Is a One-year MBA Programme Really For You?

Winnie Van

One of the things that really appealed to me about INSEAD was that it was a one-year MBA programme. I’ve worked a good while, I’ve travelled, I’ve partied, and I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what I want in my career. To hell with a two year MBA – I can do it all in one year.

Now that I’m here, I can certainly say that I got what I bargained for. This year is intense.

Do I regret choosing a one-year programme rather than a more leisurely two-year programme? As my tuition fees are non-refundable, I try to not to think about it! Instead, here is a brain dump on things I wish someone had told me before I committed to the most insanely busiest year of my life.

The career search starts even before your MBA begins. 

I started writing my CV a month before I arrived on campus. I didn’t have a choice - the career development centre made us complete an online workshop before the programme started and in any case, we had to finalise our submission for the CV book in the first week of school.

The investment banking hopefuls had to be even more organised. They attended a career trek in the months leading up to the programme and were swimming in job interviews during the first few weeks of school. And then only two months later, the management consulting internship interviews started.

In short, if you’re a career ‘explorer’ (as opposed to a job-specific career ‘hunter’), you really don’t have much time to explore.

Classes move three times faster than usual. 

In my undergraduate days, I had one lecture and one tutorial per week per subject. To be honest, I didn’t really need to attend classes because I could stream the recorded lectures online as required. Basically I had a lot of free time.

At INSEAD, attending class is compulsory (not to mention a big reason why you spent that much cash on your education). You take six courses during each of the first three periods and there are usually two or three classes per week per subject. The schedule also changes every week - sometimes they even schedule classes on Saturdays.

I’ve given up on trying to find a sense of routine here. Eventually you just learn to wing it, day by day.

There are not enough hours in a day to do everything you want. 

I had this unrealistic expectation that I would have hours of spare time and carefree days to write beautiful blog entries, become fluent in French, transform myself into a gym junkie and take day trips around France.

But after the heavy class hours, preparatory case readings, group assignment work, career planning, and social activities (after all, you’re expected to become life-long friends with your MBA colleagues) … there isn’t much time left.

Every night, there is a smorgasbord of club events, career presentations, dinners and chateau parties to choose from. And every weekend, there are trips planned for Amsterdam or Chamonix.

What I’ve learnt is that you can do the things you really want to do, but you can’t do everything else. Every choice you make on how you spend your precious time this year is a trade-off. It’s up to you to work out what you really want to achieve from this year. Make it count.