It’s the sweetest time you’ll experience during your MBA life cycle – that time between being accepted by the program of your choice and actually starting classes. It’s a time when you’re walking on air, the world seems like a much nicer place and you believe you’re luckier than everyone else!
Sure, getting into business school is a big deal but here’s a word of advice: don’t spend too much time up there in the clouds, for the MBA program is one of the most rigorous and intense programs in academia, and once classes start, you will have barely any time to breathe. That’s why you should come in with a plan.
The best time to prepare for those relentless 12-24 months is during those six months or so after being admitted to business school and before classes start. This will give you sufficient time to do some pretty important pre-MBA prep that will position you to succeed both academically and professionally.
Didn’t expect this to be the first step, did you? Well, it’s a nice way to begin your MBA journey, that is, thanking any and everyone who helped you down the line.
These people could include family and friends, who encouraged you and held your hand when the going was tough; managers who wrote letters of recommendation that directly impacted your chances of being admitted; and mentors and admissions consultants who pointed you in the right direction when you were at the crossroads. There are many ways to say ‘thank you’ and we’re pretty sure you will figure out how.
As soon as you’re accepted, you will receive a regular stream of emails from your new alma mater’s admissions office. These will range from instructions about your enrollment deposit, financial aid, housing options, submitting medical records, campus visit programs, course scheduling, student orientation programs, student life, and a heck of a lot more.
Read each email carefully and act on them promptly. You don’t want to miss a deadline on something as important as filing your financial aid documents, making your first tuition payment or registering for classes. Also, many business schools will require you to take a couple of pre-term, online classes. Now is the time for that.
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It’s always good to know a few classmates before starting an new academic program. And, technology makes that so much easier!
Call it ‘networking’, call it ‘socialising’, call it what you will but be sure to hook up with like-minded people from your class, both online and offline, before your course begins.
Some of these students might end up becoming your business partners during or after your course; others might end up being great contacts to network with; while still others might just become great friends and part of a much-needed support system you will lean on during those gruelling two years.
If any of them live near you, hang out with them before your course begins. And, yes, definitely attend the admit weekend organised by your business school.
Take a long, hard look at your MBA syllabus and identify knowledge gaps – areas of vulnerability that could hold you back during your course. So, you might want to take a course in the basics of finance, accounting and math before you actually start your MBA program.
There are many skills-building and career development courses you could sign up for, which will improve your performance in business school. Courses are available both online and offline, and there are many part-time courses that will introduce you to MBA course material.
If you are dead serious about excelling, you could sign up for a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) or even Harvard Business School’s online business basics course, HBX if you can fit it in your budget.
Another must-do is subscribe to important financial and business publications, journals and blogs that will keep you abreast of news and market trends in the world of business and finance.
Going to business school is a massive financial investment and only the chosen few get a full ride. Sources of funding can be either formal or informal. Formal sources include a variety of scholarships, assistantships, fellowships, grants and stipends while student loans are equally varied.
For instance, there are lower-interest private loans and more flexible public loans, and loans with fixed as well as variable interest rates. Each option for financial assistance comes with plenty of fine print. Read every word.
Many MBA programs also offer merit-based scholarships without requiring any additional applications. But these are offered after you are admitted or shortly thereafter. There are also need-based awards, so see if you check the right boxes.
Carefully consider your financial requirement and study your options equally carefully. The next two years – and many more thereafter! – will be influenced by the financial choices you make. Also, when poised to commit to a loan or financial aid program, make sure you know what the payment plan is and what the requirements are to keep the scholarship or aid, before you sign on the dotted line.
The MBA experience is pricey and tuition is not the only area that you need to fund. There’s also board and lodging to pay for, travel expenses, socialising (a big part of your MBA networking experience) expenses as well as incidentals and personal expenses. Make sure you budget for all of these so that there are no unpleasant surprises.
A huge part of the MBA experience is building a network of relevant contacts and also working towards landing a plum job post-MBA. There‘s plenty of opportunity to do this before classes start as well as during.
There are a plethora of networking and recruiting events you can attend and pre-MBA forums you can sign up for. For valuable advice on how to navigate this confusing landscape, where you are spoilt for choice, you could speak to MBA grads.
A must-do is connecting with your school’s alumni network and attending events that involve them, like simple meet-and-greet events or lectures delivered by an alumnus in their area of expertise. Another option is trying to get a short-term, summer internship, just to give you a jumpstart.
The majority of MBA students need to relocate for the duration of their course. There are many accommodation options, including campus housing (the school will help you with this), renting an apartment close to your school, or sharing a bigger house with classmates (again, your school can hook you up with prospective flatmates). This will be the last step you take before you bid adieu to family and friends, so tie up the details well in advance.
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Image credit: Office of International Student Services | UALR