To-do list for MBA survival
January 29, 2013 5:07 PM   Subscribe

I'll be starting a full-time MBA program this fall. What can I do now to make that experience easier?

I'm currently employed and intend to remain so until shortly before classes begin, but I want to do whatever I can now to set myself up for success and minimize stress while working on my degree. I've tentatively broken this down into two categories:

(1) academic preparation -- I've assembled materials to review aspects of finance and economics that have gotten rusty, and I'll intersperse that reading with recent publications on leadership strategy.

(2) home/logistics -- I don't need to move, but I should probably bring all the crap in my basement to Goodwill and reclaim my table from the plants so I have a reasonable study space.

What have I missed? What have I gotten wrong? If left undirected, I'm afraid that I'll do silly things like purchase a two-year supply of paper towels so I never have to stop at the store after class.
posted by cranberry_nut to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I assume you've already amassed a sizable nest egg to get you through these two years of unemployment - but make sure you're putting enough money aside for casual spending. A big part of MBA programs is networking, i.e. going to bars after classes. Whatever you think your budget will be for entertainment and networking, double it (at least!).

As for academic preparation - finance and econ are good, but also be sure to really hone your math and stats skills. They are the basis for all the other quant material you will learn.
posted by trivia genius at 6:01 PM on January 29, 2013

A few questions - what was your undergrad major and what are you planning on concentrating in?

It depends on the program, but the intro classes will probably catch everyone up on basic finance, econ, stats etc. I would focus on learning what's going on *currently* in business by reading blogs and magazines, following influential people on twitter Twitter, etc., so that you can contribute intelligently to discussions.

If your computer is not up to snuff, it's worth it to invest in a good, lightweight laptop and a comfortable backpack or bag. I dragged my computer with me *everywhere* in business school. And if you don't have a second power adaptor, buy one - that way you always have one in your bag and one plugged in at home.

Your desk is obviously an important piece of your studying set-up, but I also spent a lot of time in school studying at coffee shops. YMMV. Get a good lamp for your desk though, and a comfortable chair. And if you like to listen to music and study in public, a comfortable pair of headphones is essential.

This isn't something you need to worry about yet, and it it totally depends on your school, but be prepared for your career center to be totally worthless and give you potentially outdated information. I'd start reading Ask a Manager and other good career blogs, thinking about where you want to do your summer internship, getting your resume up to snuff, etc.

trivia genius is right - there is a lot of socializing. I actually could have done a lot better on that front - I was coming straight from undergrad at the same school and still had my friends and activities, and I didn't hang out with my classmates as much. Definitely should have.
posted by radioamy at 6:07 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers so far! To answer radioamy's questions, my undergraduate education focused on math and psychology, and I expect to move toward either management consulting or operations management.
posted by cranberry_nut at 6:31 PM on January 29, 2013

My biggest advice as a recent MBA grad is to start looking for that summer internship right away. Having not gone through the career services and serious job hunt as an undergrad, I was completely unprepared to be starting that process so close to the start of school, and if I had to do it over, I would have it sorted out by the end of September/October like some of my friends. Most of my friends ended up working where they got that internship.
posted by hrj at 7:25 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound silly, but there is a lot of b-school/business jargon that was totally unfamiliar to me coming as a psych undergrad (I also went straight into my MBA with no work experience). I had no idea what "SOX" was, for example (Sarbanes-Oxley act). I'm not sure how to familiarize yourself other than doing some aggressive Googling, and it's not a huge deal, but I figured I'd throw that out there.
posted by radioamy at 9:33 PM on January 29, 2013

If you are planning to change industries, I'd encourage you to quit a few months early and take an internship in your desired industry for 2-3 months prior to b-school. It will make you a significantly more desirable candidate during the November-March "bschool internship" recruitment timeline... and as noted above, many folks take a full-time role where they interned during b-school. If the pre-b-school internship is unpaid and the financial burden is too great, consider asking your current job to keep you at 3 days/week and taking a part-time internship.

Also: Begin a daily meditation and exercise practice if you do not have one yet. The first year of full-time b-school is very stressful. Honestly. Everyone talks about it like it's a party, but based off of the experiences of multiple close friends, I've decided that it's just too stressful for me to pursue at this point in my life. Building in good habits like exercise and meditation will better prepare you to manage that transitional time.

Best of luck, and congratulations!!
posted by samthemander at 1:51 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I definitely agree with about working on stress-reduction. For me it was just the first semester that was killer, the second semester was a less-frenetic pace.
posted by radioamy at 9:07 AM on January 30, 2013

I am not an MBA student, but I am a grad student, and I have to admit that I have never once regretted buying a case of toilet paper (two years ago, almost exactly. It will probably run out sometime this spring.). So don't discount the paper towel option! More generally, though, this is a good time to stock up on stuff you use often and on shelf-stable easy to cook foods for days when you get home super late and tired and can't bring yourself to cook.
posted by dizziest at 5:07 PM on January 30, 2013

Whatever industry you think you would be interested in working in - start reading the "paper of record" daily. Eg finance - wall st journal, ft, etc. When you start networking and doing interviews, you'll be able to chat intelligently about what's going on.
posted by banishedimmortal at 8:48 PM on January 30, 2013

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