By Stacy Blackman
Throughout the business school application process, MBA candidates spend ample time filling out applications, writing essays and even honing interview skills to successfully gain admittance to their institution of choice. But it is equally important to prepare for the first year of coursework, which will have a long-reaching impact on your job prospects.
Whether you’re just starting to complete applications or you are about to embark on your first days as an MBA student, here are five ways to successfully prepare for your first year of business school.
• Attend all orientations and meet-and-greets: I can’t overemphasize the importance of choosing a school that instantly gives you a sense of community. One of the best ways to make the program feel like a perfect fit is to attend as many social mixers and orientation events that are planned for incoming students.
Welcome Weekend and other preterm social events are prime opportunities to begin connecting with your future cohorts. If you’ve participated in the MBA forums or followed other MBA applicants’ blogs, then you may already have a head start on building relationships with your class.
By spending time on campus weeks before the semester begins, you’ll also have time to familiarize yourself with the many resources available to students. This will give you an additional comfort level and allow you to adapt more quickly and focus your attention on other exciting opportunities that come your way.
If you live halfway around the world and aren’t able to come to campus early, find out if your program hosts a Facebook group for your class so you can start connecting with fellow students. If it doesn’t, offer to help set one up.
In the highly competitive MBA world, it’s common for first semester students to go through periods of self doubt. But in reality, the introvert has a natural advantage in making allies at b-schools. Extroverts who need to be heard will naturally seek out good, thoughtful listeners.
When introverts think about building their friendships and network during b-school, they should take the long view. While extroverts may make the strongest first impressions on their classmates, it’s the introverts who often make meaningful and lasting connections with less effort. Besides, many of the introvert’s skills – among them team building and problem-solving – are key to successful businesses.
LEARN TO MANAGE
• Maintain and build upon your existing network: The process of connecting with your new cohorts is the first step in building your existing network. But don’t forget to tend to your existing network once you’re admitted, though.
If you’ve stayed in touch with your favorite college professor or know anyone in your network who has gone to business school, this is the ideal time to reconnect and inform them of your own MBA plans. Ask for their advice on how to maximize your business school experience, and let them know your professional goals and the companies you’re interested in. You never know when a mutual connection can give you a leg up in recruiting.
• Prepare for recruiting season: The summer before business school is a great time to make a list of interesting companies that recruit at your campus. Research contacts at your target companies to see if you can arrange an informational interview.
If you revised your resume as part of your MBA application, now it’s time to go back and make sure the professional version of your resume is up-to-date. Take a look at your social media accounts, including your LinkedIn profile, to ensure each represents your passions and abilities in a professional way.
Once you have your shortlist in hand, set up a Google alert with each company name so that you’ll automatically receive news updates that will provide great material for your interviews with recruiters.
Try not to get too attached to one company, though. Competition is fierce, and recruiters will interview dozens of equally bright and qualified students for just a few available spots.
• Brush up on quantitative skills: A fair number of soon-to-be first-year students lack some basic quantitative skills. Many top MBA programs offer math camps for accepted students during the summer as a refresher of critical concepts.
Review the course syllabus online and purchase textbooks in advance, if you can. If you have any weak spots in this area, sign up for the math camp early so that you’re ready to hit the ground running once classes starts.
A growing number of students – even those with a finance background – have realized that these additional learning opportunities provide valuable time to network and bond with their future classmates before the rush of classes and recruiting hit in the fall.
• Ramp up your reading habits: First-year business school students read hundreds of pages a week to prepare for class discussions. If you haven’t had time to read anything longer than a Wall Street Journal article in the past couple years, now is the time to ease back into the practice to minimize fatigue.
If you don’t like to read, that’s all the more reason to start exercising those latent muscles now. An added bonus of extra reading is that you’ll likely become a much more interesting MBA student and potential summer hire to recruiters as a result.