Advice from a Senior

23 Apr, 2013

I remember walking into the Bronfman building for the first time in 2009. It was, to say the least, overwhelming. Distinguished-looking men were in suits, sophisticated looking women walked around in high heels, and there I was, not sure what I was getting myself into. However, after 4 years, 30 management classes, numerous projects, information sessions, super sandwiches, and MUS mass tutorials later, I find myself one of the very men in suits that I was originally intimidated by.

But like any journey in life, you look back in retrospect with wisdom; wisdom that you wish someone had shared with you when you first walked through those daunting Bronfman doors. To future U0s, U1s and U2s, here are a few things I have learnt that may help you on your journey through Bronfman High:

1) No one has your back, except yourself and a few loyal friends, so find them fast. The structure of the program is such that you hope every single person in your classes fail. Rarely will you find discussion boards in management classes where someone will posts their notes gratuitously like they do in Arts due to the fact that it is a dog-eat-dog program. Furthermore, the mandatory bell curve slims the chances of you rooting for someone else’s success. However, I found five friends to rely on early on in the program. We have been through thick and thin, and it has made my life exponentially easier. You need allies in Management, so find them quick and help them every opportunity you get, because what goes around comes around, and hopefully they will be there for you when you most need them.

2) Treat your midterms like they’re finals, even the optional ones. Many of my classes have been structured such that the midterm mark is optional dependent on whether or not the final mark is better – sounds great right? Wrong. What happens most times in these classes is that everyone fails the midterm except for a few wise students who ace them. Everyone goes into the final with either no mark, or a high A.  The result? No matter how well you do on the final, it is still extremely difficult to get an A due to the way the curve works, so ace your midterms if you want to ace your classes.

3) If teachers tell you they don’t care about marks, a red flag should go up immediately. In your first class, a lot of teachers will tell you that they hate the curve and they wish everyone could have As, but the program doesn’t work that way and teachers are bound to be teaching classes where there is no real disparity in evaluations, such as Organizational Behaviour classes. Hence, thanks to the curve, everyone ends up with a B, at most a B+. Whether or not professors want to admit it, grades are everything, so do what you can to get As, and it starts with picking the right teachers.

4) Get a summer job as soon as possible. No one seems to tell you the importance of a summer position until it’s time to find a full-time job with an empty resume and no real experience. While working as a waiter or in a construction job may pay well and give you some experience in the real world, it doesn’t really impact your future career path. If you want to be in finance, find something in finance. If you want to be in marketing, find something in marketing. Lately, there has been talk about “well-rounded” students entering the workforce. While being well-rounded is certainly important, one of the parts you are “rounded” in should be applicable to what you want to do with your life.

Ultimately, if I were to go back to my final year of high school and decide again what school to go to – I would still choose McGill ten times out of ten. However, I think there are policies that should be improved upon, primarily the mandatory curve, which negatively increases the competitiveness, puts McGill business students at a competitive disadvantage, and ultimately breaks down the cohesiveness and cooperation amongst peers in the program. Curving a 40-person finance class to a 3.0 when no one will get a job in finance without a 3.8 GPA just does not make sense.

Over the past few months I have been trying to raise awareness to the deficiencies in our current grading system and gather feedback from fellow students, a move that has been received with excitement and optimism moving forward. While any changes to the grading scheme won’t affect me or my peers, they would make Desautels better for classes to come.

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