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Getting ready for business school

class of 2019 ASW service day

The Analytical Skills Workshop (ASW) was the perfect way for me to transition to business school life – academically and socially – at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Getting my MBA has always been a dream of mine. I knew having a graduate degree would help take my career to the next level and with my career transition from market research to marketing management.

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Getting into a top business school was half the battle, but as a first-generation business school student without a business background, I have my fair share of challenges in achieving that MBA diploma.

I majored in advertising and psychology at Syracuse University, where the majority of my classes were in liberal arts and communications. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of Wall Street or the critical framework to evaluate a business plan.

Attending ASW was so beneficial in helping me feel ready to start classes in three ways.

Prepare for academic life

Since there are no grades during ASW, incoming students get a better understanding of student conduct expectations and the ardor of business academics without the pressure to perform and achieve – which all ambitious MBA students are used to doing, of course!

Attending ASW allowed me to get back into student mode after working for five years and develop my study habits. As a night owl, that meant developing a morning routine for those 8 a.m. classes.

I knew having a graduate degree would help take my career to the next level and with my career transition from market research to marketing management.

Three classes are offered during ASW: Analytical Skills, Accounting and Finance. They require the biggest learning curve and consist of the most amount of business jargon.

I found myself loving accounting and appreciating the jumpstart to prepare for on-campus recruiting before it is at full speed. The workshops on business writing, presenting and advanced Excel skills were unexpected bonuses that will give me an edge once the homework, class presentations and business competitions roll in. Professor Larry Mandelkehr had fun, practical Excel tricks up his sleep that I’m confident will make life much easier come crunch time.

Familiarize myself with the Research Triangle

The three weeks of ASW were also more than enough time for me to settle loose ends from making my move from the Chicago area to North Carolina, and to get to know not only my new home in Chapel Hill, but also Raleigh and Durham. Throughout ASW, great activities were organized outside of class to help students become more familiar with what the charming South has to offer.

On Service Day, a few classmates led groups of us to do community service with local organizations – SEEDS, NC Therapeutic Riding Center and Salvation Army Family Store.

And several evenings were dedicated to socials at local restaurants, bars and a Durham Bulls baseball game. All of these activities were wonderful ways to get to know classmates, their partners and families.

Start building my network within my class

I had time to get to know more than half of my class inside and outside of the classroom as more than 60 percent attended. I learned that there were so many people in the same boat as me, who were new to the frameworks and concepts of business.

I found my people, too! Those, who share my passions and interests. I also discovered great people who I can rely on for help, whether to better understand those sticky finance problems or to jump my car when I’m stuck somewhere, which did happen the first week!

It was overall a very delectable, teasing taste of all the fun adventures to come for the next two years. Professor Isaac Dinner facilitated an interesting business case discussion on the music industry, which showed me one of the things I am absolutely looking forward to in b-school – lively debates and discussions with my classmates, who offer interesting points of view from their fascinating, diverse backgrounds. I’ve come to business school to learn from them just as much from the world-class faculty and staff.

I’m so glad that I decided to do ASW as it was such a fun way to start my business school journey.

By Cristina Balitaan (MBA ’19)