list of bullet points counts as analysis. If you have one of the latter profesors, just throw everything you can think of on to that paper and you’re guaranteed to get a good grade.
Give it away for free
If you really want to ingratiate yourself with people, learn a useful skill and offer your services for free. For example, back messages, still the only form of physical pleasure you can legally pay for in the U.S. Or choose a less creepy skill.
Your first impressions are probably wrong
The jock turns out to be a brain. The hot girl breaks out in hives. The brain turns out to be a dummy. The loudmouth is actually sensitive. The macho guy is a beautiful woman. The seven-foot tall giant is actually a tree. And so on. Just look at your friends and recall what your impressions were when you first met them, and what you think of them now. How accurate were you?
The Internet ruined everything
If you haven't been in school for many years, you will quickly realize that the Internet has made if more difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. I could never concentrate for more than a couple hours without some question popping into my head that I had to look up on the Internet, like “I wonder what’s on the menu of McDonalds in China,” or “I wonder if there’s anything to see in Greenland.” I can’t even remember what it was like to do homework in the pre-Internet era.
There are some apps you can download that will disable the Internet - I highly recommend these. Too much caffeine can also cause your mind and mouse to wander.
Complacency is easy, but not if you’re miserable
If you hate your job, hate your sycophantic co-workers, and you really hate your supervisors, don’t stay there! Even if it’s easy and the pay is decent, you’ll regret it in the end. Get out of there!
That’s what I did, and it worked out excellently for me. Yes, it took a bit of effort - I added a few lines to my resume, researched career paths, studied for the GMAT, wrote some philosophical essays, requested recommendations, practiced interview questions, and visited schools. But more importantly, I broke free of the dead-end monotony I was foreseeing my life headed towards. Plus, I’ve got two years of great memories.