For many students, the ‘PGDM experience’ is as humbling as it is exciting. Anyone who’s taken the program will tell that it’s a very visceral experience, both the highs and the lows, and there’s really very little that can prepare the student for it. ‘Immersive’ is perhaps the best way to describe this two-year course. Apart from classroom learning, there is so much else the student can do towards achieving self-discovery, and social and academic growth, that one always has to keep his eye on the ball lest he loses sight of his goals. However, the student should not feel panicked because many of his classmates feel the same way. This article acts as a study guide for PGDM students and helps them out with some tips on how they can maximize their time better.
Different to under graduation, in business school, the student is constantly bordered by other bright minds. Consequently, comparing one’s performance to that of his peers is often pointless. Also, since each student comes from a different professional, academic and cultural background, baselines vary wildly. The best way to measure one’s performance is to set a baseline for himself and compare his progress against his own benchmark. This will help the student realize that his growth as a student and as a person is enormous, which is its own reward. As competitive as the program may often seem, the student must remember that the PGDM experience is not really a competition. The student should not forget that he enrolled in the program to achieve some very specific career goals, and all that matters is getting there.
Don’t Seek Perfection
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information the student has to process. However more than that, it’s the sheer number of new concepts the student has to grasp and then use instantaneously. A good tip is to remember that the student does not have to master every single new concept. The student has signed up to get an understanding of business, acquire new tools and skills, and take his first steps towards becoming a leader.
Get the ‘Inside View’
To get the most out of the PGDM experience, the student must set up ‘informational interviews’. These are mock interviews, which are a great source of information about an industry or a career that the student is interested in. He could either set up an interview with an ‘insider’ or tap his network to get an expert to speak to him. The discussion, which takes place outside the formal interview environment, will give the student valuable intelligence that he would otherwise not be privy to. The student can ask these experts what they do, what the prospects are, to point to potential career paths and what advice they have. Informational interviews can add valuable contacts to the student’s network and help him build relationships within his career domain.
A large part of the learning process takes place outside the classroom. The student has to evolve socially and academically by pushing his boundaries. Taking classes and attending seminars on subjects that never interested him before, and joining clubs on campus will bring out facets of the student’s personality that he never knew existed. Taking the plunge will expose the student to new ideas and ways of thinking. It’s all about self-discovery with a view to developing the skills of the student and building a solid network.
Learn Time Management
Learning to prioritize while multi-tasking – otherwise called ‘time management’ – is the only way the student can successfully navigate through his studies in business school. The work load is enormous and so are the opportunities to learn. A PGDM program is a delicate balancing act that clearly favors those who can multi-task. Manny experts advice those who may question their decision to sign up for a PGDM program is this: every year, thousands of candidates find themselves in the shoes of the student. They eventually find their own momentum and graduate with flying colors. The student should just keep his head down and keep moving forward. The PGDM program is a great way to discover one’s hidden strengths.
The student should write down all of his goals. The student should, on a sheet of paper write down all the subjects he is enrolled in and write the marks he wants in each class. He should pin this in up room, and all the places where he can see more of it as the more he sees it, the better.
Cross Lateral Movement
This movement gets both hemispheres of the brain working at the same time. An easy way to do this is to take the right hand and touch the left knee, then have the left hand touch the right knee. The student should repeat 15-20 times and should avoid studying without doing this exercise first. He should also do it often while he is studying.
Questions make the brain search for an answer. Experts have often said that questions are to learning what an ignition is to a car. They jump start the brain, make the student pay attention in case he is having trouble concentrating and they release chemicals in the brain which makes learning easier.
Turn on the Baroque Music
Just to remember it has to be Baroque, not just any classical music. Studies have found that the student can increase his learning efficiency by 25%-400% when he listens to Baroque music while studying.
Use color when taking notes
The brain is more enthused with the use of diverse colors. The student should use red for important information such as what will be on a test as the brain is naturally drawn to the color red.
Use a cover card when studying
If the student is using the Cornell method, then he should use the cover card to cover up the note section so that he can test himself. The student should read the question, give his answer, and then move the cover card to see if his answer was correct.
Focus and don’t multi-task
Our brains are extraordinary machines, but they can’t grip the whole thing at once. There is basically too much going on in our sensory surroundings for us to assimilate. To be effectual, we must direct our concentration to just one or two tasks at a time. The student should not be tempted to multi-task while he learns. The student should minimize his distractions and focus his attention on the task at hand.
Sleep well, learn well
Learning isn’t easy, and being able to focus is important for digesting new information and understanding concepts. When one gets a good night’s sleep, he feels fresh and attentive the next day. Sleep is also critical for what happened the previous day. Extensive work in both animals and humans shows a crucial function of sleep is to re-process and consolidate what happened during the day. This replay of activity patterns during sleep happens in our brain too, hundreds of times each night. As a result, the connections between our neurons change, helping the patterns become embedded in the brain. In additional terms, sleep plays an essential part in storing our memories for the long-term.
The “testing effect” is a deep-rooted observable fact in learning. Basically, we learn much better by trying our own familiarity than by re-studying the matter. So if the student has got an exam coming up, he should not just re-read a textbook and highlight important passages. Instead, he should test himself by doing practice exams. The process of actively recalling information helps deeper learning take place, and it works even better if the student can check whether his answer is correct. The student does not have to wait until exam time to capitalize on the testing effect. As he reads through a textbook he can give himself mini-tests, trying to recall the major points of each chapter he finishes. Even though researchers are still trying to figure out the brain mechanisms at the back of the effect, there is an aboundanceerification for its efficiency. When united with spacing, practicing recall is a resourceful way to assign information to one’s long-term memory.
Space out the learning
Teachers and parents are always telling students that cramming is the wrong way to learn, and for good reason. It just isn’t as effective as spacing learning over days, weeks and months. This is known as the “spacing effect”. Whenever one practices something, he gives the brain the opportunity to strengthen the connections between neurons. The strengthening process is comparable to how hikers trampling throughout a forest form worn paths over time. The more hikers, the more distinctive the path, just like frequent practice helps lay down well-built neural pathways to stock up memories. Even though the finest spacing strategy isn’t known, we are familiar with the fact that an increasing schedule is better than a contracting schedule. In other words, it’s better to review the course material after a day, then a week, then a month, rather than the other way around.