How to Succeed at the UB MBA

Alyssa Gestl, UB MBA 2020

In all honesty, I found the UB MBA to be tough but not impossible. I went into the program hearing that it was hard, but I was up for the challenge. To understand my thought process and what I felt, here is a little background about myself. I graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2016 with a BS in management and a system engineering track (minor). My life for four years was hard. Not only did we have demanding academics (most semesters were around 18 credits—my fewest was 16 and most was 21.5) but we also had military demands, rules and regulations. Add to that, I was an NCAA athlete and I had a full slate of academy events and training activities.

Since I survived all of that in my undergrad for four years and did well, I felt I was ready for the UB MBA. However, I realized in the first semester that I certainly underestimated it. What makes the program challenging is not necessarily the classes themselves—it mostly comes from self and team management. Course difficulty largely depends on your strengths, but they are not impossible and there are many resources for help. I found my first semester of 15 credits to be a big course load. A couple of the classes are only seven weeks, so they are fast paced. The coursework for each class is demanding in both individual and team work.

This is where the UB MBA focuses you to perform as well as you can. You have to be organized to manage all of your competing demands. There is also the factor of the members of your team. You could get lucky and have an all-star team, you could have an average team (which is what most groups are), or you could have a team that struggles to work together—a good reflection of real life. Regardless of your situation, be sure you have a good individual planner. If your team doesn’t have a good planner, be that person for your team. Also, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. I was always procrastinating my whole life with school, however during the first semester of the UBMBA I began to plan ahead and start assignments ahead of time, which helped me perform my best.

This is a lot of information and everyone’s situation is different, of course, but here are a few tips to help manage stress and coursework:

  • The first thing is to make sure you get organized the semester/year. At the beginning of each semester I wrote in the day and time for every class in a planner. It had two columns so next to each class, so I wrote in all assignments as soon as we received the syllabus. I would mark if the assignments were individual or group assignments as well. This is probably the main thing that helped me stay less stressed throughout the semester because I was always aware of what was coming up. Things still became stressful, but at least I was always aware and could go to find whatever information I needed. I also made sure to update my planner throughout the semester if something changed or there was an assignment that was not originally on the syllabus.
  • The second piece of advice I would give is to take advantage of the resources around you. The majority of the professors are very generous with their time and knowledge, as well as the teaching assistants if the class has one. Take advantage of them, find out their office hours, if they offer study sessions, and if they are available any other times. Also, connect with your classmates, network with individuals who have strengths in different areas than your own and utilize them. Help them when they need help with something in return.

The MBA program at UB can be stressful and difficult. Believe everyone when they tell you it is not easy, especially the first semester. However, realize that it is not impossible. On top of all the regular program assignments, team challenges and stresses, I had a few other obstacles during my first semester. I was working on weekends, planning a wedding and driving about an hour one way every day to school. I did not do anything special, mainly the tips above and just kept reminding myself the benefits of the program and that it’s only 16 months of classes. By doing all of that and not giving up, I ended up doing better than I expected.

I hope this insight into my experiences has helped. You can succeed with hard work and dedication. If you would like to talk more or have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at and we can set something up.

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