During his 16 years at the Anderson School, Professor Bill Cockrum has become known as
an entrepreneurial finance guru. His students have honored him with an "Outstanding
Teaching" Award eight times, but his reputation transcends the UCLA campus. A 1996
Business Week survey recognized him as the top entrepreneurial professor in the nation.
Cockrum also teaches business ethics and investment management at this top ten school.
On average, first year students will have been out of school for three to six years and they
are going to have difficulty just getting back into the practice of being a student. They need
to make an adjustment getting back in the routine of schoolwork, doing and turning in
homework, and so on.
A student attending a top ten business school will likely be exposed to a more competitive
environment than they saw in either undergraduate school or in their work environment
because of the selective admittance process. At the Anderson School, our average student is
in the 92nd percentile on the GMAT exam and earned a 3.5 GPA from a top-drawer school
- the top 25 or 30 schools academically in the U.S. And that's the average student.
Most top ten schools try to teach students how to cope with demands on their time. How to
sort out what's important and what's not. You're going to be confronted with more work
than you can possibly do, and you're going to have to determine what's important. That's a
It just doesn't cut it to be smart, have good grades, score well on the GMAT, work in a
tough environment, and have a boss that says you're great. All of that is expected. When
talking about admittance to a top ten school, you're going to have to partake in some
activities between your undergraduate degree and your MBA application date that will
make you a unique applicant. Expand your horizons. Instead of going to the beach or doing
whatever you do on the weekends, do something unique in either a business way or a
The most common mistake made by first year students is not researching their school and
all of its opportunities before setting foot on campus. Students procrastinate in discovering
what the school offers. That doesn't only apply to coursework. A lot of things in school are
experiential -- activities where you can learn what it's like to be an entrepreneur, understand
what international companies want, or discover what it's like to be an investment banker. If
you want to execute a career change from working at a magazine in Boston to becoming an
analyst in New York City, you have to ask, "Is there a student club at my school that can
help me understand that?"
We think it extremely important that students learn how to be good team members because
we believe that teams do better than individuals when solving problems. And you don't
have to be the team leader to have good results. I'd rather be on a team with you to study a
problem than do it alone, because I think two of us, with two heads, will do better than one.
But the teamwork at Anderson goes on in a way that discourages internal competitiveness
among the students and encourages support. For example, when a prospective employer
interviews at Anderson, our students will share the information gained from their interview
with classmates in order to get more jobs for UCLA. You will not find that culture at most
of the top ten schools.
If you're coming to UCLA, you're going to learnhow to think, and that's something you
may never have learned before -- we can teach that if you're open to it. We can help you
understand, appreciate, and probably embrace the concept of teamwork. You're going to
face a very challenging set of intellectual rigors, and you'll graduate with three things that I
think are important.
First, you'll master basic analytical skills that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Second, you'll gain the experience level of a 60-year-old person who has not been to a top
ten school. And third, you'll be exposed to the most current techniques.
Though initially unimpressed with the celebrity and smog of Los Angeles, East Coast
native Jay Devivo says he has since learned to appreciate his adopted homeland. Since
migrating from Boston last year, Devivo has devoted much time and energy to Anderson's
Entrepreneurial Ventures Club, which works closely with area startups.
In the beginning, you should open yourself to everything. Get a little crazy in first few
weeks, and then narrow down your interests to a few. Generally, students have one primary
activity and a few supporting activities at which they are not the main point person.
Networking is by far the most important aspect of business school. The classroom is a
distant second. If you want to be an investment banker or a consultant, you had better get a
4.0. GPA, but even those employers like to see that you are doing something outside of
school. For the people who don't want to go into either of those fields, networking is
I'm involved with the Venture Developing Program, which places MBA students with a
team of entrepreneurs and allows them to work together over the summer. The MBA
students help flesh out strategic issues and a business plan with the goal of going after
venture capital or angel financing. This is really our last chance to try things without any
I spent between 10 and 35 hours a week studying on my own. During finals that number
went up to 40 hours. But far outweighing that independent study time is the amount of time
spend in group studies. Everything is group related. Even in statistics class, you have
groups. How do you have groups in math? You do. If it's not a group project, it's a study
group so you can go over things together. I've been in 16-hour group meetings.
Before finals, students will send out study guides for the whole section. I've also seen
people say, "I have information about this employer, do you want it?" In terms of anything
academic, there is almost no competition.
In our core classes -- which comprise 90 percent of the first year - there is an enforced
curve and people are still willing to give you all they know. If everyone shares information,
the pool of information rises. At the end of the day, you want to actually learn something.
Whatever arbitrary grade some professor gives you really doesn't matter.
You have to have a Palm Pilot. Maybe not specifically that brand, but you have to have
some kind of organizer. You're always scheduling to meet and do things with various other
people. I used to keep my appointments in a Day Runner, but it just gets too messy with
Anderson is a very wired school. We have T-1 ports in all the classrooms, so a laptop is a necessity. During some classes, you sit in the back and Instant Message people all day. It's also always good to have a cell phone, as well.
It's important to talk to second-year students to find out who previously interned at the companies you are researching. Fall recruiting is mostly for second-year students, but it never hurts a first-year student to sit in on sessions.
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