Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The 5-class Option

At Kellogg, you can take 3-5 classes every quarter for the standard tuition fee.  If you opt to take more than 5, then you have to pay more; if you take less than 3, then I think you lose full-time student status, which has ramifications for all of your student loans.  The norm is to take 4.  If you follow the standard schedule, then your class load for each quarter would look like this:
  1. 5 classes (this includes the MORS class that you take during CIM)
  2. 4 classes
  3. 4 classes
  4. 4.5 classes (includes the pre-term SEEK class, which is business ethics)
  5. 4 classes
  6. 4 classes
You only need 24.5 credits to graduate, so you can actually opt to take 3 classes during one of your quarters.  From what I've been told, it is common to use that 1 credit of leeway to reduce the workload during either the 2nd quarter, when you are recruiting for internships, the 4th quarter, if you are recruiting for a full-time job, or the 6th quarter, if you want to take it easy at the end.

There are several advantages to taking 5 classes during a quarter.  First, you gain some option value.  This would allow you to take a lighter workload during both the 2nd and 4th quarter, if it is necessary for recruiting.  Second, you are able to take more classes, and that means more electives.  If you don't test out of any core classes, then you can only take 15 electives during your 2 years in the program.  This may sound like a generous amount, but there are a lot of interesting classes, and they seem to add new ones every quarter;  it's kind of ridiculous how many options there are.  Finally, taking more classes means that you get more for your money, and hopefully that you learn more.

Of course, there are also disadvantages to taking 5 classes.  First, you end up with more work to do, so you may have to sacrifice some time from the other parts of the experience: extracurricular, social, or family (if you have one).  Second, you have to spread your bid points out more, so you may not be able to take all of the classes that you want, particularly ones taught by rockstar professors.  Third, your grades may suffer.   Everyone says that grades don't matter in grad school, but after 16+ years of hearing otherwise, it might be hard to let go of this notion.  Finally, you don't have as much time to pursue other interests or dive deep into any of the courses you are taking.  I found myself having to skip some readings, even when it was for a topic I was really interested in, to keep up with the work.

After last quarter, I now know that 5 classes is definitely manageable, but it was still pretty rough.  I was constantly changing between the work for the different classes, and the act of juggling it all can be stressful.  Fortunately, I had a few classes that had light workloads, and my classmates took the initiative of driving the work (setting up meetings, keeping us on track, etc) in all of my groups.  Furthermore, I have completely deprioritized socializing, so it was a lot easier for me to stay on top of the work without ever getting bogged down or stressed out or missing out on much sleep. 

That said, I would definitely not recommend this approach (not taking advantage of the socializing) for anyone unless you've had a heart-to-heart with yourself about what you want to get out of your Kellogg experience.  There are a lot of downsides to being a hermit in grad school, like missing out on cool opportunities because you don't know the people that know about them.  For example, I would have missed out on the Boston University Tech Case Competition, which I will be participating in the next couple of days,  if I hadn't known the students that formed a team via KWEST and the Consulting Club.  I think that I've managed to mitigate this risk a bit, but I'm certain that I'm still catching some of the downside.

I've registered for 5 classes again this quarter, but I'm still worried about the workload.  I've heard that 2 of the classes are intense, and the other 3 are wildcards.  The only thing I'm certain of is that I'll be spending plenty of more hours in the Fortress of Solitude to stay on top of it all. 

1 comment:

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