Guest Blog: The Darden First-Year Experience

In the following guest post, current student Katie Koopman reflects upon reaching the mid-way point of her first year at Darden:

Katie Koopman. MBA Class of 2014

It seems like just yesterday I was timidly climbing the steps to Darden’s main entrance, about to start my first day of business school.  I was nervous — the core curriculum was known to involve lots of quantitative skills, skills I had never had to use in my pre-Darden career in government consulting and the non-profit sector.  I had only ever used excel for contact information and, even then, I was known for accidentally making rows disappear and reappear in unexpected places.  As a psychology major looking for a mission-driven career, I knew I would love classes like Marketing and Leading Organizations.  On the other hand, I thought that I would barely survive more quantitative ones like Decision Analysis.  I was nervous.

Since then, I’ve read and prepared approximately 150 cases, built countless models in Excel and answered more “cold calls” than I can remember.  I’ve learned the differences between an income statement and a balance sheet, how to build a discounted cash flow, and how to forecast demand in t-shirt sales the right way.   And I didn’t just survive it.  I loved it.

It certainly wasn’t easy.  I relied on my Learning Team and on my Section mates who could bring all of these seemingly obtuse models to life with anecdotes from their work experiences.  And I remained in awe of our professors who adeptly managed a diverse classroom that included people with no business background (like me) and folks who could build these models in their sleep.

But most importantly, I had fun throughout.  The classes were challenging but not all late nights were spent on school work.  Many times we’d find ourselves on The Corner or the Historic Downtown Mall, eating dumplings in the wee hours of the morning, celebrating a successful week of classes or attending networking events.  On the weekends, we went on hikes and explored local breweries.  And the two days we had off due to rough weather?  We went to the mountains and played in the snow.

As I sit on the other side of my first semester at Darden, I can understand why I was nervous on that first day.  However, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself what an awesome, full experience I was in for.  Needless to say, I’m eager to see what’s next.

Katie Koopman
MBA Class of 2014

Katie grew up in Arlington, VA and attended Harvard College as an undergraduate.  After graduation, she took a windy path to business school, serving in AmeriCorps, working as a government consultant and then returning to the non-profit sector to work as a Regional Coordinator at the Urban Institute in D.C.  At Darden, Katie is on the Student Admissions Committee and is recruiting for summer internships in Consulting.

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