You’re officially a member of the MBA class of 2018! If you’re like most of your fellow classmates, you spent the last several months studying for and taking the GMAT (or GRE), researching business schools, networking with alumni, and waiting anxiously to see which applications paid off.
Now that you’ve gotten into one (or more) of your target schools, the real work starts. The good news is that earning your MBA will open up opportunities far more numerous and attractive than you are likely to have encountered up to this point in your professional life. For most MBA grads, business school is a genuinely life-changing experience.
The extent to which this is true for you, and the nature of the changes you’ll experience, will depend primarily upon how you choose to approach the experience. As you’ll soon discover upon your matriculation, MBAs are a diverse group (aside from being universally successful and good-looking), and there are as many paths through your program as there are MBA students. Having said that, there are some things that every incoming MBA student can (and should) do in the months leading up to the start of school that will help ensure their individual path is as fruitful and stress-free as possible.
At RelishMBA, we’ve conducted hundreds of interviews with MBA recruiters, current students, alumni, and prospective MBAs, and our friends at Forte asked us to share strategies and insights from top performers that can help ensure that you make the most of the next few months. We’ve gathered a few of the best ideas and presented them below. Each item on the list will make you better prepared, more knowledgeable, and less stressed when you start school in August or September, but only you can say which are the most relevant for you.
Connect with your classmates early
This will be a no-brainer for the more socially-inclined among you, but the first few weeks of class will be much easier if you don’t show up on campus a total stranger to your classmates. Most schools will set up Facebook groups for each class, and you should be able to find the group with a simple search (try contacting the career services office at your school if you can’t find it). LinkedIn is another obvious choice for connecting with both students and alumni, and following your school or admissions office on Twitter can help you find out about upcoming events and deadlines.
Beyond the digital realm, there should be plenty of opportunities to meet up in person, from admitted student days (a great way to compare schools if you’re still deciding), city meet-ups with other admitted students from your area, and summer social activities near campus in the weeks leading up to orientation. Use these opportunities not just to connect professionally and find new friends, but to get a sense of the culture at your school and where you fit into it.
Build a basic recruiting plan
The first year of major MBA programs is busy. Very busy. As soon as classes start, you’ll be balancing class work, social time, and settling into a new city. If you’re like most MBAs, you’ll be adding recruiting to the mix within the first few weeks of school, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the obligations. By itself, business school recruiting can be a handful; in the first few months of schools, hundreds of employers will come to your campus looking to attract you and your classmates, and exploring even a fraction of those opportunities is a huge undertaking – and that’s before you consider the thousands of employers who won’t be on-campus but would still love to hire you. The easiest way to prepare yourself for this “firehose of opportunity” is to use the months leading up to school to do the career exploration and discovery you won’t have time to do once you’re a full-time MBA student.
In the months leading up to your first week of classes, you can use company websites, MBA alumni, and platforms like RelishMBA to build your recruiting plan, but the most important resource to take advantage of is time, which will be in short supply once school starts. Building even a basic plan will put you ahead of the pack and help you hit the ground running on the first week of classes.
Quit your job and go on a trip
If you’re planning on working until the week before your MBA classes start, it might be wise to reconsider. Some folks can pull it off, but most MBAs would be well-advised to take a few weeks or months off before school starts, and (if you have the time and resources) use that time to take a long and relaxing trip overseas. Not only can the decompression and downtime help you relax before a grueling first year of business school, but an extended holiday can give you time to think about what you want out of an MBA. This may sound like a strange use of time before the biggest professional and academic undertaking of your life, but establishing a long-term goal – owning your own business, making partner at a top consulting firm, becoming fantastically wealthy – can help guide you through the myriad decisions you’ll be making over the next two years.
Of course, there are plenty of other benefits to travel before business school: meeting future classmates in far-flung locales; collecting stories to share with other future classmates; and potentially experiencing the world from a perspective you’ve never had before. By no means is international travel a requirement to make the most of your MBA experience, but the months leading up to your first year of business school offer a perfect opportunity for those who are so inclined.
Sign up for the Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference
Events organized by MBA groups like Forté are a perfect way to prepare for the start of classes in the fall. The MBA Women’s Leadership Conference helps incoming female MBAs cover all their preparatory bases: meet and get to know future classmates and other MBA stakeholders; connect with and research MBA employers; and enjoy a nice weekend trip to one of America’s coolest cities in Austin, TX. Especially for students who are short on time or want to get the best bang for their buck, conferences like this offer a high-impact, low-investment option that will help you hit the ground running in the Fall.
Whatever you choose to do with the next few months before you officially start your MBA experience, make sure to use the time well. You only have one chance to make the most of graduate business school, and like most things the amount that you get in will be proportional to the time and energy and you put into it. That’s especially true in the summer before first year, which for many MBAs is the last time before graduation that they’ll have much of a say in how their time is allocated. Enjoy yourself, be productive, and get ready for a life-changing experience.
Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of RelishMBA, the marketplace for MBA hiring. Available to incoming and current students from network schools, RelishMBA gives candidates early access to employer branding and MBA-specific career opportunities before the hectic pace of first year MBA life begins in the fall. Admitted MBAs who sign-up for before the end of May get a sneak peek at featured employer content aimed at this year’s recruiting class. Have questions, feedback, or nice things to say about the author? Visit us at www.relishmba.com or email email@example.com.