Few things to keep in mind while studying at IIMs

I recently came across a list of 50 things that MIT's admission department recommends its undergraduate students to keep in mind while they are studying at MIT. This list was composed by MIT alumni who was then allowed to post it on a blog maintained by admission department. I found this to be a pretty cool idea, and hope that IIMs too would come up with something similar soon enough. We already have websites and forums facilitating interaction and mentoring of all those who get calls for GD & PI during the interview process. While at the campus, our Alumni Association does an excellent job of facilitating interaction of students with numerous alums pursuing careers in diverse fields.

During induction we have some very senior alums who talk about pretty similar, if not same things like the one mentioned in this post. However, I feel use of blogs by the admission department takes student interaction to an entirely different level altogether. Way to go!

I have modified the list given at MIT blog a bit to better suit life at IIMs, and in the process have tried to come up with a list of 50 things that IIM students should keep in mind. So, here goes:

  1. Your friends will change a lot over the next two years. Let them.
  2. Call someone you love back home a few times a week, even if just for a few minutes.
  3. At IIMs more than ever before, songs will attach themselves to memories. Every month or two, make a mix cd, mp3 folder, whatever - just make sure you keep copies of these songs. Ten years out, they'll be as effective as a journal in taking you back to your favorite moments.
  4. Take naps in the middle of the afternoon with reckless abandon.
  5. Adjust your schedule around when you are most productive and creative. If you're nocturnal and do your best work late at night, embrace that. It may be the only time in your life when you can.
  6. If you write your best papers the night before they are due, don't let people tell you that you "should be more organized" or that you "should plan better." Different things work for different people. Personally, I worked best under pressure - so I always procrastinated... and so did most others of my batch ;-) since you'll be working in groups a lot, during the first term, experiment and see what works best for you and your group members.. you'll need to develop a sort of understanding and group cohesion, which will last for rest of your days at IIMs...
  7. At least a few times in your college career, do something fun and irresponsible when you should be studying. These would be the best moments of your life, and though you will not remember your grades few years down the line, you will always remember and cherish those moments. Do note that this does not in any way mean that you should ignore studies altogether, but you might want to take a break when things get too much. Moreover, best friendships are forged in such moments.
  8. Become friends with your favorite professors. Recognize that they can learn from you too - in fact, that's part of the reason they chose to be professors. This is something that is at present largely absent in Indian education scenario. Most of the people who interact extensively with professors outside the class are coined with names, which makes most of the students reluctant to go and interact with profs after class. But what I felt was that those who chose to interact with profs learned the most too...
  9. Carve out an hour every single day to be alone. (Sleeping doesn't count)
  10. In the first month at IIMs, send a hand-written letter to someone who made college possible for you and describe your adventures thus far. It will mean a lot to him/her now, and it will mean a lot to you in ten years when he/she shows it to you.
  11. Embrace the differences between you and your classmates. Always be asking yourself, "what can I learn from this person?" More of your education will come from this than from any classroom. The diversity at IIMs is a great opportunity to pick up several soft skills, which will come in handy later in your professional life.
  12. All-nighters are entirely overrated.
  13. For those of you who have come to IIM in a long-distance relationship with someone from college: despite what many will tell you, it can work. The key is to not let your relationship interfere with your college experience. If you don't want to meet anyone else, that's totally fine! What's not fine, however, is missing out on a lot of defining experiences because you're on the phone with your boyfriend/girlfriend for three hours every day.
  14. Working things out between friends is best done in person, not over email. (IM does not count as "in person.") Often someone's facial expressions will tell you more than his/her words.
  15. Take risks.
  16. Wednesday is the middle of the week; therefore on wednesday night the week is more than half over. You should celebrate accordingly. (It makes thursday and friday a lot more fun.)
  17. Welcome failure into your lives. It's how we grow. What matters is not that you failed, but that you recovered.
  18. Take some classes that have nothing to do with your major(s), purely for the fun of it. Esp in your second year, when you get to choose your subjects.
  19. It's important to think about the future, but it's more important to be present in the now. You won't get the most out of college if you think of it as a stepping stone.
  20. When you're living on a college campus with 400 things going on every second of every day, watching TV is pretty much a waste of your time and a waste of your parents' money. If you're going to watch, watch with friends so at least you can call it a "valuable social experience."
  21. Don't be afraid to fall in love. When it happens, don't take it for granted. Celebrate it, but don't let it define your college experience. Also, do remember that given the skewed ration of females to males at IIMs, a lot of heart break happens too.
  22. Much of the time you once had for pleasure reading is going to disappear. Keep a list of the books you would have read had you had the time, so that you can start reading them when you graduate.
  23. Things that seem like the end of the world really do become funny with a little time and distance. Knowing this, forget the embarassment and skip to the good part.
  24. Every once in awhile, there will come an especially powerful moment when you can actually feel that an experience has changed who you are. Embrace these, even if they are painful.
  25. No matter what your political or religious beliefs, be open-minded. You're going to be challenged over the next two years in ways you can't imagine, across all fronts. You can't learn if you're closed off.
  26. Don't always lead. It's good to follow sometimes. This usually proves to be bit difficult for many as they have been leaders throughout their school and college lives. But at IIMs, thats true for almost everyone, and being a follower once in a while might enable you to viw matters from an entirely new perspective altogether.
  27. Take a lot of pictures. One of my major regrets in life is that I didn't take more pictures in college. Digital cameras are cheap and you have plenty of hard drive space, so you have no excuse. And dont forget the camera that's in your mobile handset :)
  28. Your health and safety are more important than anything.
  29. Ask for help. Often.
  30. Half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at any given moment. Way more than half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at some point in the next two years. Get used to it.
  31. In ten years very few of you will look as good as you do right now, so secretly revel in how hot you are before it's too late.
  32. In the long run, where you go to college doesn't matter as much as what you do with the opportunities you're given there. The IIM name on your resume won't mean much if that's the only thing on your resume. As a student here, you will have access to a variety of unique opportunities that no one else will ever have - don't waste them.
  33. On the flip side, don't try to do everything. Balance = well-being.
  34. Make perspective a priority. If you're too close to something to have good perspective, rely on your friends to help you.
  35. Eat badly sometimes. It's the last time in your life when you can do this without feeling guilty about it.
  36. Wash your sheets more than once a year. Trust me on this one.
  37. If you are in a relationship and none of your friends want to hang out with you and your significant other, pay attention. They usually know better than you do.
  38. Don't be afraid of the weird pizza topping combinations that your new friend from across the country loves. Some of the truly awful ones actually taste pretty good. Expand your horizons.
  39. Explore the campus thoroughly. Don't get caught.
  40. Life is too short to stick with a course of study that you're no longer excited about. Switch, even if it complicates things.
  41. Enjoy every second of the next two years. It is impossible to describe how quickly they pass.
  42. This is the only time in your lives when your only real responsibility is to learn. Try to remember how lucky you are every day.

Be yourself. Create. Inspire, and be inspired. Grow. Laugh. Learn. Love.

Welcome to some of the best years of your lives.

For those who are interested, original MIT post can be found here


Yashika Totlani said…
But thats just 42 points! What abt the other 8??

Anyway, these were more 'Guideline to happy living for a college student' than a IIM specific guide. Still, lots of fun to read and offered a couple of things to learn. Shall read the MIT article soon too. How many people provided inputs to compile this?? Would be interesting to know. And yeah, you do make life there sound like a lot of fun :)

Keep writing!

P.P.S. A late entrant to your blog... I promise I shall try to stay up-to-date with my comments!
Arpita said…
Call a loved one back home a few times every week
- My favourite bit.
rukna said…
long list.. but useful
Rohit said…
Very impressive list... will take a printout and hang it in my room
Rohit said…
Very good list... I just hope I'm not too late for it.

I'll take a printout of this and hang it in my room so that I can look at it everyday.
vaishali said…
Nice post Gagan. Actually most of the things are tru for othr MBA colleges also. :)
Loved the points... n made me pre nostalgic (evn if thr isnt sch a wrd! ) actually aftr reading tht... i got a gud knowledge of hw m gonna spend the 1 yr of my MBA tht is left! :)
keep writing... :)
BRAT said…
gud one!!!
Gagan said…
@ Yahika: the original list at MIT site comprises of 50 points... not mine.. that is why I've named it "few things to..." and not 50 things.
I guess you could call it guideline for college too, but since most graduate courses in India aren't residential programs (not counting engineering) and since pressure and culture at IIMs is significantly diff from other colleges, I've kept it as IIM specific list. It could be generalized though. I look forward to your inputs in future :)

@ arpita: thanks for dropping by and for your comment :)

@ rukna: thanks for the comment :)

@ rohit: thanks for your comment :) having completed a year at IIM, I guess you must be already familiar with most of the things covered here

@ vaishali: thanks for your comment :) yeah I guess it can be generalized to other colls too. I look forward to your inputs in future too

@ brat: thanks dude :)
Dark_Temptation said…
Amazing post i must say.... loved the mutitudinous facts :)....n eh "Carve out an hour every single day to be alone" wuz this 4?? if i may ask
Gagan said…
@ dark temptation: Well, to do whatever one likes best. Judging from your posts, I'd say that of all the people you'd know this best :)

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