Back to School #1: Your First Term

I already shared some MBA survival tips as well as some specifically for intensive weeks (plus one extra) but seeing as we’re all getting ready for back-to-school, I thought I would post some more including essential supplies. These are geared to the Morning MBA students at Rotman but I’m sure they would applicable to anyone starting school. Apologies for any repeats from previous tips – that must mean that they are the most important!

  1. Sleep! – seriously, this is my first tip. Get in the sleep while you can because you will definitely be sleep deprived for the rest of the term (and those following). During this break of a few weeks, it has been good to get back to a regular sleep schedule and get ready for the coming term.
  2. Good pens – ok, I have a slight obsession with pens but I have found that I do my best note-taking in class with pen & paper as opposed to my laptop. That’s not to say that I don’t bring my laptop to class b/c there are several times that I do, but majority of the time I use good ol’ pen & paper. It helps me retain the info better and forces me to be selective at what I jot down. If you are as into pens as I am, you can find lots of reviews online and order them online as well. And even if you don’t take notes using pen & paper, you will definitely need a pen (or pencil) to write some of your exams. So best to get those supplies now instead of at the last minute.
  3. Good paper – I really like using graph paper to take notes, especially in Stats & Finance classes. My current fave is this Cambridge graph paper pad.
  4. A reliable portable laptop – you definitely will need one of these, even if you take notes in class using pen & paper. Several people bring their laptops from work but sometimes there are administrative access issues if you need to install software for certain classes. My laptop of choice is a 13″ Macbook Pro with VMWare Fusion to run Windows. Even though I’m a pretty die-hard Apple fan, I must admit that Excel 2007 is much easier to use on Windows than it is in Mac OS. Portability is key here as you will end up carrying your laptop around a lot. A small size is good as well b/c you don’t often get a lot of elbow space in a full class.
  5. A sturdy backpack – even though I really liked my Rotman MBA backpack that all first years received for free, it was time for me to get a new one (namely b/c my Finance textbook was so heavy!) So now I have this great one from MEC which offers good back support and is designed especially for small female body frames. It looks like the backpacks that Rotman is giving out this year are even sturdier so perhaps yours will last longer than mine! Special thanks to Mary for the backpack recommendation.
  6. A registered Starbucks card – this is only if you’re as addicted to Starbucks as I am! Unfortunately, as wonderful as the free breakfasts are each morning, they are catered by the Second Cup located in the school so I often stop off at Starbucks before class. Trust me, this is best for everyone especially my classmates who won’t have to deal with a grumpy peer in the morning. The registered Starbucks card offers great benefits such as free soy milk & syrups so it helps a bit for us money-conscious students.
  7. A smart phone – I hate to admit it but a smart phone certainly helps you stay in touch with your classmates & project team members. And I hate to admit it even more but since majority of my classmates have blackberries (instead of iPhones), Blackberry Messenger is key to ensure productivity as well as share fun discussions throughout the week.

Stay tuned for part two where I share my favourite iPad apps for school.

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