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HBA2s share advice for making the most of the HBA experience

Sep 7, 2023

When you’re beginning the Ivey HBA, it may seem like a long journey ahead, but there are plenty of resources and people to support you, including your peers – especially HBA2 students who were in your shoes not too long ago.

We spoke with some HBA2 students for tips on making the most of the experience. Read on for advice from Jenn Aswald, Alyssa Evans, Lauren Fong, Prabh Malhi, Kate Thomson, Jared Weiner, and Maya Wolfman.

Watch the video above for more.

Build strong relationships within your cohort

Alyssa Evans said the first month at Ivey can be overwhelming as you’re transitioning to new styles of learning and being challenged by cases. She encourages HBA1s to focus on building strong relationships with others by attending section events and forming study groups. This way, you’ll have people to work with and lean on.

Given the nature of the HBA program, Maya Wolfman said you’ll spend a lot of time with your section cohort without even trying so make the most of these opportunities to get to know your section mates better.

Maya WolfmanThink of each case competition, group project, and 48-hour report as an opportunity to learn more about your section mates and have fun. Go for lunch together, grab a coffee, or even just do a lap around the Ivey building to stretch your legs. Spending time with your section outside the classroom will turn those relationships into true friendships – and 8 a.m. classes are a lot more enjoyable when you are surrounded by friends!”
– Maya Wolfman

Jared Weiner noted the best sections are those that form relationships outside of the classroom, so make a point of attending all section events, even if you don’t feel like it, go out for food and drinks, or join clubs together.

Jared Weiner "Don’t come up with excuses to miss events. Genuinely make an effort to attend section events and others will reciprocate. Take pictures so that you can remember it all and have something to look back on. HBA1 goes by super fast!”
– Jared Weiner

Remember that you’re in an environment where everyone around you wants to make friends as much as you do, points out Jenn Aswald. She recalls Ivey Assistant Professor Karen MacMillan challenged students to ask each other beyond surface-level questions.

“It’s the best advice I’ve received for building relationships,” she said.

And don’t forget those outside of your section, said Kate Thomson.

“Be nice to everyone, not just within your section. HBA1 is a chance, like the first year of university, for you to meet a large group of new people as a third-year student,” she said. “Take advantage of this unique opportunity to extend the olive branch. Help your peers out – be there to support them inside and outside of the classroom – and I promise you will leave this year with one less regret.”

Get involved with HBA Association clubs and communities

As you walk through Ivey’s halls during Clubs Week, Wolfman said you’ll be stunned by the number of clubs the HBA Association (HBAA) has to offer. Whether it’s career-specific clubs, such as the Ivey Accounting Club, or affinity groups, such as the Black Students at Ivey Collective, you are almost guaranteed to find a club that aligns with your interests.

That was certainly the case for Evans, who joined the Ivey Sports Leadership Conference executive team. Through it she met like-minded individuals – many who became her closest friends – and she said it was a highlight of her HBA experience. Similarly, Thomson said becoming part of the HBAA’s Executive Team was one of the best decisions she made when in HBA1, despite her initial apprehension. She recalls fighting through fear that she wasn’t qualified enough when running for her section’s election. Fortunately, she didn’t let that fear stop her and she was elected.

Kate ThomsonIf you do not believe yourself fully qualified for a position, I would strongly recommend you not let this scare you from putting yourself out there. The truth is that no one is 100 per cent qualified for any position. Sometimes the most rewarding experiences come from growing within the greatest learning curves.”
– Kate Thomson

Participate in the classroom

Participation is a crucial part of classroom learning, but not all contribution is equal, notes Wolfman. To ensure her contribution is meaningful and adds value to the classroom discussion, she asks herself three questions:

  • Am I repeating what someone else just said?
  • Am I simply reciting case facts?
  • Am I able to defend my position/opinion/reasoning?

But don’t get caught up in crafting the perfect contribution – take risks, think aloud, and share your ideas, she said.

The first contribution is the hardest, said Aswald, but she advises to “just rip the Band-Aid off,” and it will get easier over time. She also recommends listening to others rather than being consumed by your own thoughts and responses and talking to Ivey faculty if you feel anxious about contributing.

Jenn AswaldEvery professor I’ve encountered at Ivey truly wants you to get the most out of your class. Know that you can talk to them.”
– Jenn Aswald


Don’t worry about making a mistake, said Evans – chances are others have done the same and it will be a learning lesson for the whole class. Also, don’t be afraid to “respectfully disagree” with your classmates, said Thomson – they are there to challenge you and help you grow.

“Your opinion is your opinion so stand by it,” she said. “Do not let imposter syndrome or thinking that you may not be smart enough stop you from contributing. If you think you are the smartest person in the room, you are probably in the wrong room.”

Explore your own personal definitions of career and success

Recruiting can quickly become a stressful topic, said Thomson, especially if your classmates are receiving internship offers and you’re not even sure what area you want to begin recruiting in. Her advice is to stay grounded in your personal interests, use Ivey’s career resources, and trust the recruiting cycles.

“Remember that you are carving out your own path, not following someone else’s,” she said.

Evans knows what it’s like to feel pressure to find an internship in a traditional area, such as finance or consulting. She recalls her peers being shocked that she wanted to work in sport business. She researched on her own what companies offered internships and tried to set up coffee chats and make connections. Her efforts paid off when she landed an internship at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment where she said she had a great experience.

Alyssa EvansIt was important that I reminded myself that I don’t need to be like everyone else and that if this is the area that I am passionate about, I should follow it.”
– Alyssa Evans

Remember that your career pathway is likely going to be long and non-linear, said Lauren Fong, and what you decided to do one summer is not binding.

Lauren FongYou will learn new things and acquire new interests along the way. Be open to challenging pre-conceived notions and standard ways of thinking, allowing you to think critically and grow. Treat every experience as a learning experience.”
– Lauren Fong

Prabh Malhi, who is the current HBAA President, said it was helpful for her to speak with professors about career opportunities in their area of expertise. Once she determined her interests, she really looked forward to classes.

Prab MalhiOnce I realized what I was interested in, I looked forward to certain classes and even the homework!”
– Prabh Malhi


Also remember that grades don’t define you, said Weiner. What matters is what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown.

“You are collaborating with the best of the best peers and not everyone can achieve those top grades on every assignment. You will soon learn to look past the number, appreciate the experience, and enjoy your time in the program,” he said. “Just because you didn’t receive the highest grade doesn’t mean that you didn’t learn or don’t deserve to be here. It is a huge accomplishment and success to make it into the HBA program. Enjoy it!”