Being a parent while pursuing an MBA

Author: Rachael is passionate about the ability of business to make meaningful, positive change. Before Stern, she was a Producer working at the intersection of the public sector and the entertainment industries. She interned at and will be returning to McKinsey Transformations as a consulting generalist. While at Stern, she’s proud to have been a career mentor, TF for Team Communications, and VP with Stern Women in Business, Management Consulting Association, and Social Impact and Sustainability Association. She’s also the parent to an awesome toddler and a passionate Brooklynite.

Rachael Nisenkier

Deciding to pivot

During the fall of 2021, I got on the phone with a Stern alum (shout out to Jessie!) as I prepped for an interview with the MBA program. I didn’t know when I picked up the phone, but that was the start of a new plan for my life, and a wild ride for me and my family. 

Being a parent and a Sternie

When people find out that I birthed and take care of a tiny human, they tend to ask “how do you do it?” And I mostly demur and say “it’s easy” or “lots of help.” Both of which are true. My kid is great. My husband has a flexible job. We have the money and the familial support to fill in the gaps that need filling.  It’s also often really hard. I skip happy hours, avoid night classes, and frequently have to miss fun events. But it’s been deeply fulfilling and more interesting than I dared to hope. I feel like being a parent and a Sternie has really grounded me in what is most important and made me a mastermind when it comes to prioritizing. It’s also helped me form really deep bonds with other parents at the school – including a Sternies with Little Sternies What’s App Group that basically got me through my first year. 

Not being a typical student

I know my business school experience is not everyone’s, but honestly, I’m not sure ANYONE’S experience is “typical.” Stern has shown me over and over again that my fellow students come from a diverse and fascinating set of backgrounds, with their own complicated stories and circumstances. That said, I know a lot of us aren’t at a point of going directly from watching your chaos-loving kid try to eat your cat straight into a fancy dinner with a top consulting firm. For prospective students thinking of taking this journey, definitely get ready to have to quickly remove peanut butter stains from your favorite coffee chat outfit. 

When I came to Stern, I was so scared about not being a typical student, not being able to keep up with the typical students, of losing out on opportunities because my Millennial self needed to go home and sleep rather than go to Stern Social. And there’s definitely been trade offs – thanks to my economics classes I understand the idea of opportunity costs, and pursuing an MBA at any time in life (but certainly once you already have a family) requires trading off time with friends and family, missing trips we want to take, and occasionally sitting at home to finally finish homework rather than exploring the city. But the biggest surprise about being here at Stern was finding a community of humans who were so supportive, smart, and willing to meet me where I was – even if that  was on day two of a stomach flu while trying to prepare for consulting interviews. My classmates shared their notes with me, helped explain complicated concepts, and generally held space and time for my unique life circumstances every day of the year. In the second year of my MBA, I was able to give some of that back, and build a new community of parents supporting each other through this program. 

Top Three Pieces of Advice for Prospective Students

  1. Create space for being a human – whether that’s coffee with an old friend or a run through Prospect Park. 
  2. Listen to your needs – attending Stern (especially during recruiting) can be like drinking from a firehose. If your body needs a break from networking and happy hours, listen!
  3. Go outside – it can be so tempting to hole up in the 2nd floor study rooms and crank out work and thank you emails, but we’re in this glorious city and you should experience it.