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Aubrey Chapnick is an MBA candidate at the Sauder School of Business in Vancouver.

Aubrey Chapnick is an MBA student with a focus on finance and strategy at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business in Vancouver. He previously worked as consultant at global leadership development firm Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge and has further experience in business development, sales and project management. This is his first entry for MBA Diary.

For all of you who are contemplating going to business school, I can understand your excitement and likely feelings of terror. While going to business school is a unique experience with substantial personal and professional challenges, it is an opportunity that has the ability to significantly have an impact on one's life.

Having almost finished my first year at UBC Sauder in Vancouver, I can say that my experience thus far has been an overarchingly positive one and has affected me beyond the scope of my career trajectory.

Looking back, I remember investigating potential schools and the process I went through to evaluate my options. I focused heavily on the Financial Times rankings, the opinions of those in my network and the type of work that I wanted to do after graduation. While these are all common metrics that prospective students use to make their decisions, having gone through a large portion of my degree, I've realized that none of these ended up being the most significant factor that allowed me to learn the most from my classes or get the most out of my MBA experience thus far.

For me, the most important aspect of my MBA experience has been the culture of my program and the environment that was created by my classmates.

When examining potential programs, it's easy for aspiring students to get caught up in things like a school's postgrad placement numbers in management consulting and investment banking or how close to Harvard it comes on the FT rankings. While such measures are important, I'd recommend that incoming students try to get a sense of what the unique culture of schools they are applying to is before setting their sights on a given program.

Like any organization, if a student does not fit with the culture of his or her environment, it can significantly hurt the ability to learn and be successful. This may come by way of building relationships with fellow classmates, professors and even future employers. As culture may seem like a difficult thing to get a temperature on as an outsider, here are a few questions for incoming students to think about that might help them get a better sense of the culture of the schools. I wish I had these on hand when I was weighing my MBA options.

1. Who am I as a person, what do I value, how do I like to learn and what are my MBA goals?

2. What is the reputation of the school that I am applying to, in what industry does it typically place the most people after graduation and how will the types of students that the school likely recruits affect my learning experience?

3. What level of competitiveness in the learning environment am I comfortable with and how will that impact my ability to seek help and advice from others?

4. What are the guiding values of the school and where does it direct most of its resources? How do the school's values align with my own values?

5. What have been some past academic and professional situations where the environment that I was in significantly affected my ability to perform at a high level? How does what I know about the program that I am applying to compare? Are there any similarities?

Choosing to go to Sauder was the right choice for me, but having reached this far, I know it has largely been because of my personal fit with the school's culture. My fellow students support me and want to see everyone succeed, the professors challenge and push me while encouraging me to look beyond the confines of just business literature to solve problems, and the school more broadly emphasizes developing yourself as a total human being (not just a smart business person).

For those just setting out on their own MBA journey, I urge you all to not forget the power and importance of one's environment in terms of its contribution to your happiness, learning, personal growth and, ultimately, your long-term success.